Ashoka was founded in 1981 by Bill Drayton and in over 38 years, Ashoka has pioneered the field of social entrepreneurship by building the largest network of systems-change social entrepreneurs worldwide with more than 3500 Ashoka Fellows working in 93 countries, putting their innovative ideas into practice to create positive change at a large scale.

Ashoka Southern Africa is part of the Ashoka Africa Hub and was launched in 1990 as the cornerstone of Ashoka’s work in Africa. Our first and longest running program in Southern Africa to date includes over 135 systems-changing social entrepreneurs, whom we call Ashoka Fellows. The regional office based in Johannesburg covers South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana, Malawi and Mozambique. 

Our goal is to stimulate and support the most innovative entrepreneurial solutions to the social and environmental challenges we face today and together with other key stakeholders across sectors, to foster “Everyone A Changemaker” societies. This means equipping more people, including young people, with the skillset and a connection to purpose so that they can contribute ideas and effectively solve problems in their worlds - be it in their family, community, city, workplace, field, industry, country, or beyond. We provide connections to a global network, and a platform for people dedicated to changing the world. Ashoka is also ideally positioned to identify patterns in social innovation, convene key decision-makers from the social entrepreneurship, corporate, public and investment sectors to facilitate the emergence of collaborative models that can address the most critical societal challenges at large scale. 

While the Ashoka network includes social entrepreneurs working on any critical societal issue - from education, human rights, civic participation, economic development to nutrition and healthcare among others – we are eager to spot and support solutions that are particularly relevant in the current regional context such as social cohesion, addressing economic inequalities, quality education for all and climate resilience amongst others. At an Africa level, our priority thematic areas include: 

  • Education and Leadership:  Supporting institutions and individuals focused on transforming education from a system designed for the industrial age into one that grows young changemakers, able to address the challenges of the 21st century. 
  • Youth Livelihoods and Women Entrepreneurship:  Identifying key levers of economic opportunity for youth and women to ensure every person is able to find meaningful and sustainable work.
  • Agriculture and Nutrition: Recognizing that food security and good nutrition are vital to producing healthy African communities.
  • Migration and Mobility:  Supporting innovations to create sustainable livelihoods in Africa and promote dignity and respect for all Africans regardless of their economic or political status.
  • Environment and Climate Resilience: Recognizing the progress and potential for Africa to build sustainable and green solutions to address climate change and build greater resilience.
  • Health and Wellbeing:  Ensuring all Africans have access to health care and are growing up to feel safe and secure.

Ashoka's Africa is composed of three other regional offices: Ashoka East Africa, Ashoka West Africa, and Ashoka Sahel

Our Programs

Source: Ashoka Southern Africa

Our longest running and cornerstone program is Venture and Fellowship, through which we select catalytic social entrepreneurs, with the potential to not only achieve impact in their organization, but transform systems. Ashoka Fellows are leading social entrepreneurs who are tackling the toughest challenges facing society today. Since launching Ashoka in Southern Africa, we have elected and supported over 130 social innovators.

Ashoka’s Venture program begins with a proactive search and rigorous selection process to find the next Fellows to join the Ashoka community. Each year we receive over 100 nominations and applications in the region.  

The  Fellowship program offers financial and non-financial strategic support to its members. Our focus in on leveraging our network of peers and supporters, honing in key topics such as systems-change, financial and personal sustainability, and providing strategic opportunities to Fellows throughout their careers and stages of development as the non-financial support is not time bound. A Fellow may be at an inflection point to get an innovative idea off the ground or may have already achieved national impact and made a “scratch on history” with their idea.  

>Selection and support of Ashoka Fellows

 >Check our Ashoka Fellows from Southern Africa 

>Recommend a Fellow

"Ashoka has been instrumental in providing me the space and tools needed to personally grow as a social entrepreneur. Facilitating priceless interactions with like minded and driven changemakers and supporting my needs as a business owner enabling me to take my business to the next level”

~ Claire Reid, Reel Gardening, Fellow Since 2018 

Source: omokoena

Ashoka Young Changemakers are a carefully selected network of young people between the ages of 12 and 20 years, who have found their power to create change for the good of all, and who are engaging their peers and the entire society in realizing a world where everyone is a changemaker. We hold the belief that one of the most effective ways to improve the lives of young people and the world at large is to empower them to realize their own ability to create positive social change.

More broadly, Ashoka Southern Africa has engaged and supported over 100 Young Leaders through a variety of support programs, gatherings and visibility. We are aiming at cultivating and building an eco-system that supports youth to be changemakers. Through their initiatives, Young Changemakers become role models in their community, proving that it is possible to be actively engaged and to Lead Young. Beyond their immediate surrounding, they also convey their message of change by participating in large outreach events or campaigns in Africa.

>Nomination and selection criteria

"I learnt a lot about social change. As a young person, I had an idea of what social change is but I realised that I not fully understand it until I attended the Ashoka Young Changemakers event.  I have learnt a lot about community development and how we as young people can empower each other on journeys to become change makers. Through Ashoka Young Changemakers, I was also exposed to the different challenges and struggles that other communities and people face in different countries and regions."

