Sustainability is key to the JSE’s CSI activities, specifically with regard to health, education, social development and environmental projects


‘We focus on areas that we believe are relevant to the country, as well as the business activities of the JSE,’ says Idris Seedat, JSE Head of CSI. ‘For that reason we have a very strong focus on the youth, but there are a myriad of activities that ensure that our CSI goes beyond the gesture of just giving. Importantly, JSE employees are motivated to get involved in CSI initiatives, which encourages active citizenship.’

Seedat explains that the programmes the JSE supports are determined by whether there is a meaningful and impactful contribution that can be made for a community or individual, identified through strategically aligned causes or areas such as financial literacy, that relate to the JSE’s business operations.

‘The process of aligning the JSE’s CSI spend to mirror identified priority areas is an ongoing effort and evolutionary in nature. And in response, we continue to prioritise education-focused activities,’ says Seedat.

The latter comment is particularly relevant given that for more than 40 years, long before CSI became trendy, the JSE has been driving financial literacy through its flagship initiative, the JSE Investment Challenge. ‘Through the Challenge, we introduce high school learners and university students to the world of finance by teaching them the fundamentals of investing on the stock exchange via a simulated game. Aside from the fun to be had, it also helps to demystify the stock exchange and investing,’ says Seedat.

So successful is the Challenge that last year the financial education of more than 12 000 learners was impacted, ‘75% of which were from disadvantaged backgrounds’, according to Seedat. Such communities receive assistance from 30 JSE-trained unemployed graduates and students who are appointed to act as mentors or catalysts, assisting schools that compete in the Challenge. Such mentors are provided with a monthly stipend for the work they perform.

‘The broader reach of both the Investment Challenge and the Catalyst Teacher Programme is that core academic subjects like mathematics, accounting, economics, business studies and life orientation are also stimulated, and further learning outcomes absorbed through the experience include how to develop strategies, the fundamentals of decision-making and the value of teamwork. In this vein, earlier this year the JSE and the Department of Basic Education entered into an MOU that takes into account the levels of financial literacy among the youth. This is in line with the government’s NDP 2030, which focuses on poverty and unemployment. Of the plan’s six priorities, the JSE CSI department took particular cognizance of the directive that deals with bringing about faster economic growth, higher investment and greater labour absorption.

‘The NDP emphasises raising employment through economic growth and improving the quality of education, skills development and innovation. The intention, therefore, in having an MOU is to ensure that we extend understanding of financial markets among the youth, taking into account the current low levels of their financial literacy,’ says Seedat.

It is an issue the JSE has been concerned with for some time now and the motivation behind the bursaries the JSE Empowerment Fund provides to university students in addressing fields of study such as computer, mathematical and financial sciences as well as IT and accounting.

The Fund is directed at those unable to meet university fee obligations and, according to Seedat, the outcome further enables the JSE to make a positive contribution to the quality of black professionals in capital markets.

By Kerry Dimmer
Image: Gallo/GettyImages