top of page



Asset 4.png



Justice Malala | 13 March 2023

Every so often, something good happens to you. You know, the kind of thing that restores your faith in our country and its people.

Something that reminds you that we are resourceful and dedicated and can overcome great hardship.

That thing, that ray of sunshine, came across my life last week.

Last Wednesday I was asked to participate in a discussion at Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator, a unique, not-for-profit organisation based in Braamfontein, Johannesburg, but operating across the country (and now also in Rwanda).

As I walked into their offices, a young man rushed up to me and introduced himself confidently and enthusiastically: “I am Sandile. I’ll be showing you around today.”

I have known of Harambee since its inception some 12 years ago. I have known of its successes for years.

I have friends who have worked there, and I have sat in seminars where people extolled its virtues.

I had to experience it myself last week to be as awed as I am with it.

Started in 2011 by Nicola Galombik and the Yellowwoods Foundation, Harambee aims to address the persistently high youth unemployment that has bedevilled SA for decades.

Its method is simple: connect employers to first-time job seekers by removing barriers to entry for these jobseekers.

For example, if qualified, bright, black youngsters are not making headway in becoming air stewards because many have not had access to swimming, why not remove this barrier by giving them swimming lessons?

How about coding?

With the collaboration of the National Treasury in 2012, Harambee sought to place 10,000 youths in their first jobs.

It has been more than successful.

As Sandile took me around Harambee’s offices last week, he rattled off figures that would make you swoon with admiration and envy.

There are now more than 4.4-million work seekers in Harambee’s network.

More than 3.5-million work seekers have been helped through advice, help with applications, training, or other means.

The organisation has pulled in 4,844 partners ranging from corporates to small businesses to be part of its network of employers, trainers, funders and to play other roles.

A staggering R17.5-billion in income has flowed to Harambee beneficiaries.

It’s hard work: an average of 64,600 telephone conversations are held every month with work seekers.

At least 44,100 of those are outbound — Harambee advisers calling individuals to resolve a problem. Every adviser or guide handles more than 3,500 chats a month.

Here is the killer statistic: Harambee has linked 928,000 work seekers to opportunities since its formation.

That is nearly one-million young people who have been positively impacted by this one organisation’s work.

It was while I sat at Harambee that it struck me that, even as we grapple with the many problems we face (and there are very many), there is another country.

It is a country of builders, not destroyers.

It is a country of dreamers who have not stopped dreaming, but have stepped over to putting brick on brick in pursuit of their dreams.

It is our country.

Harambee is a bright spark of excellence.

It shows we can harness our talents and create opportunities for many.

It shows we can do something about the horrendous challenges — primarily poor growth, poverty and unemployment — that we face.

Here is an organisation that has helped nearly a million people into jobs.

Yet, does anyone know who the founders or bosses of Harambee are?

They work steadily, in dedication, without seeking fame or fortune.

As I listened to Sandile, it struck me that we are too obsessed with personalities and not with structures and systems.

Harambee has designed and implemented a system that works based on honesty, hard work and innovation — and not on connections or personalities.

I think part of our problem in SA is that we have not built excellent institutions.

Our government does not work brilliantly, so we rush to think that Cyril Ramaphosa as an individual will save us.

He won’t. A constitution that allows him to innovate and yet has the guardrails to keep him in check will do that.

If anything can be learnt from recent times, it is that we, the people, are our own saviours.

No-one is coming to save us. Certainly not politicians.

It is organisations such as Harambee, which open up possibilities of work for young people, that will ultimately turn this country around.

The founders of Harambee did an amazing job of building partnerships with small and large businesses, with other civil society organisations, and with the National Treasury, a government department that has for long been a centre of excellence.

There is a powerful lesson here for all of us: what might we become if we collaborated in this powerful, non-partisan manner for the betterment of our country?

Harambee shows us what focus, innovation, collaboration, dedication, honesty, can achieve.

Our government should be learning from these quiet achievers.

‘Disclaimer - The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the BEE CHAMBER’.


bottom of page