Strate: A Pioneer of Exchange-of-Value Settlement Solutions

All too often, good infrastructure goes unnoticed. This is probably one of the reasons why few South Africans know and understand the country’s Central Securities Depository, Strate, however, without it, investors would shy away from South Africa.
Prior to the implementation of Strate in 1999, SA was categorised as one of the worst emerging markets in terms of operational and settlement risk. Trading volumes on the stock exchange were averaging 4,000 trades daily, very thin when this is compared to the 350 000 on average during a month today.

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Strate from the Ground

For the past 18 years Strate, South Africa’s Central Securities Depository, has focused on settling securities transactions across South Africa’s financial markets. Today, the organisation is placing a core focus on financial literacy through its consumer education initiative, Strate from the Ground.


Dr Merrill Van Der Walt, with community members following the December Harvest

According to Dr Merrill van der Walt, Data Scientist at Strate, one of the key elements for Strate from the Ground is to educate communities on the basics of banking and financial matters (a knowledge area that is seriously lacking in marginalised areas), as well as meeting nutritional needs in a disadvantaged community that is food insecure. “The lack of food security is a huge problem for South Africans in rural areas and those of lower socio-economic standing.”


According to a report issued by Statistics South Africa on poverty trends in the country, poor households spend approximately a third (33%) of their income on food. Total food expenditure for poor households is given at R8 485 per annum or R707 per month. It is important to understand that this figure is the proportion that households are able to spend on food. Given current food prices, it is clear that this amount is not enough to secure a sufficient and nutritious variety of food.


“Adding to this harsh backdrop is the bleak reality of constantly rising food and fuel prices, high-energy tariffs and increasing interest rates. These conditions have placed severe pressure on ordinary South Africans who are already struggling to meet their basic household needs”, says Dr van der Walt. With projects such as these, people will be more empowered and educated to make better decisions in accessing basic needs as well as handling their finances.


“At Strate, we embrace innovation and change. The term ‘innovation’ is difficult to define, and although most models centre on technology driven innovation and competitive focus, there is a social dimension to innovation and the role of social interaction,” says Dr van der Walt. “Social innovations are new strategies, concepts, ideas and organisations that meet the social needs of different elements which can be from working conditions and education to community development and health.”


Strate has partnered with several organisations that will make it possible to provide nutritious and organic produce to approximately 50 labourers on a monthly basis while equipping farmers and schools in the area with the practical guidance on finance and banking.


Some pictures of the produce following the December Harvest:




An Update on the iValue Entrepreneurship Programme

During early 2014, Valued Citizens Initiative launched iValue, an entrepreneurship programme that has been giving a group of learners from Kwena Molapo High School near Lanseria a foundation of business management and entrepreneurship. This programme is Strate’s flagship Corporate Social Investment initiative.


During 2015, learners used their newly-developed entrepreneurship and life skills to present their business plans, where the winning teams received a small amount of start-up capital to operate their businesses.


The programme continues to support the learners with corrective measures and interventions, such as fortnightly monitoring of the learners’ progress on communication, business plan implementation and accountability.


The iValue Entrepreneurship Programme has, so far, proven to engage our youth as young entrepreneurs building their confidence, exposing them to the world of work and developing their skills to run a business. A number of the winning teams are currently operating successful businesses.



Strate Celebrates Cell C’s 13th Take a Girl Child to Work Day

Wednesday, 28 May 2015 marked the 13th Cell C Take a Girl Child to Work Day® annual campaign targeted at South African girl learners from grade 10 to grade 12. This year, Cell C announced that its Take a Girl Child to Work Day campaign attracted a record participation of more than 520 companies and various government departments nationally.

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iValue Entrepreneurship Programme Bears Fruit

The shortlist of the learners participating in the final phase of the iValue Entrepreneurship Programme has been announced.


Nineteen grade 11 learners from Kwena Molapo High School near Lanseria addressed a panel of four judges on 17 April 2015, using their newly acquired knowledge of business management and entrepreneurship to develop their feasible ideas. Over recent months, they had formed groups to work hard on their ideas and present them to the panel with the hopes of being selected to receive start-up capital for their business plans. Two of these groups – Matrix Play and iHealth – were announced as the winners. Matrix Play will be an internet service provider to learners at their school, while iHealth aims to accelerate living a healthy life style for schoolchildren.The iValue Entrepreneurship Programme, initially launched in 2014 as a pilot project, was targeted at a group of grade 10 learners with the aim to have at least five of the learners become entrepreneurs within the next five years.


