Thato Makgolane was born in the small South African town of Phalaborwa, where he was raised and educated before leaving to complete his high school education in Swaziland. He came to Canada in 2007, to pursue a Bachelor of Commerce degree at the Sauder School of Business, UBC.He graduated from the Sauder School of Business in 2011 and joined Deloitte.
When he came to study in Vancouver in August 2007, he brought with him the desire to create a bridge between Phalaborwa and UBC. His desire stemmed from wanting to give something meaningful back to a community he cared deeply about. He wanted to challenge the common “Save Africa” approach to addressing the problems of his continent.” Given the manner in which Africa is perceived in many Western countries, it is difficult to imagine that Westerners would think that we, as Africans, are capable of providing opportunities for Western countries to gain new knowledge about Africa.”
He shares the view of Dambisa Moyo, who said, “Africans should be invited to the main negotiating tables when it comes to development issues.”
He wanted to bring Canadians to his home town to create a two-way sharing of knowledge, culture and experience. In 2009, during his second year at Sauder, he explored ways in which he could link his home town with the West by seeking funds through a program called One Laptop. The funds were not forthcoming but he was not deterred. In 2010, he was introduced to a Sauder Faculty member, Jeff Kroeker, who shared a similar passion and development philosophy. A vibrant conversation began. In fact, a series of conversations began that led to a friendship, to the realization of a similar dream for Africa, to the design of a bridge between the West and Africa, to the formation of the Arc Initiative.
In the spring of 2010, with Thato traveling home for the summer break, the dream came alive. This time it was not subject to external funding, but, subject to seeking out those with similar passions and commitment to making it happen. Student interest was strong, as was the commitment of business professionals. With support of the Sauder School of Business at UBC, business professionals from Vancouver, students and alumni a commitment was made to send a team to Phalaborwa.
Chapter One of the Arc Initiative took place in Phalaborwa, South Africa in 2010 and included a business skills workshop for 30 South African entrepreneurs and internships for five Sauder students with businesses in Phalaborwa.
Jeff Kroeker, is a faculty member at the Sauder School of Business at UBC. During his undergraduate studies at Trinity Western University (TWU) in the 1980′s severe famine ravaged Ethiopia and grabbed the world’s attention. In 1984 he met Aklilu Mulat, an Ethiopian student studying business at TWU. They shared stories and a desire to make a difference with their business training. A deep friendship was formed. Jeff then pursued his MBA at Queens University and later his Certified Management Accountants designation (CMA). After they both received their CMA designations in 1995, Aklilu and Jeff continued conversations and began meeting to explore ways in which they could use their training and experience to facilitate economic betterment for people in Africa. They shared the belief that capacity building was the most valuable contribution they could make. They both continued to develop their careers in the for profit, not-for profit and academic arenas. As the Arc Initiative formed, Aklilu joined Jeff and became an integral part of the First Chapter of the Arc Initiative (TWU Magazine).
Jeff’s work in the not-for-profit sector included Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Sudan, Eritrea, Cambodia, Honduras, Bangladesh, Venezuela and the Dominican Republic. He joined the Sauder School of Business in 1998, where he continues to teach in the undergraduate, graduate and Executive Education and Ch’nook programs at UBC.
He has a passion for international development and business education, especially as it enhances and empowers communities to meet human need and facilitate the creation of economic opportunities. The ARC provides this unique platform to fuse business education with entrepreneurs in developing communities with the goal to build capacity, build relationships and, ultimately, to build a better future.