by Patricia Mills

Invest in change

Former banker joins other to solve social issues

Sport acts as a lifeline for many kids.
Creating social change

Pieter Wesselink is a former banker who has replaced his business view with one that creates social change.

He is among a growing number of worldwide entrepreneurs who are using their skills to improve the lives of others.

The project aims to assist both disadvantaged and advantaged youngsters by getting them involved in football, or soccer. It creates jobs for locals and provides a facility which fee-paying adults can use for sporting events. 

The project has received many positive reviews and has achieved great success. Wesselink is planning to roll out this social enterprise model to other areas within Cape Town. This is something that can be used in every city in South Africa.

Social entrepreneurship is gaining momentum and last year prompted Forbes magazine for the first time in its 94-year history to assemble Impact 30 – a list of the world’s leading social entrepreneurs.

It included innovators such as Sam Goldman and Ned Tozun of D.Light Design, which manufacture inexpensive lamps and sell them in communities that don’t have reliable electricity and Tom Skazy who dropped out of Princeton to create Terracycle which sells fertiliser and more than 250 products made from 60 waste streams.

Innovators across the globe are using their business skill to assist the less fortunate. This has broadened the scope and allows for a combination of innovation, resourcefulness and opportunities to address critical and environmental challenges.

Social entrepreneurs focus on transferring systems and practices that are the root cause of poverty, marginalisation, environmental deterioration and the accompanying loss of human dignity.

They set up profit or not for profit organisations which create sustainable systems for change.

Brothers of Africa

African Brothers Football Academy was established 15 years ago by Wesselink’s two friends Craig Hepburn and Siphiwe Cele. 

They founded the African Brothers Football Club with the objective of harnessing South Africa’s love of soccer to bridge cultural divides and effect change in Cape Town.

About four years ago they found a sports campus that was completely derelict as the school had no budget to maintain it. Wesselink agreed to invest in transforming the campus.

Wesselink said: “We leased the field from the school for a zero rental and set about transforming it and letting the school have primary access to the refurbished facility.

"It has become the base for the football academy which now has upwards of 200 members from both advantaged and disadvantaged backgrounds.

"Meanwhile, the facility is available for adults to use for a fee in the evenings, which makes the project self-financing.”

Hailed as a success, it is used by nearly 20 other local schools and now Wesselink is keen to repeat the idea at other run-down school pitches.

Wesselink said: “We have two other schools in the pipeline at the moment, but we hope to have another 10 in the next year. We need to test our model, but we think demand will be huge in the outlying areas of Cape Town and the scheme will be well supported by parents and families.”

The project has created full-time employment for seven people as well as a further 30 workers who were instrumental in the renovation of the school’s facilities.

Wesselink is driven with a need to help rectify South Africa's social divide.

He said: “I don’t think the government is doing enough. Very little is spent on facilities and infrastructure for the black schools and we have an enormous gulf between the affluent kids and the poor ones. Somehow we need to bridge the gap.

“There are a lot of us who can’t turn a blind eye to the inequalities because it feels a bit like we are dancing on the volcano. The football academy is split 50-50 between kids from really impoverished backgrounds and those from affluent ones and it is good to see how they play and interact with each other.

“I believe our project is something that can be taken nationally across South Africa and make an enormous difference. If you can pay your initial investment and watch the social returns, then you have done well, haven’t you?”

Social entrepreneurs create solutions that are efficient, sustainable, transparent, and have a measurable impact.

There is no doubt that Wesselink and his team at the academy are doing just that.

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