Foundation continues R1bn philanthropy legacy in South Africa with fellowships and scholarships to commemorate its 25th anniversary

Cape Town, South Africa, 30 November 2018 — The Open Society Foundation for South Africa on Friday awarded fellowships and scholarships to 25 young civil society leaders of colour from the region, reflecting its day-to-day commitment to all forms of transformation and to promoting and enabling new and young diverse voices. As part of the Foundation’s 25th year anniversary celebrations, the awards paid tribute to the bursaries provided to black students by its founder, George Soros, in 1979.

Open Society Foundations President Patrick Gaspard said: “As we look to the next 25 years of South Africa’s democracy, these awards are an important investment in young and emerging civil society voices and leaders. George understood early on that education would be key for tackling inequality not only in South Africa, but across the globe. It is with this vision, towards promoting a free, open society, that we continue our work here in South Africa.”

George Soros’s support for 80 black students to study at the then predominantly white University of Cape Town during apartheid was the beginning of his career as a philanthropist. He went on to establish the Open Society Foundations, a family of foundations that now work in every region of the world. Since then, Open Society has awarded more than 15,000 scholarships globally.

Mary-Jane Morifi, Deputy Chairperson of the OSF-SA Local Governing Board and one of the first recipients of Soros’s scholarships, said: “The investment made in my education was personally transformative. It taught me to dare the impossible, to stand confidently in the world and to use this gift to transform the lives of others. What better way to pay tribute to the work of George than to extend this opportunity to young leaders of colour in civil society who will continue protecting and enhancing South Africa’s young democracy into the future.”

Drawn from applications from around the continent, 20 scholars were selected for their deep commitment to advancing social justice and human rights in Africa. The award will cover living expenses and post-graduate course fees at any registered South African tertiary institution for one year.

In addition to the scholarships, OSF-SA awarded five Democracy Fellowships for pursuing innovative projects, applied research, and initiatives that seek to build an active, informed citizenry around elections in South Africa. The fellows will be hosted by the Democracy Works Foundation, a key partner of the Open Society Foundation for South Africa.

The awards were announced at the Open Society Commemorative Lecture, which took place at the Cape Town City Hall and featured Samia Nkrumah, founder and president of the Kwame Nkrumah Pan African Centre, and the only female leader of a political party in Ghana. It continued the series of lectures started by George Soros in 1994, featuring speakers who have embodied the values of tolerance, justice, openness, and equality in South Africa, Africa, and globally. A live stream of the event can be found here.

Samia Nkrumah said: “I’m grateful to be given the opportunity to connect with fellow Africans and friends of Africa through this lecture, but most especially to meet these extraordinary young scholarship and fellowship recipients. Of Africa and for Africa, they fill me with hope for the future of Africa. In his most famous book, “Africa Must Unite”, my father Kwame Nkrumah called for the political and the economic unification of African States as the most effective way to achieve economic and socio-cultural emancipation and development. I am proud to share this message with you.”

Since its establishment in South Africa in 1993, OSF-SA has contributed over R1 billion to more than 750 civil society organisations and projects in South Africa, including many in partnership with the South African government

Yasmin Carrim, Chairperson of the OSF-SA Local Governing Board said: “We are incredibly proud of the Foundation’s history in our beautiful country. For 25 years, we have promoted transparency and accountability, and worked to preserve and protect South Africa’s essential civil society and independent media sectors. We have worked in partnership with the democratic government, and will continue to do so.”

A profile of the Scholarship and Fellowships recipients can be found here.