The Claude Leon Foundation


The Claude Leon Foundation derives from a bequest by Claude Leon, and has been funding educational, developmental, and human rights projects in South Africa since 1972.


Claude Leon was born in Kilburn, London and immigrated to South Africa in 1900 at the age of 16. With his father and uncle he founded the Elephant Trading Company, a wholesale business trading across Southern Africa from a base in Johannesburg. The company provided start-up funding for large South African enterprises like Anglovaal, OK Bazaars and Edgars. From 1948 – 1967 Claude Leon served on the finance committee of the Council of the University of the Witwatersrand; in recognition the university conferred an honorary doctorate of Laws on him in 1971.

The Foundation has a Board of 12 trustees and has grant commitments in 2017 totalling in excess of R 55 Million. Grants are made in four principal focus areas – Schooling and Early Childhood Development, Higher Education, Post-school Youth, and Human Rights – and the Chairman’s annual discretionary fund, which is used to fund a more diverse range of small projects.

From the outset the Foundation has funded educational projects, especially focussing on the tertiary sector.

The flagship Postdoctoral Fellowship programme in the sciences has funded nearly 500 research scientists at South African universities since 1998.

Other higher education funding has gone to Honours bursaries and Merit Awards to university lecturers.

An important programme in the Human Rights focus area has been the establishment and funding of the Chair in Constitutional Governance at the University of Cape Town. The current incumbent is Professor Pierre de Vos.

Other projects funded by the Foundation over the past 20 years include: a rural water and sanitation programme, AWARD, in the Sabie-Sand catchment area between 1993 and 2003; the Education Quality Improvement Project (EQUIP) of the National Business Initiative in Western and Eastern Cape schools; and the Rural Education Project, implemented by UCT’s Schools Development Unit at selected rural schools in the Western Cape.


© 2012 The Claude Leon Foundation. All rights Reserved.