Lesley Donna Williams, CEO of Tshimologong Digital Innovation Precinct, has been made a knight in the National Order of Merit by Aurélien Lechevallier, ambassador of France to South Africa.

The prestigious award was in recognition of the close links fostered between Tshimologong, Embassy of France and the French Institute of South Africa (IFAS).

Lechevallier applauded Williams for her role in establishing major partnerships with key players in the South African and French innovation industries. Williams is also a member of the Friends of the French Institute of South Africa (IFAS).

“With over 20 years of international business experience, we recognise and admire your clear and strong commitment to transformation, innovation and social justice. In addition, your ability to expertly manage dialogue facilitation, change management, address technology issues and develop successful stakeholder engagements is astounding,” said Lechevallier.

He added that Williams is an advocate for the future of business and society, and someone who believes that transformation requires the integration of personal mastery, organisational change, social and digital innovation, entrepreneurship and collaboration: “You also see living your full potential as a basic human right and you strive to create this opportunity in all the work you do.”

Wiliams said the award is an honour and Tshimologong Precinct’s partnership with the French Embassy, which launched in 2018, was innovative in nature, responding to both current market conditions and developing future markets for African creativity.

“Against international standards, African entrepreneurs are expected to have a higher rate of success before receiving investment – a symbol of low trust in our capabilities. It is this ceiling bias that I wish to smash, and the success we have had through the Digital Content Hub is testament to the excellence we have on the continent. The platform we have created is the first of its kind in the African creative and cultural industries and breaks down barriers for content creators to be fluid between local and international markets.”

Williams lauded Tshimologong’s partnership with the French Institute in South Africa (IFAS) and the French Development Agency (AFD), saying that the partnerships and the process of activating them has created far-reaching benefits: “May our continued partnership cast hope for deserving actors in the cultural and creative industries and enrich a mutually beneficial relationship between France and South Africa.”

The Tshimologong Precinct, its team and founder, Prof Barry Dwolatzky, were also acknowledged for their passion, ideas and energy, when delivering their high-quality work in their respective roles while supporting Williams in her role as CEO.