Samsung’s CSR journey and its positive impact in Africa

Mbilwi Secondary School was first place winners in the Global Samsung Solve for Tomorrow competition. The programme was launched for the first time in Africa. Photo supplied

Mbilwi Secondary School was first place winners in the Global Samsung Solve for Tomorrow competition. The programme was launched for the first time in Africa. Photo supplied

Published Dec 22, 2023


Since the dawn of democracy, when Samsung entered South Africa, the company has been investing in education-focused corporate social responsibility (CSR) programmes for the future, which have led to positive social changes within the broader African continent.

In celebrating three decades of making a difference in the continent, Samsung has decided to reflect on its CSR journey in Africa and share its social vision and the value of Samsung Africa. The company can now proudly showcase how its CSR vision “enabling people, together for tomorrow” is focused on enabling people through leveraging strategic, local partnerships and how sharing of resources has directly benefitted various regional communities within Africa.

In its history of corporate citizenship in the African continent, Samsung’s CSR activities have been focusing mainly on education and employment, as well as sustainability efforts. “Our success in the last three decades is also due to our ‘operational synergies’ which were created through our ‘associations with NGOs’. In the South African context, our CSR programmes are underpinned by our already successful landmark multi-million rand Equity Equivalent Investment Programme (EEIP), which was launched in 2019. Our 10 year plan aims to address key developmental aspects linked to the National Development Plan and the overall transformation of the economy,” says Hlubi Shivanda, Director: Business operations and Innovations; Corporate Affairs at Samsung SA.

As a company, Samsung also subscribes to the sustainable development goals of the United Nations Development Plan (UNDP). Its advocacy to the United Nations Development Goals (UNDG’s) of ‘quality education’ and ‘reduced inequalities’ aims to improve access to technology, information and communication services for the youth in the continent.

“For decades, our African businesses have been putting great emphasis on the need to empower youth. We have done this by ensuring that young people contribute greatly to Africa’s fourth industrial revolution (4IR) agenda and objectives. To do this, we needed to ensure that the execution of our CSR strategy is linked and focused 100% on education through technology, targeting mostly the young people in the continent. This has, over time, had a positive impact on youth within the regional community.

“As technology suppliers, we understand the importance of 4IR in the lives of the broad youth-base in the continent and most importantly access to new technologies. We have therefore been striving to use technology to develop future innovators for a better world. Our youth in Africa are currently in a positive position to seize the opportunities ahead.”

Some of Samsung’s education-focused CSR initiatives in the continent have included the following:

The Samsung Engineering Academy (2012-2020)

To address the critical technical and engineering skills shortage that exists in the job market, its mission has been to develop technicians, technologists and engineers across the entire continent. The company’s vision is to fast-track youth into the electronics job market, therefore aligning to the government’s “Vision 2030” that encourages entrepreneurship and self-employment initiatives:

  • Established in 2011 and in partnership with the Midrand Samsung Engineering Academy, about 165 students graduated at the Ekurhuleni West College in Boksburg, Johannesburg, joining the mission for Africa to be among the leaders of this next phase in the continent’s growth. These graduates are part of the continuing vision to develop skilled electronics technicians and engineers. This is by bridging the current skills gap and equipping unemployed matriculants from low income areas with the latest global technological skills to assist them to compete effectively in the economy.
  • In Nigeria, Samsung’s engineering academy was established in 2012 as a public private partnership (PPP) initiative between the Lagos State government through the World Bank-supported Lagos Eko Secondary School Education Project. It was established to empower Nigerians and positively impact communities. Since its inception, it has trained over 100 students and just recently, 53 technicians graduated from this academy. The graduates are expected to deepen the pool of well-trained technicians in the country.
  • In 2021, Samsung’s partnership between the Rwandan Government through the Ministry of ICT and Education was launched to equip the Rwanda Coding Academy (RCA). Samsung supported the RCA by equipping a 30-seater innovation lab with its innovative technology. The lab comprises 24-inch Samsung computer monitors, keyboards and mouse’s, routers, an interactive e-board, state-of-the-art air-conditioning for the lab, as well as the server room and the cabling for the entire set-up. The company was able to equip students from the academy with the latest knowledge, in terms of coding and software development.
  • Women in engineering Academy - In 2018, it opened up applications for the Women Technical Programme and the Boys to Men initiative, which both aimed at equipping unemployed matriculants with ICT skills. The programme, which falls under the Samsung Engineering Academy, is a six month course providing pupils from previously disadvantaged backgrounds with technical training in the field of electronics.

Furthermore, as an organisation that is well aware of the great importance of education, Samsung has in recent years continued its quest of equipping young people, both in high school and tertiary level, with the skills and knowledge they will need to build a better world. As a company, it has launched many skills development initiatives aimed at addressing Africa’s digital divide.

