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15 April 2016
Honorary Doc Hassen Adams highlights the importance of education in empowering the nation

Prominent businessman Hassen Adams, who was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Commerce at UWC’s Autumn Graduation Ceremonies, is perhaps best known to most for bringing fast food franchise Burger King to South Africa. But his many business successes, earned over a long career, have taught him three things: that entrepreneurs need patience to be successful; that success requires commitment and passion; and that education is of paramount importance for individuals and society alike.

“Education does not come at a cost, but rather an investment, if one considers the importance of empowering a nation through self-sufficiency,” he said during his acceptance speech on 14 April 2016. “Education is the only instrument that has the power to eradicate ignorance and intolerance. We need to enable ourselves through institutions and academia such as UWC,to equip ourselves in addressing the needs of tomorrow.”

Adams became an entrepreneur by the age of 10, when he sold newspapers in Hanover Street, while sleeping in the corridor of his aunt’s small house. After high school he started working as a technician, and he would later earn a qualification as a professional engineering technician - one of the first students to earn a Diploma in Civil Engineering from the Peninsula Technikon. He started his own engineering consulting business and project management business. And in 1997, securing initial funding from communities throughout the Cape Flats, he co-founded Grand Parade Investments in a garages - which went on to become a multibillion-Rand black-owned company and create over a thousand millionaires, and offer over 400 bursaries for students.

Adams also was named Young South African Exceptional Entrepreneur for 2014 - an award that recognises the contributions of people who inspire others with their vision, leadership and achievement.

“It is strange how survival forces opportunity out of adversity,” he remarked, noting that successful entrepreneurship is about recognising opportunity and potential having the patience to understand how to reach desired outcomes.

But sustainable development requires giving others the chance to spot those opportunities, and the ability and resources to make the most of them when they arise.

“We must embrace the philosophy of inter-generational wealth transfer,” he said. “This approach will allow future generations to have access to wealth, opportunity, health and education in order to guarantee sustainability of further future generations.”

Understanding and Sharing for Sustainable Societies

And sustainability is particularly important when it comes to education, and especially in South Africa, where youth, business and academics need to engage with each other and collectively find solutions.

“If we want to create a better life for all, we need to understand each other first,” he said. “It is not enough that we simply listen and agree, we must take action - and whilst change is often difficult, it’s necessary.”

Adams quoted the late US president John F Kennedy, who said: “When you ride a tiger, make quite sure that it never gets hungry, because if it gets hungry, it will eat you up.”

“I believe that the youth of tomorrow is that tiger,” Adams explained, “and we must never allow that tiger to get hungry.”

UWC also believes in supporting graduates who have the will and the skills to complete their studies, but may struggle with the financial aspect. Help support them by getting involved with the SRC Ikamva Lethu Campaign

For the full text of Hassen Adams’ speech, click here. And for more information about why he’s a worthy recipient of an honorary doctorate, read the citation here.

Adams is one of three honorary doctorates for 2016, alongside prominent businessmen Fred Robertson and media legend Mathata Tsedu.