Businessman Addresses Inequality in South Africa by Trading Wealth
Wesley Smith, a businessman from South Africa, was deeply inspired by The GLS to address inequality through a sustainable ‘win-win’ investment model. As a result, he and his team have helped thousands of orphans and vulnerable children, ultimately creating capital for the poor, and providing holistic care. Be inspired by this excerpt from this incredible Grander Vision story that came out of The GLS! (To read the entire original article, click here)
He distinctly remembers the day he first caught a glimpse of his purpose in life. It was on 11 October 2009 while attending a Global Leadership Summit, an event hosted by a church in Chicago and broadcast around the world.
‘They have wonderful speakers,’ says Wesley. ‘It’s a good mixture of church leaders and business leaders.’
The conference that year focused heavily on the poor. Three of the speakers particularly influenced Wesley, with the first being a dynamic young lady called Jessica Jackley. She’s an American businesswoman and entrepreneur known for co-founding Kiva.org, a non-profit organisation that promotes development through microloans. Kiva allows people to lend money via the Internet to low-income entrepreneurs and students in 82 countries. Its mission is to connect people through lending to alleviate poverty.
‘Five young people had put it together and by their third year of running it, US$140 million had flown through Kiva. Interestingly, in America they see micro-lending as enabling the poor, as opposed to South Africa where it’s generally run by loan sharks.’
The next guy that spoke was Andrew Rugasira, a Ugandan businessman. ‘He spoke about aid versus trade. He told America to “stop giving aid to Africa; trade with us. We’re entrepreneurial: let us sell you coffee, don’t take our beans and sell coffee back to us.”’
The third speaker, Wes Stafford, the president of Compassion International, spoke of his life story and how Compassion International takes care of orphans and vulnerable kids.
‘I felt God clearly spoke to me there, saying your purpose in life is to stand in the gap, defend the rights of the poor and the needy, and stand up for justice. I knew right then that it had to do with wealth creation for the poor. Not by aid, not by donation, but by trading wealth,’ says Wesley.
A month after attending The Global Leadership Summit, Wesley got a phone call from Tich Smith, a friend and client of his. ‘He told me how God had given him a vision to build a village for orphans. It was a big vision … It would be called LIV Village, and they would build 96 homes for 1000 children along with a school, a sports field and a clinic. He was asking me to help him structure this set-up. And I said, sure!’
We could make acquisitions on behalf of the poor so they could have their own storehouse of wealth and needn’t go begging every year and ask for hand-outs. ‘The field of private equity is not available to many people, even the wealthy. So I thought, why don’t we bring private equity to the poor?’
Feeling that he needed to put his entire focus on LIV Village, he resigned from PwC. His journey of creating capital for the poor had just begun. Wesley went on to launch LIV Business, a Pty Limited and the profit vehicle that would function as the commercial arm of the non-profit organisation.
‘Today LIV provides holistic residential care for vulnerable children. Their core vision is to rescue a child, restore a life, raise a leader, and release a star. It exists to raise the next generation of leaders in our nation. They place parentless children into a family environment where they receive unconditional love, spiritual discipleship, care and nurturing. All their physical needs are met.
‘We want these children to grow up to be a generation that will influence positive change within South Africa, our continent and the world. If these children are equipped with essential moral values and life skills, they truly can live lives that influence and inspire significance and lasting impact. The future plan is to see many villages across our land.’
Wesley spent three years at LIV Village, where he successfully made six acquisitions for them. His very first acquisition would be a company specializing in producing hydroponically grown flowers. Today it’s known as LIV Flowers and is one of the largest cut flower producers in South Africa. Some of his other successful acquisitions are EMCOM wireless, LIV Clean, LIV Eggs and Amicitia.
‘One of these investments in September 2015 distributed a dividend of R1,2 million, which was able to go towards the amazing work these NPOs are doing. At the same time our investors also received a return, so it’s really a win-win situation. The “magic” really takes place within these NPOs, where hundreds of orphaned and vulnerable children are being rescued, housed, educated, medically cared for and loved; where literally thousands of people are being fed on a daily basis; where multiple early childhood development (ECD) centres are providing quality education to vulnerable children; and where human trafficking victims are being rescued, restored and reintegrated into society.’
Wesley concludes: ‘God has been so good and faithful to us. Through the various NPOs we serve, the poor own equity stakes in seven different companies. They own their own capital!’