Graduates at Samsungs Innovation Campus at CUT

Samsung ICT smart labs/innovation hubs evolution into Samsung Solve for Tomorrow

“Over the past few years, we have been able to put technology in the hands of the youth from under-served communities and provided them with smart classrooms in the form of ICT Innovation hubs/labs. The items donated in these ICT Innovation hubs/labs typically included about 50 computers, six split air conditioners, one educational board, one flip board, access control and CCTV. These hubs/labs created access to computer literacy, the internet, basic IT and coding skills in remote communities, and included the following:

  • To further promote ICT skills in Africa, over the years, we entered into similar partnerships and donated ICT Innovation hubs/labs in some underprivileged communities in different parts of the continent, these included:
  1. A multi-million rand investment into an ICT Project, where an ICT Innovation Hub was unveiled at Adams College and aimed at benefitting the community in Kwa-Zulu Natal.
  2. Renovated a shipping container into a solar-powered internet school with a gadget-laden solar-powered classroom that could run for three days without sunlight. This portable classroom was donated to supplement Phomolong Secondary School, which is situated in a village, as well as some rural parts near Johannesburg.
  3. An Innovation Campus (Innovation Hub) was set up in Agona Swedru, in the central region, aimed at leveraging technology to support the dreams of young Ghanaians. In this hub, we housed a series of coding programmes where young children, between the ages of 5 to 17, in public basic schools in the community were trained on technology and coding.
  4. Samsung also donated an Innovation Hub to the Yaba College of Technology in Lagos, Nigeria.

From the Smart Labs/ICT Innovation Hubs, there is the Global Samsung Solve for Tomorrow competition. In partnership with the State Information Technology Agency (SITA), the Solve for Tomorrow programme was launched for the first time in Africa. Solve for Tomorrow competition is a Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) aligned educational programme.

Recently launched and piloted in 51 schools across the country, this programme provides learners in grade 10 and 11, from underserved communities, an opportunity to gain invaluable skills while solving some of the challenges within their communities. Learners are encouraged to use STEM to find solutions to some of the most pressing societal challenges faced by their communities.

In conjunction with SITA, the launch event that was held in March this year was used as a platform to announce the 2023 Top 10 schools that were going through to phase two – where they had an opportunity to tackle a challenge and produce tangible innovations to help improve society with the help of assigned Samsung employee-mentors. With Samsung helping them with resources and mentors guiding them, the learners had to conduct research and develop prototypes for the challenges they had identified.

For their efforts, Mbilwi Secondary School (Limpopo) walked away with a cash prize of R100 000, while in second place, Maphuthaditshaba Secondary from Acornhoek (Mpumalanga) received R50 000. Umlazi Comprehensive Tech (KwaZulu-Natal) were awarded R30 000 for completing the top three places. The cash prizes will go towards STEM equipment for each school, according to their various unique needs. Samsung sweetened the deal by rewarding each of the learners in the top three teams with a Samsung device.

“Through the Samsung Innovation Campus (SIC) programme, we have successfully partnered with universities of technology including the Walter Sisulu University (WSU) in the Eastern Cape and the Central University of Technology (CUT) in the Free State to develop and teach coding, software development, internet of things (IOT) and artificial intelligence (AI) skills to youth from under-serviced communities.

“We have further expanded the SIC into other African countries such as Lesotho and entered into partnerships with Lerotholi Polytechnic (LP), as well as the National University of Lesotho (NUL). We are currently working on further growing the SIC programme by expanding it into the rest of Africa, in countries that include Kenya, Malawi, Namibia and Nigeria.

“Furthermore, some successful legacy education programmes that have not only seen our youth being empowered and comfortable in the technology space but also employable with ripple effects on their families include:

  • As part of the EEIP, we sponsored a 24-month SETA accredited air-conditioning and refrigeration apprenticeship programme, in partnership with the Ekurhuleni Artisans and Skills Training Centre (EASTC), as part of the EEIP programme. This programme trained about 40 selected apprentices, who had never been exposed to technology before. Recently, 38 of these youth graduated, as well as two that received certificates of attendance, to work with mentors to grow their skills and address ICT education for SA’s unemployed youth.
  • In 2020, as part of addressing the country’s critical shortage of technicians to service consumer electronics and hand-held devices, we sponsored a 12-month SETA accredited electronics apprenticeship programme in partnership with Ocule IT. Through the EEIP programme, about 41 learners were enrolled in two cohorts for the first phase of the programme with the aim of empowering youth from rural and townships, by equipping them with much-needed skills to land employment or start their own business. The programme has broad reach in-terms of participants, as it has attracted candidates from the north, south, midland and coastal areas in Kwa-Zulu Natal.

Sustainability and e-waste programme

“As Samsung, we believe that the positive impact on the environment will result in lasting change that benefits all Africans in the regional community. This is an essential part of our CSR mission to put the environment first in all business operations, with several long-term sustainability programmes that include sustainable packaging design and the reduction of carbon footprints through the use of recycled materials.

“As part of our EEIP that is aligned to the the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (DTIC)’s Black Industrialist Programme through e-waste recycling and beneficiation, we have seen an investment in two black, female-owned entities currently operating in the full value chain of e-waste.

As a company, we strongly believe that our CSR initiatives have, over the years, been empowering future innovators to achieve their full potential and become the next generation of leaders that will continue to pioneer positive social change and build a better world for all”.