While completing two Masters degrees at Oxford, Yusuf was inspired to create the Awethu Project by the idea that South Africa profoundly under-utilises its talent. The company’s work has been recognised globally by the Global Entrepreneurship Summit, the Clinton Global Initiative, the Echoing Green Foundation, and the Skoll World Forum.
In 2000, one of the top matriculants in Gauteng, he took up a scholarship at Harvard University where he studied Economics from 2001 to 2005 and graduated with Honours. Yusuf then moved to New York and Zurich to work in a volatility trading group for Credit Suisse Investment Bank. In 2007, he was awarded a South African-at-Large Rhodes Scholarship to study at the University of Oxford, where he completed two Masters degrees, the first in Financial Economics and the second in African Studies (with the long-held goal of doing business in Africa in mind!).
At Oxford the idea for the Awethu Project took root, inspired by the idea that South Africa profoundly under-utilises our talent, and by a passion for fairness rooted in Yusuf’s mixed-race background. Yusuf entered the idea for Awethu into the largest business plan competition in the UK run by the Oxford Business School. The idea was one of nine finalists, creating the momentum for Yusuf to move home after graduation and put the idea to the test.
To date, Awethu has incubated over 1000 entrepreneurs and created one of the lowest-cost and most scalable job creation solutions in South Africa. It is backed by individuals and institutions ranging from Archbishop Tutu to the South African Government and Discovery Holdings. Awethu has been recognised as a flagship project of the National Treasury’s Jobs Fund and aims to achieve positive systemic impact in South Africa. In 2019, Yusuf became a member of the Shared Value Africa Initiative Africa Council of 8.