2020 and beyond: Sanlam to continue investing heavily in South African communities

09 December 2019 Sanlam
Sydney Mbhele, CEO of Sanlam Brand

Sydney Mbhele, CEO of Sanlam Brand

Africa’s largest financial services group, Sanlam, has invested R540-million into communities in South Africa over the past decade, the third biggest corporate social investment (CSI) by a business in South Africa.

It has invested R3.5-billion in black economic empowerment deals to date and every year 450 000 children benefit from Sanlam’s literacy projects.

The group believes firmly in the role corporates can – and should - play in uplifting the country’s economy and its people. It is looking forward to doing a lot more good as we enter the ‘20s’ and believes positivity will be key to securing a great future for our nation.

Sydney Mbhele, CEO of Sanlam Brand – who joined the group early in 2019 – says while there have been setbacks over the past few years, the lives of countless South Africans have been improved since 1994, many through corporate social investment activities.

“Unfortunately, the narrative in South Africa is often very negative. But at Sanlam, we retain our optimism and fresh focus as we greet the new decade. We see it as a time to redouble our efforts across the board. We truly believe that every life touched through a CSI project or empowerment initiatives or through initiatives which foster economic growth, has made South Africa a better place.”

CSI consultancy, Trialogue reports that around R10.2 billion was spent on corporate social responsibility (CSI) in South Africa in 2019 alone. This is up 5% from 2018 (R9.7 billion). Encouragingly, Trialogue reports that 94% of companies focused CSI efforts on education, with half of the collective spend going towards programmes and initiatives aimed at improving education levels.

Mbhele says it is wonderful to see South African companies increasing their investment in CSI, “This despite a subdued economy and market underperformance. Corporate South Africa remains a fundamental contributor to social impact and now more than ever, CSI investment strategies need to target the disenfranchised in meaningful ways.” Even as a Level 1 contributor from a B-BBEE perspective, for Sanlam, it’s not about compliance but about changing people’s lives for the better.

Mbhele believes there needs to be a rallying cry for businesses to be bastions of social good and enforcers of positive change. “We need to do what we can to re-anchor ourselves; to appreciate what we have while coming up with real solves to the challenges South Africans face. In 1994, we negotiated a new South Africa. Since then, there are many times we’ve come together to move this country to the next level of growth. There has never been a better time to do this.”

Turning to specifics, Mbhele says Sanlam is firmly focused on education – giving people the tools to help themselves. “Literacy remains a critical concern for our country’s youth and as big business, we need to continue our efforts at addressing this hands-on. Maths literacy is a key part of this because a nation that is proficient in maths literacy, is better equipped to economically prosper,” says Mbhele. Sanlam Foundation benefits nearly half a million children each year through literacy projects that also capacitate teachers.

2020 represents a great time to recalibrate and use our collective power to make a difference in people’s lives and leave lasting legacies.

Quick Polls


The intention with lockdown was to delay or flatten the Covid-19 infection curve and give both the private and public healthcare sectors time to prepare for the inevitable onslaught. Did the strategy work?


No, the true numbers are not reflected. Almost a quarter of South Africans may already have been infected with Covid-19
It’s too soon to tell. We will likely get a second wave with stringent lockdown regulations in place again
Yes, South Africa bought enough time to make a significant difference. We saved lives and have passed our peak. The worst is over
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