Skoll Foundation


Community and Individual Development Association

Skoll Awardee(s): Taddy Blecher
Award Year: 2006
Issue Area(s) Addressed: Economic Opportunity, Education

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“Africa is not a basket case. It’s not through handouts but through the development of Africa’s greatest resources – the abilities of its people, sitting undeveloped in its underappreciated youth –that the continent will have a truly bright future.”

Sub-Issues: Post-Secondary Education; Youth Job Skills In South Africa – still a fragile democracy emerging from apartheid –educational opportunity is vital, but out of reach for many. Only 14 percent of South Africans receive post-secondary education.

The Skoll Awardee: Taddy Blecher, a “hardened capitalist and qualified actuary,” had packed all his belongings and was on the verge of emigrating from South Africa when he paused to take a good look around him. “I saw aching poverty but also the greatest and most valuable resource: human potential,” he said. At that moment, he made a life-changing decision to help his country by dedicating himself to a critical pathway out of poverty – higher education. He became CEO of CIDA (the Community and Individual Development Association) and in 1999, he and his colleagues opened CIDA City Campus, South Africa’s first free university, dedicated to providing disadvantaged youth the chance to earn a fully accredited, four-year business degree. He has been a pioneer of the free and affordable education movement in South Africa, serving as Group CEO of CIDA City Campus until 2007. After leaving CIDA, he launched a new urban campus, the Maharishi Institute, and the rural Ezemvelo Eco-Campus. CIDA’s challenge, and its success, was in pioneering the “lowest cost university in the world,” with fees 80% lower than other South African universities, enabled by donated facilities, pro-bono instructions from leading experts and professionals, and student participation and work in every aspect of function and governance. Although CIDA City Campus struggled financially and finally closed its doors at the end of 2014, it educated 5,000 students, and elements of its model have been replicated worldwide.

Impact since joining the portfolio in 2006:

  • 4,500 graduates in jobs collectively earning $168 million (200 million rand) per year.
  • 500,000 people reached through skills development programs.




© 2015 Skoll Foundation.