~Thabiso Maboate, Ashoka Young Changemaker  



Changemaker Schools is a global network of schools that are integrating 21st century skills such as empathy, leadership and teamwork into the school system, culture and curriculum. Changemaker School leaders become co-creators in the global movement reimagining quality education so all young people emerge as changemakers.

We believe that anyone can become a Changemaker and we want every young person to be equipped and inclined to work for the common good, whether in their family, community, country or across the whole world. Changemaker Schools enable all students to become changemakers—young people who have the skills and confidence to change the world for the good of all.

Students are learning the essential skills of empathy, creativity, leadership and teamwork at Changemaker Schools so that they can thrive in the modern world and find solutions to our most complex problems. We have adapted our methodology for selecting Ashoka Fellows to identify and select a global network of Changemaker Schools.

The Southern African office has elected eight Changemaker Schools, seven Primary Schools and one Secondary School. We work to connect these schools and support them in leading the transformation of learning in the Southern African region and beyond.

Check our Changemaker Schools pioneering education in Southern Africa 

Discover the  Changemaker Schools program around the world 

Changemaker Schools


Ashoka Africa Builders 

Ashoka Africa Builders is a community of successful and innovative leaders from the corporate, investment or public sectors who connect with Ashoka’s leading social entrepreneurs to accelerate positive social change. They support Ashoka financially as well as strategically, offering their network, time and expertise. 

Based on the success of the Ashoka Support Network around the world (ASN), Ashoka Africa is in the process of launching a committed and collaborative community of Ashoka Builders who are eager to roll up their sleeves and support Ashoka, Ashoka Fellows, young leaders and Changemaker schools on the continent intensify and scale their impact. 

Are you a business leader and do you want to share your expertise?

Join the founding circle of Ashoka Africa Builders Network in Southern Africa. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us to learn more about how members bring value to and benefit from the Ashoka network, and email with any questions about the program. 

Read about the ASN



Ashoka Southern Africa is regularly hosting action-focused events to connect our network of Fellows, young leaders and Changemaker schools to other changemakers from the philanthropy, corporate, investment or public sectors. We believe in the power of sharing, learning from experience and co-creating new solutions to current societal challenges and in the need to provide platforms for greater collaboration across sectors. Some of our recent events include: 

  • The Pan-African Impact!Africa Summit hosted in collaboration with the British Council in Johannesburg in June 2018 that gathered over 300 social entrepreneurs and changemakers and as many key stakeholders from the philanthropy, corporate, investment and public sectors. 
  • A Pitch Event hosted in April 2019 in Johannesburg for the Ashoka Investment Accelerator which gathered 12 disruptive social entrepreneurs shortlisted from more than 100 applicants across the continent and 140 impact investors, diverse supporting organizations, and leaders in the African ecosystem. The social entrepreneurs pitched for a cumulative total of approximately USD10-million. In return, they plan to provide billions in impact return to African communities: from increased crop yields, to reduced school absenteeism, to solar-powered irrigation to new jobs for informal traders.
  • "Change Ed" hosted in collaboration with Impact!Hub in February 2019 with the aim to tackle some of the most pertinent challenges in education through dialogues, networking and group brainstorming. Change Ed engaged over 50 participants and 9 visionary primary and high schools from South Africa.
  • Social & Business Co-Creation workshops with partnering companies eager to understand social innovations relevant to their core business, get inspired by social entrepreneurs and explore new collaborative models that create both economic and social value. ​


Stéphanie Schmidt
Partnership Director, Ashoka Africa
Stéphanie joined Ashoka Africa Leadership team since September 2017, after ...more
Mbali Gushu
Fellowship Manager Ashoka Southern Africa
Mbali Gushu (Zondi) was born and raised in Pietermaritzburg, on ...more

Our Partners

Global corporate foundation promoting the HP Life Center in Southern Africa

Swiss Foundation supporting education and youth leadership

The Philips Foundation seeks to be different from the traditional grant-making foundation. Together with its partners, the Philips Foundation seeks to identify global challenges where the innovation capabilities of Philips and expertise of partners, visionaries and innovators, can be combined to create lasting impact. Both Philips Foundation and Ashoka believe in the power of collaboration and its ability to mobilize expertise, innovation and impact. In 2016, Philips Foundation and Ashoka collaborated to run a 6 months accelerator program: The Globalizer on Health and Lighting, which helped 12 leading social entrepreneurs scale their innovations. 

Belgium consulting firm specialized in social business

Impact Hub is a rapidly expanding, diverse global network of over 15,000+ members in 80+ locations. Impact Hubs are where change goes to work. Part innovation lab, part business incubator, and part community center, it offers members a unique ecosystem of resources, inspiration, and collaboration opportunities to grow impact. The company believes a better world evolves through the combined accomplishments of creative, committed and compassionate individuals focused on a common purpose. It offers the opportunity join its diverse community of members and collaborators to inspire, connect, and enable people to develop their best work every step of the way.

UK charity supporting Ashoka in South Africa, in addition to other social enterprises.

Connect with Ashoka Southern Africa

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