Recipients of the coveted Sainsbury Management Fellowship (SMF), which is awarded annually to up to five MBA students at UCT's Graduate School of Business (GSB), have formed a non-profit organisation. Known as the Sainsbury Management Fellows' Society of South Africa [SMFS (SA)], the group hopes to become prominent in the South African economy, contributing to economic advancement and educational upliftment.
The establishment of the SMFS(SA) was prompted by the success of the fellowship scheme. To date, 16 Sainsbury Fellows have completed their MBA studies at the GSB and have migrated into leadership positions in business and government, with some running their own enterprises and one currently completing his PhD at Cambridge University in the United Kingdom. A further two Fellows are completing their studies at the School.
The SMF scheme was established in South Africa in 1997 and is modelled on the UK Fellowship programme of the same name. The scheme was introduced to the UK by Lord Sainsbury of Turville to address the shortage of qualified engineers in leadership positions in government and business. Funded by the Gatsby Charitable Foundation - one of the Sainsbury Family Charitable Trusts - the UK Fellowships enable promising engineering professionals to complete an MBA at a top international business school.
South African Sainsbury Fellows study exclusively at the GSB and also complete an eight-week research project at the Institute of Manufacturing and Graduate School of Business at Cambridge University in the UK.
The newly established SMFS (SA), like its UK counterpart, is a non-profit organisation comprising past and future recipients of the SMF. Professor Nick Segal, director of the GSB, has also been invited to join the group as an honorary member. Additionally, Kurt April, who is a senior lecturer at the GSB, has been given full membership status of the Society because his PhD studies were partly funded by Sainsbury.
The South African society aims to emulate the success of its UK counterpart, which has grown into a prominent, respected body often called on for policy comment. But Waseem Mustapha, president of the SMFS (SA), said that the South African society would also address specifically the challenges facing the South African economy.
"These challenges, although similar to the UK in that there is a shortage of engineering and science professionals in top government or business positions, also include the legacy of apartheid and the task of implementing employment equity and black economic empowerment," he said.
As part of its activities, the Society has taken over the management of the local SMF from the Scientific and Industrial Leadership Initiative. One of the organisation's core roles will be to assess candidates and allocate the Fellowships accordingly. As such, they have already identified one of their first major initiatives - increasing the number and calibre of applicants to the SMF.
In line with its commitment to redressing past imbalances, Fellows are selected on the basis of their disadvantaged backgrounds and their interest in science or engineering. But it is often difficult to find the right candidates, added Mustapha. To address the situation, the organisation plans to get corporate South Africa more involved in the scheme.