With the help of second year students completing their Diplomas on Small Business Management at the University of Johannesburg, the learners have spent the past year developing their skills. Learners have been empowered to understand and apply entrepreneurial knowledge, skills and principles in their entrepreneurship projects, as well as identify viable entrepreneurial opportunities within their communities.


According to Carole Podetti Ngono, the Founder and Managing Director for the Valued Citizens Initiative, “The learners now have the entrepreneurial spirit and skillset to implement their business ideas successfully. Over the coming months, they’ll be afforded the opportunity of gaining real-world experience of running a business and forming relationships with stakeholders.”


As one of the Programme’s sponsors, South African Central Securities Depository Strate strongly believes the iValue initiative is aligned to government’s important objectives of addressing youth unemployment to foster sustainable economic growth. “Not only is South Africa confronted with high levels of unemployment, there is also an increasing number of discouraged work seekers among young people. Only some 7% of successful grade 12 learners in South Africa find employment in the formal sector. There is an urgent need for the promotion of entrepreneurship as a potential solution to youth unemployment, which is why initiatives such as the iValue Entrepreneurship Programme are vital. It enables young people to empower themselves, so that they can successfully contribute to the economy and inspire the people around them to follow in their steps and nurture their own entrepreneurial spirit,” explains Tanya Knowles, the Head of Strate’s Project Innovation and Business Services Division.


To ensure that the Programme continues to be sustainable, the learners will be tracked over a five-year period to ensure the successful implementation of their business ideas. Key Performance Indicators will be developed and measured on an annual basis. These measures will include operational areas, such as profits margins, growth of the business, job opportunities created, contracts with vendors, marketing exposure and sustainability.


Following the success of the pilot programme, the Valued Citizens Initiative will continue to search for learners to enrol in future iValue Entrepreneurship Programmes. The University of Johannesburg, Faculty of Management has also identified the need to tailor make a new programme and curricula to entrepreneurship. If successful it will be among the first tertiary institutions in South Africa to launch Bachelor in Entrepreneurship at undergraduate level.


“Learners who partake in the iValue programme will be afforded the opportunity to get a bursary to these new entrepreneurship programmes at UJ. In addition, the rest of South Africa or any prospective entrepreneurs will also be able to empower themselves and nurture their skills to become vital contributors to their own success, and in turn South Africa’s socio-economic development,” says Joyce Sibeko, Faculty Advisor for Enactus at the University of Johannesburg.



Accelerating Entrepreneurship Amongst Learners

According to Youth Enterprise Development Strategy 2013 – 2023, the youth constitute 41,2% (14 to 35 years) of the South African population, but the number of young people involved in entrepreneurial activity remains extremely low at 6% of the total youth population.


There is no doubt that accelerating entrepreneurship among young people will have a positive impact not only on the social platform of bringing equity in the economy, but also by raising the levels of the overall economic indicators of South Africa.


To help the government achieve its mandate to accelerate entrepreneurship, Strate has become a sponsor of a Valued Citizens Initiative called iValue, which is an entrepreneurship programme that gives 20 grade 10 learners from Kwena Molapo High School near Lanseria a foundation of business management and entrepreneurship.


Since the launch in April 2014, learners have been empowered to understand and apply entrepreneurial knowledge, skills and principles in their entrepreneurship projects, as well as identify viable entrepreneurial opportunities within their school communities.


In a report, iValue said that the programme has shown notable progress in terms of changing the attitude of the learners. iValue said it firmly believes that the lessons focused on entrepreneurial character have prepared its learners both emotionally and mentally to deal with the content of entrepreneurship. It said, “We are convinced that the iValue Programme will reach its objectives by ensuring that learners become solution orientated, creative thinkers, responsible and able to manipulate entrepreneurial opportunities within their school community.”


The report also referred to a session in the programme where learners got the opportunity to interact with second year Entrepreneurship Students from the University of Johannesburg (UJ) and focus on the role of Emotional Intelligence and Self-Leadership in Entrepreneurship.


It said, “UJ students brought the practical aspects of the two as they are currently involved in entrepreneurship activities in their day-to-day lives as part of their practical lessons. They emphasised the fact that Emotional Intelligence in entrepreneurship is non-negotiable, as one is required to knock at different doors every day and interact with different people.”


Bringing both energies (university students and grade 10 learners) together was really revitalising. “Our beneficiaries believed that in order to run a successful business, one needs to work first to gain extensive experience to sustain the business. On the other hand, the second year entrepreneurship students firmly believe that joining the workforce is optional, but one can run a successful business straight away after completing his/her studies,” the iValue report added.


Looking ahead, the learners can be expected to continue building their foundation of knowledge about business management and entrepreneurship. Next year, each individual will have to present their business plans, five of which will be chosen to receive start-up capital that they will have to pay back at the end of the year.



