This Order takes its inspiration from what is seen by some to be the oldest life form in Africa, the Baobab tree, whose endemic distribution and peculiar appearance and features have made it emblematic of the tropical African landscape. Its sparse branch and leaf system (relative to its massively wide trunk) gives the Baobab (Adonsonia Digitata) the appearance, when viewed from a distance, of being permanently uprooted. In closer proximity, the Baobab, with its colossal wide trunk – sometimes exceeding a diameter of five metres – supported by the broad and strong protruding root system supporting it, has the effect of suggesting a gigantic refuge from the sun or rain. Indeed, in traditional African societies, it is often the place for meetings, shelter and rest.
While the origin of its name is lost in the many rich legends and myths of Africa, the Baobab is probably the most described tree on the continent. The oldest living Baobab is estimated to be more than 3 000 years old. The Baobab is well known for its magical powers and symbolic value to many indigenous African people, as well as its functional usefulness. The Baobab bark is used to make mats, hats, cloth and rope; its fruits are eaten; and its wood burnt as fuel.
The age and utility of this tree suggest endurance, wisdom, endowment and bounty. It perfectly symbolises the sustained and exceptional service to South Africa that is recognised by the award of the Order of the Baobab, as well as the enduring and growing status of South Africans resulting from service thus rendered.
The central motif of the Order is the image of the Baobab tree enclosed in a nine-sided polygon, which symbolises the nine provinces of our country as well as the many different areas of possible contribution and service to the nation. The exterior shape and texture are reminiscent of the bark on the trunk of the Baobab tree.
Recipients of the Order of the Baobab receive an award of three elements:
- a neck badge (a gold, silver or bronze medallion on a neck band);
- a miniature (a miniature gold, silver or bronze medallion for wearing as a brooch or on the breast pocket);
- and a lapel rosette (also in gold, silver or bronze).
Recipients of the Order are entitled to indicate that they have been invested with the relevant category of the Order by the use of the following post-nominal letters:
- GCOB for recipients of the Supreme Counsellor of the Baobab (Gold)
- GCOB for recipients of the Grand Counsellor of the Baobab (Silver)
- COB for recipients of the Counsellor of the Baobab (Bronze).
The Order of the Baobab is awarded to South African citizens for distinguished service in the fields of: business and the economy; science, medicine, and for technological innovation; and community service.
The Supreme Counsellor of the Baobab in Gold is awarded for exceptional service.
The second category, Grand Counsellor of the Baobab in Silver, is awarded for excellent service, while the Counsellor of the Baobab in Bronze is awarded for outstanding service.