Empowering Youth to be Financially Savvy

South Africa’s government has highlighted financial education as one of the components of a comprehensive solution for empowering consumers to engage with financial services.


A 2013 financial literacy study prepared for the FSB reads , “It seems that young people in South Africa are inexperienced with regard to financial products, probably owing to their limited access to financial resources and their lack of a regular income.”


To support national efforts to educate consumers, particularly the youth as the next generation of consumers to come, Strate has partnered with the Financial Services Consumer Education Foundation to provide financial  literacy to attendees of the SAICA/Thuthuka Winter camps. Over 1000 Grade 12 learners attended the camps that provided additional support in mathematics, basic accounting and life skills. Information about savings and budgeting, financial planning, rights and responsibilities, as well as financial recourse mechanisms available to consumers were among the topics presented at these workshops.


Taking into consideration that the youth of today are the economic contributors of tomorrow, the importance of educating them to be financially savvy cannot be underestimated. According to Leigh Bevis, Strate’s head of Stakeholder Relations, financial literacy empowers them to manage their finances, providing them with the tools to improve their life and financial wellbeing, as well as contribute positively to economic growth.


“It can be easy for a school learner to lose his or her way with debt and finances when leaving school. People who have a lower degree of financial literacy tend to lend more and experience difficulty with debt, which may lead them to save or invest less – ultimately accumulating less wealth for their families. Their understanding of t he terms and conditions of financial products, such as their home loans, bank accounts or credit cards, may even lead them to pay more in fees related to financial products. Giving them the understanding of budgeting, saving, the difference between how to spend money wisely rather than recklessly, as well as retirement can re-shape their lives and transform the economy’s growth,” she explains. 


The FSB 2013 Financial Literacy Report revealed that South Africa has a financial literacy level of 54 out of 100. According to the 2014 second quarter PPS Professionals Confidence Index (PCI), which was conducted among approximately 3 000 of SA’s graduate professionals, a confidence level of just 38% was recorded when respondents were asked how confident they were that the general public in South Africa has a good understanding of financial matters, such as budgeting, saving, retirement and insurance. 


“Financial literacy among the youth has the potential to paint a very different picture. Strate is very passionate about the upliftment of financial literacy in South Africa. It partners with key stakeholders, such as the Financial Services Consumer Education Foundation, an independent Trust, founded by the FSB in support of its Consumer Financial Education initiatives. This ensures that we can work together with the financial market to make a real difference to South Africa and improve the lives of our children, as well as our children’s children,” concludes Bevis.



A Piece of Robben Island

Nine months following the passing of Nelson Mandela’s passing, Strate paid tribute to his legacy by supporting the Robben Island Art Co & Trust (RIACT) RIACT is an initiative that allows both individuals and corporates to purchase an authentic art piece – a painting of Nelson Mandela called “Day Off” – that includes a section of the original prison fence.


The proceeds of which then go towards community upliftment and job creation. Robben Island was the maximum-security prison where Nelson Mandela was held for nearly 2 decades. He was released from prison in 1990 to become South Africa’s president in 1994. Robben Island is now a museum and hosts approximately 1 500 visitors every day.


According to the RIACT, apart from creating employment, its project reminds South Africans of what the country achieved in moving peacefully from apartheid to democracy. “One of the primary goals of RIACT is to ensure that the original fence from Robben Island comes full circle from holding people captive, to releasing people from the prison of poverty.”


The art compliments the “Brotherhood of Hope painting”, which includes the likes of Nelson Mandela and US President Barack Obama, which was donated to Strate by John Pickering, an IT Consultant from Incentage. Incentage provides messaging solutions for the financial services industry across the globe. 




Strate Celebrates Mandela Day

For Mandela Day this year, Strate employees were given the challenge to take a Selfie of themselves doing a good deed for others.


One of the good deeds included a relay of Strate employees baking, decorating and packaging over 300 cupcakes within 67 minutes for charity. More than 500 cupcakes were done in the time provided, which were delivered to Thembalami Care Centre, Tarentaal Retirement Home and Deansgate Retirement Village.


Here are some wonderful memories from the day’s event:












Cell C Take a Girl Child to Work Day

Thursday 29 May 2014 marked the 12th Cell C Take a Girl Child to Work Day® annual campaign targeted at Grade 11 South African girl learners, giving them the opportunity to visit a place of work and to experience first-hand, the “world of work”.

We would like to thank all the learners for visiting Strate. We trust they took away the knowledge and insight that they needed to prepare themselves when they enter the workplace. Here are a few photos from the day: