Business and Entrepreneurship

Sinenhlanhla Ndlela (26)

Founder, Yococo

Sinenhlanhla Ndlela is the owner and founder of Yococo dairy-free ice cream. What makes her achievement remarkable is that Ndlela, at the young age of 23, didn’t know anything about ice cream when she started out. She taught herself everything about the industry, how to make the ice cream, how to manufacture it, and how to distribute it — without any business background or specialised training. Today, her business is thriving and she supplies Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg.

The women in her family inspired her with their strength and determination. She is also inspired by her love of ice cream and her vision for her future.

“I want to show that it is possible to have the words ‘fun’ and ‘healthy’ next to one another,” she laughs. “That’s exactly what I am doing with Yococo dairy-free ice cream. I want to show that you can change the world and serve up love, even if it’s just through one scoop at a time.”

Ndlala plans to run the biggest and most fun ice cream brand in South Africa and hopes to expand her market into Germany in the future. She wants to also use her steady growth to help support her team and to empower more women.

“I want to give people from rural areas the opportunity to grow in my company,” she says. “I have been fortunate to meet lots of people at different stages of my journey and my mother has been with me every step of the way. I also believe that my team has carried me through all the tough times and now we are much stronger for it. They all understand the process and put in so much.”

When asked what advice she would give to young South Africans dreaming of the future, she says: “Get out of your own way, there are so many things to deal with, so don’t be your own enemy.”

Twitter: @the_yococo 

Author - bhavika
Dineo Lioma (33)

Dineo Lioma (33)

Entrepreneur

At just 29, Dineo Lioma is a scientist and astute businesswomen, having founded three companies in the scientific sphere. She counts as inspiration her exposure to the commercial aspect of science while studying towards her MPhil degree in microtechnology and nanotechnology at Cambridge University in the United Kingdom.

“I learned quite a lot; I really saw how powerful science can be to change the world. I got an offer to do a PhD there but I thought to come home and impact South Africa. I’ve seen how universities and business can work together,” Lioma says.

She describes nanotechnology as the study of very small particles on a Nano scale. “Imagine a strand of hair and splitting that strand.”

Coming back to South Africa, Lioma founded Deep Medical Therapeutics, which leverages the power of artificial intelligence (AI) in the medical field.

“Drug resistance diseases mutate and people can develop drug resistance if they don’t take drugs correctly. We can use artificial intelligence technology to pick up drug resistance unique genetic strains,” Lioma explains.

She presented the concept to IBM, which helped the fledgling company develop a software platform.

Deep Medical Therapeutics plans to reduce the time people spend waiting for their results to come back from the laboratory. It can take up to three weeks and during this period the disease could spread. Lioma’s brainchild will have a turnaround time of a maximum of 48 hours and have on-site diagnosis.

But, Lioma says the health sphere is heavily regulated and while they await the go-ahead to perform clinical trials, the first pilot is likely to be performed by the end of 2019.

Lioma also runs CapeBio Technologies, a spin-off company from the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research.

She and her co-founder mine genetic information from nature and create reagent (a substance used during a chemical reaction) to cut, clone or manipulate DNA. The products are mainly used in pathology labs and the company relies on the biodiversity hotspots, such as the Western Cape, for sourcing material.

South Africa currently imports all reagent enzymes and it is exciting that there will be locally developed products, says Lioma.

Coming into contact daily with huge amounts of data, Lioma believes government urgently needs to work on policies and regulatory frameworks regarding the storage and use of people’s personal information.

“Data is almost becoming a commodity, we don’t want people collecting samples and doing all kinds of strange things with it,” she says.

— Tehillah Niselow 

LinkedIn: Dineo Lioma

James Wilkinson (35)

James Wilkinson (35)

Head of Business Optimisation, Foschini Group

The 35-year-old head of business optimisation at the Foschini Group, James Wilkinson regards himself as an “unlikely accountant” but always wanted to study the subject and has a strong fascination for numbers. He has also seen the significance of accounting and analytics as a decision-making skill.

However it is not all about the bottom line for this business science University of Cape Town graduate who is also a Chartered Accountant, having previously held the position of group general manager at Distell. He is passionate about big business transforming supply chains to benefit small, medium and micro-sized enterprises (SMMEs). He believes the shocking employment statistics in the country will not be solved by big business or government but by job creation in SMMEs.

He says the common myth is that the biggest obstacle to SMMEs is capital or financing; he argues that it is, in fact, access to market.

“We need to rethink supply chains: big businesses usually want to trade with other big businesses because they see this as frictionless, we need to redesign procurement processes,” he says.

Wilkinson adds that small businesses can often be more cost effective or have a faster turnaround time than bigger companies and firms need to be creative about these opportunities.

“It’s almost a moral obligation of big businesses in South Africa to find a way to create jobs in their supply chains,” he says.

Traditional accounting once seen as a highly secure career is now facing major innovation from new technologies such as artificial intelligence. This is where Wilkinson sees the opportunity for himself and the industry to reposition itself.

“The challenge to modern accountants is whether they want to be in the engine room or on the bridge,” he explains.

He jokes that he has probably never passed a journal entry as a traditional accountant would, in his professional career and rather sees himself in a business context.

“There is quite a heavy technology component in how do we optimise and operate traditional accounting processes” he says.

He is passionate about the future of retail in South Africa and the Foschini Group’s future despite the reality that other large high-street chains in developed countries are feel the brunt of internet shopping.

“Africa is a unique place, successful retailers of the future will know their customer very well,” he says adding that he foresees a future for ‘brick and mortar’ retailers coupled with online ones. He cites the race and innovation for the last mile of delivery in South Africa as a critical challenge and opportunity.

— Tehillah Niselow

Nomalungelo Stofile (29)

Nomalungelo Stofile (29)

Entrepreneur, Bellascene Wines and Sunrise Gems

 

“I feel like I’ve always been an entrepreneur, looking at how I can get more involved,” 29-year-old Nomalungelo Stofile says of the two companies she has established.

Her father used to work for mining giant De Beers as the head of a training facility and he wanted her to get into the beneficiation of diamonds, taking them from their mined state to polished gems.

After he died in 2014, Stofile looked for a way to connect to him and she did this through diamonds.

She went for training on the technical aspects of cutting and polishing diamonds at the Diamond Education College and the State Diamond Trader.

While she was learning this entirely different skill set she was also hunting for funding and investment and only began to trade in earnest in 2018.

Stofile buys the diamonds from the State Diamond Trader, which means they are ethically sourced. This entails evaluating the rough diamond to see whether she will be able to make profit from them.

Despite the laborious process of cutting and polishing the gems, Stofile finds its relaxing and “highly beautiful” to see the end product.

“Depends on the source and clarity. This can take up to a few weeks and then you need to source a market for the diamond. I also sometimes work with a jeweller to create the final product, ”she says.

Stofile is passionate about beneficiation — refining — natural resources in South Africa and on a continent where raw products are often shipped abroad and refined there, and sold for far higher prices. Beneficiation and creating upstream industries from the dwindling mining sector has been a long held promise by the government, which it has failed to fully implement.

“It’s really important that we, as Africans, can benefit from the value of the resources on the continent,” she says.

Stofile works on the diamond refinement process herself but wants to start employing people for the time-intensive process while she juggles another high-end business — producing wine.

“I’m really passionate about wine as well. I didn’t know there were actually black people who made wine and it was sparked from travelling around Africa. I’d visit the DRC [Democratic Republic of Congo] and I’d be asked to source some South African wine.”

She spoke to wine farmers and discussed the possibility of getting into the business. It was then that she realised there were black-owned wine brands.

Stofile attended wine training courses to learn the basics of the industry, from vineyard to distribution.

A number of wine brands don’t own a farm and instead buy grapes from farmers. Her own wine brand, Bellascene Wines, works with a wine estate. But she’s looking into having her own cellar within two years.

Bellascene produces red wines — shiraz, merlot and a Cabernet Merlot blend.

“I’ve invested a lot in the quality of the wine and aesthetic of the wine brand. It’s difficult to have in every element of the chain, warehouse  and the wine,” Stofile says.

She is trying to get Bellascene Wines into several restaurants and wine cellars. But, she says,  the industry is not used to a high-end wine product being sold by a young black female. “I end up being questioned a lot about my knowledge of wine … I have to try to build that trust.”

Between focusing on her wine brand in the Western Cape and diamond business in Johannesburg, Stofile says she doesn’t have much of a life outside of work, but she but hopes this will change with time.

“The businesses are in their infant stages. I’m setting  processes and will then eventually put the right teams together in both cities. It is difficult but it worth it because I’m really passionate about both businesses.” —

Khanyisani Nkosi (34)

Khanyisani Nkosi (34)

Vice-President, JP Morgan Chase & Co Sub-Saharan Africa Global Investment Banking

The 34-year-old vice president at the South African office of leading international bank JP Morgan Chase, Khanyisani Nkosi, can already look back on a career that spans his two passions: mining and finance.

In 2010, this geology and earth sciences graduate from the University of Johannesburg was promoted from an exploration geologist to an associate in the mining advisory team at Nedbank.

He was recruited by Rand Merchant Bank and retained his focus on mining, but this time with blue chip mining companies on the JSE. Fast making a name for himself in mining and finance circles, he was headhunted by the South African office of JP Morgan Chase in 2017 where he has broadened his sector focus to also include technology, media and telecommunications.

Nkosi considers several massive deals he has worked on recently as some of his largest achievements, including the recently announced Naspers listing of New Co on Euronext Amsterdam and an inward listing on the JSE; Lonmin’ s sale to Sibanye-Stillwater resulting in the company becoming the third largest platinum group metal producer in the world; and the sale of Anglo American Plc’s disposal of its Eskom-tied operation to create one of the largest empowered domestic coal producers.

Despite thousands of retrenchments, the sale and closure of mine shafts and policy uncertainty in mining in recent years, he is cautiously optimistic about the direction the sector is taking as the sector remains crucial to further growth in the South Africa’s economy.

Since 2016, Nkosi has also been a director in Black-owned investment company, QuarteReturn Capital, which has a sole mandate to invest and grow black-owned SMMEs in South Africa. The company is a broad-based investment holding company comprised of a number of Black professionals with diverse backgrounds in finance, medicine, property, infrastructure and humanities. Nkosi is currently the chairman of the investment committee, responsible for the assets into which the company invests.

Nkosi believes that people wanting to make it in the mining sector need to have a clear vision and see the process from a holistic view. It’s not just about pulling something out of the ground.

He adds that things don’t just happen without the investment of time and dedication, adding that the banking industry is very different from how it operated in the past. “Deal making isn’t as easy as it used to be, to build up expertise takes time, patience and dedication, older people have to take time in mentoring younger people and passing on some of their knowledge.”

Nkosi is, consequently, passionate about mentoring younger colleagues to improve themselves as finance professionals and build longevity within the financial services. — Tehillah Niselow 

LinkedIn: Khanyisani Nkosi

Nolo Masite (34)

Nolo Masite (34)

Founding executive director, Mila Yarona Holdings

These days, Nolo Masite is not afraid to get his hands dirty with Mila Yarona Holdings, which has a portfolio of commercial farms focusing on citrus fruit, apples and pears, tomatoes and blueberries. “I call myself a corporate farmer,” Masite jokes, on his way back from picking fruit on one of the citrus farms in the Western Cape it is invested in.

Mila Yarona Holdings one of the first black-owned private equity funds focusing on agriculture. It is also majority women-owned and controlled with its subsidiary African Green Alpha.

Masite is amongst the new generation of black professionals who are contributing their skill sets in the investment sector by contributing to food security, supporting black farmers and growing agricultural businesses, particularly in a time when the land is is such a controversial issue. Mila Yarona’s investments in agriculture allow Masite to combine his business and accounting acumen with his expertise in agriculture.

Masite began his professional career with KPMG, in the mining assurance division, as a trainee accountant. After a stint at Sasol, he joined British American Tobacco (BAT),  where he held various roles across the group both locally and globally, the highlight of which was his appointment as corporate finance & mergers and acquisitions manager in the southern African region. He was later appointed treasurer for BAT’s southern region. Masite then joined Remgro within its investment unit, with a key focus on unlisted investments and the food agri portfolio.

“People forget that British American Tobacco is primarily a farming business; I have always been in agriculture,” Masite says.

The agricultural sector’s future is seen as uncertain as the legislation to allow for expropriation without compensation makes its way through Parliament. Agri SA, one the largest farming representative bodies, believes that farmers are holding back from investing and expanding while the policy path clears. The agricultural sector slumped by 13.2% in the first quarter of 2019’s economic output, following a surge in the final three months of 2018, partly due to load shedding affecting production.

However Masite believes, as a businessman and investor, that the difficulties experienced in the agricultural sector are creating enormous potential, especially for growing black enterprises. “There’s always uncertainty in every sector — uncertainty creates opportunities,” he says.

LinkedIn: Nolo Masite

Lindelwa Skenjana (31)

Lindelwa Skenjana (31)

Head of Digital Adoption, Old Mutual

As a graduate trainee in marketing at MTN, Lindelwa Skenjana wanted to study something that would bridge technology and development.

“I wanted to learn and use technology to make the continent better, the dream was either the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund or the United Nations,” Skenjana says of her time after completing her Masters at the University of Manchester.

When she came back to South Africa, she went into the corporate world, joining Old Mutual in 2013. She held several jobs in the financial services giant, including being a marketing consultant, before being appointed as the marketing and stakeholder relations manager for the Masisizane Fund.

The fund aims to provide development finance and business support to small, medium and micro enterprise businesses, with an ownership of 51% by previously disadvantaged individuals, in the agriculture, franchise, supply chain and manufacturing sectors.

When Skenjana took up at the job at the Masisizane Fund, it had no digital footprint. She had to start from scratch, setting up a website and a social media presence.

Being at the coalface of marketing innovation, Skenjana was promoted to Old Mutual’s head of digital innovation just two years later, at the beginning of June 2019.

She speaks firmly about the power that consumers now have in the palm of their hands by way of their smartphones, to check their funeral policies and other financial services Old Mutual offers.

“As much as people like to look at the West for technological evolution, there is great pick up in West and East Africa; the South African market is a bit slower in trusting,” she says.

Skenjana believes the fast pace of digital adoption in financial services on the continent forces companies such as Old Mutual to look around Africa for best practice in artificial intelligence and robotics.

She and a friend formed the Mbewu Movement, a young professional women’s social dialogue forum, in 2012 after several young colleagues approached her for mentoring opportunities.

The forum leaned on the co-founders’ extended networks to hold successful pioneering sessions that included frank conversations about the difficulties women face in rising to the top of their professions.

For the future of information and communications technology policy Skenjana believes a lot more should be done than merely dropping laptops at schools. She advocates for “out of the box thinking”, including public schools having direct links to private schools so that resources such as computer labs can be shared.

— Tehillah Niselow 

LinkedIn: Lindelwa Skenjana

Nekhamah Magabane (30)

Nekhamah Magabane (30)

Restaurant owner and manager, Conscious 108

Thirty-year-old Nekhamah Magabane is the owner of a neat and on-trend vegan restaurant in Greenside, Johannesburg, called Conscious 108. It has been a successful endeavour for more than five years and Magabane regularly runs events designed to spread awareness of a healthy lifestyle. The restaurant is her passion project and one that she fervently believes in.

“I love food and creating beautiful looking food,” says Magabane. “With my restaurant, I hope I am able to show people how healthy and cruelty-free food does not have to be plain and boring. It can be beautiful and fun and delicious.”

Inspired by her love of food and her family and community, Magabane is aiming to take her vegan restaurant into a franchise model. She wants to expand its reach and its availability across the country and showcase how vegan can be just as tasty and accessible as any other type of food.

“I also want to build an education centre that teaches people about the importance of being vegan and the benefits of this healthy way of eating and living,” she says. “It is an important part of taking care of yourself and your body.”

Throughout her journey to restaurant success, Magabane has been supported by her African Hebrew family, her community and her husband, Moroko Wiseman.

“He has been there through the ups and the downs, the emotional breakdowns and the breakthroughs,” she says. “For anyone who plans on exploring their own passions and dreams, I advise them to never let other people or situations stop them. It is also important that you plan and execute carefully – be consistent in your work. Finally, I also think it is incredibly important that people remember to be kind to themselves – there is only one of you.” – Tamsin Oxford

Instagram: @conscious108

Lucia Maseko

Lucia Maseko

Brand Integration for Nike Africa

As head of brand integration for Nike Africa, Lucia Maseko leads the creative, digital and visual aspect of the Nike brand in Africa. In her previous roles, Maseko thrived on formulating strategies that not only created revenue but also impacted the lives of end users — among them, the launch of social platforms in central West Africa, showing significant wins in consumer engagement and mobile commerce, and improving business efficiency for merchants in the rural parts of Kenya.

Maseko joined Nike Africa in 2017 as the Africa digital lead, providing guidance in crafting and executing the Africa digital strategy within the key markets of South Africa, Nigeria, Egypt, Morocco and Algeria. She ensured that each country delivered the highest standards of innovative digital technology and design. Quickly recognised for her eagerness to learn, Maseko took on the dual role of Africa digital lead and brand communication lead, and pushed boundaries of digital-based storytelling at the intersection of sport and technology.

“The ultimate purpose of my work is to tell the narrative of sport, as sport has the ability to change lives and the world in the smallest ways,” says Maseko. “I use the platform of my role at Nike to boost the achievements of all phenomenal women in sports and celebrate them within the African narrative. The greater achievement for me in my current work is being able to tell stories of sports that are close to me about women in sport.”

With her team, Maseko’s celebrated the work of extraordinary women such as Caster Semenya, creating video work in which the athlete exemplifies the fact that believing in yourself pays off, and of Simi Adeagbo, the first African woman to compete in the skeleton discipline (where competitors lie prone on a sled) at the Winter Olympics. By consistently recognising the achievements of women, Lucia makes the nuanced statement that the glass ceiling does very much exist, but that women are capable of breaking through it. — Tehillah Niselow

LinkedIn: Lucia Maseko

Nic Klopper (34)

Nic Klopper (34)

CEO, hearX Group

The hearX Group, at the forefront of providing digital healthcare in audiology, is self-described 34-year-old serial entrepreneur Nic Klopper’s seventh business. Born and schooled in Bloemfontein, he started out selling computers during his time at Pretoria University, and he has morphed into the founder of one of South Africa’s largest craft and business scrapbooks. He also founded a 3D printing firm and manufacturing lab.

Klopper speaks passionately about the issues surrounding hearing loss and the lack of access to healthy hearing in developing countries for this disability. He cites the dearth of audiologists in South Africa specifically and the rest of the African continent, compared to the situation in the United States, for instance.

Hearing loss increases as we age, it’s a pandemic, there are massive side effects, including isolation, depression and increased risk of dementia,” he says, explaining how he

founded the hearX Group with the aim to make healthy hearing accessible. Hearings tests and aids have prohibitively high costs. The company offers a free hearing test on a smartphone application with specially calibrated headphones There is a simple interface for communities to test hearing; and then the system links people to hearings services. To date, close to 60 000 hearing examinations have been conducted, and audiologists have received more clients based on referrals from the app.

Yet, there is still a massive gap with people unable to afford hearing aids. Klopper says that the hearX Group is in the early stages of partnering with companies to offer low cost options.

As a disruptor in medical technology, Klopper believes there will always be a place for medical professionals while healthcare services should become decentralised and democratised through innovation.

“One hearing specialist per million people is not enough. Specialised technology amplifies their skills,” he adds.

Having been in existence for two and a half years, the hearX Group employs 50 people, with offices in Pretoria and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Sixty percent of all its employees have a technical background and the rest are medical; the average age is 29.

“We love what we are doing,” says Klopper, adding that every quarter, the staff members are mandated to go directly into the communities to interact with people. – Tehillah Niselow

 

Twitter: @NicKlopper

LinkedIn: Nic Klopper 

Lukhanyiso Mgengo (31)

Lukhanyiso Mgengo (31)

Business Manager Transaction Banking Americas and Global, Standard Chartered Bank

Raised in Umtata and East London, 31-year-old banking business manager Lukhanyiso Mgengo currently spends his days amidst the skyscrapers of Manhattan, arguably the heart of global finance. His long term plans, however, include returning to South Africa, as he wants to be part of the stability and growth he foresees for the country.

Mgengo’s career kicked off in asset management when he was employed as a junior consultant for Allan Gray investment company. Moving between analyst roles at other investment banks such as Alexander Forbes and RMB Private Bank, he eventually was employed by Standard Chartered where he started off in Johannesburg as business manager to the chief executive of the bank’s southern African contingent, learning more about regional integration in southern Africa and the rest of the continent.

His move to New York gave him a new perspective on banking as the United States is a key market for much of global trade and flows. To survive in the hugely competitive financial industry in New York requires self-discipline as it’s a brutal environment and people can be hired and fired at will, he says.

Despite South Africa’s struggling economy, Mgengo sees tremendous potential in the country with small and medium businesses expanding. He also sees the opportunity to contribute in turning small enterprises into sustainable global ones, with his international banking experience.

“All the fundamentals in South Africa are there, once we get accountability, efficiency and allocation right, the economy will easily grow again, and I want to be part of that,” he says.

Having made the leap from Umtata to New York, Mgengo considers mentorship as a critical component to his journey and feels, with reference to the mentorship from Standard Chartered Bank from which he benefitted tremendously, that he has the experience to offer aspects and perspectives that have not previously been considered, to rising young professionals.

— Tehillah Niselow 

LinkedIn: Lukhanyiso Mgengo

Nipho Msibi (28)

Nipho Msibi (28)

Entrepreneur, AstroFarm

As a chartered accountant and equity analyst, Nonhlakanipho (Nipho) Msibi was set for a comfortable life in corporate but she was determined to live a life of service. She hails from Soweto, and her upbringing instilled in her a passion for economic and social development and a desire to empower the youth in her community. Her list of awards and degrees is an enviable testament to her professional skills and commitment to economic advancement. She is an ardent believer in leveraging private capital for public good, and she was awarded the prestigious African Women in Public Service Fellowship by the Oprah Winfrey Foundation two years ago to study towards a master’s degree at New York University.

Her vision of being a change agent dates to her undergraduate studies at the University of Johannesburg. Msibi started her non-profit organization, Keynetics, to equip the youth in disadvantaged communities with entrepreneurial and life skills. She interacted with many people in communities who did not know about the various degrees they could study at university. Through Keynetics she was honoured with the Abe Bailey Travel Award to England, for her strong leadership qualities and service ethic. She also represented South Africa in Belgium at the European Parliament, addressing 300 global leaders on issues affecting the youth in South Africa.

Msibi weaves her background and personal story of climbing the corporate ladder  into her dream of empowering others. She brings a unique perspective to the social development space, combining her experience and skill set of working in the private sector with that of running her own non-profit organisation.

She was selected to participate in the StartingBloc Institute in New York. The organisation brings together change leaders and social innovators from across the world for an intensive training program in social innovation, lean prototyping, design thinking, and lean-launching startups. Msibi laughingly recounts that the most difficult part of adjusting to life in the Big Apple was the weather — freezing cold winters and snow, which made her long for home.

While currently based in New York, Msibi remains committed to South Africa, with plans to continue to improve and empower lives through various impact investments. She is a co-founder of a technology start-up called AstroFarm, an agritech start-up based in the US and in South Africa that is helping farmers farm better by providing them with the technological tools to help them increase their yield, lower risks and optimise their resources.

Maanda Tshifularo (33)

Maanda Tshifularo (33)

Head, Dial direct Insurance

‘As you can see, I love knowledge and learning; I pretty much study all the time,” Maanda Tshifularo says about his five degrees and postgraduate diplomas. He is also pursuing a PhD at the University of Johannesburg, which involves finding financial solutions through artificial intelligence.

Learning was Tshifularo’s ticket out of rural Begwa village, close to Thoyondou in Limpopo. His single mother, who worked as a domestic worker, sometimes came home with just R300 a month for her three children.

It was incredibly hard — my mom was a maid — I had to travel really far to go to school, and didn’t have much to eat,” Tshifularo recalls.

His love for reading and learning, often while sitting under trees, ensured that he passed matric with five distinctions and was awarded a bursary to study chemical engineering at the University of Cape Town.

He describes going to university as a culture shock, having come from a small village. Tshifularo says he had never seen a lift before and did not know how to operate it, or eat with a knife and fork.

From the rural village, his career has taken him to working in some of the top corporates in South Africa. “I’ve been incredibly lucky,” Tshifularo says. While his strength lay in maths, science and particularly physics at school, he soon realised after university that he did not enjoy being a chemical engineer.

After several positions within Deloitte and Mckinsey as a consultant in mining and engineering, as well as working at MTN, he moved to Discovery Health, where he appreciated the exposure to innovation and health insurance.

Tshifularo was headhunted by Telesure Group Services in 2017 and became general manager of operations at 1Life Insurance before being promoted to Dialdirect insurance, where he specialises in short-term cover such as car and home insurance.

He says his career in financial services has now spanned the three major areas of insurance, life, health and short-term cover and he is passionate about this sector, while also doing his PhD to research the industry further.

“Some people know from a very young age what they want to do; for me it was a long and winding road,” Tshifularo explains.

In the hopes of giving young people exposure to the diversity of careers out there, Tshifularo produces a weekly podcast called SuperLead (www.superlead.org) where he interviews professionals ranging from pastors to bankers.

“Hopefully they won’t meander as much as I did,” Tshifularo says about his passion project, which he slots in between his pressured work and study schedule. — Tehillah Niselow

LinkedIn: Maanda Tshifularo

Gugu Nkabinde (35)

Gugu Nkabinde (35)

Founder, Gugu Intimates

Gugu Nkabinde has launched Africa’s first skin-coloured underwear range, Gugu Intimates, driven by the insight that representation in key categories such as underwear is vital. In the year since its launch, Gugu Intimates has disrupted the undergarments industry as a result of Nkabinde’s understanding of how carefully thought-out clothing can support and expand women’s confidence.

As a brand strategist, Nkabinde identified an important insight: in South Africa and Africa at large, the idea of “skin colour” or “nude” is often an inaccuracy — those terms have tended to describe pale, peachy tones in the undergarment section. This left women of colour with little in the way of underwear options that didn’t show through sheer or white clothing and ruin its effect. Describing herself as “obsessed with insights that drive businesses, industries and brands,”  Nkabinde decided to create the solution in the form of Africa’s first truly skin-coloured underwear range.

She drew on her experience in the makeup industry, and thought about the process of blending and matching makeup to specific skin tones, and asked herself: “If I can match my makeup, why can’t I match my underwear?” Once she’d posed this question on behalf of the Black women who would become her customers, it was time to identify the tones that would be most useful to the market, and find the production partners who could bring her vision to life to the standard she had in mind.

Among Nkabinde’s accolades is the Sanlam Handmade Contemporary Fair Elle Decoration Award for Best Product that she received in 2018, but it’s safe to say that it’s her customers’ reception of her product that is the best testament to its value. The initial Gugu Intimates range of five nude shades is already distributed in four outlets in South Africa, one in Zimbabwe, and another in Brooklyn, New York — with more in the pipeline.

While her product is often imitated, and she recognises that this could indeed be the start of a positive trend of inclusivity if well-executed; there’s little competition in terms of a brand that offers a similarly empowering narrative to its customers along with such a well-made product. “The product had to be created by someone who cared enough,” she says of her entrepreneurial journey so far, and it’s this genuine empathy that has proved even more valuable than her business insights. — Cayleigh Bright

Twitter: @gugu_n

Melao Mashale (34)

Melao Mashale (34)

Head of Enterprise IoT (Internet of Things), MTN

While there are concerns that South Africa is falling behind technologically and is not prepared for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, Melao Mashale prefers to see the issue from a “glass half-full” perspective.

Having spent his entire career in the business application of IT, he describes South Africa’s creations as customer orientated, as the country does not have the luxury that developed economies do of working on projects “just because they’re cool”.

He also says that some projects created in wealthier countries fail to take slower internet speeds in rural areas or cost into account, while South African innovations are robust and designed to handle several scenarios.

He work on the local IoT (Internet of Things) Conference and Awards, which looks for people creating cutting-edge solutions in the hopes of partnering with them and taking their ideas to market. Both of the finalists in South Africa won global awards at an IoT conference in Silicon Valley, United States.

Mashale started out as an intern at Accenture, where he worked on the Cell C account, and his interest for telecommunications was piqued. He has more than 12 years of experience in bringing new, disruptive products and services to market in Africa through his tenures at companies such as MTN Business, MTN SA and Ericsson.

Mashale, whose voice clearly conveys his passion for digital change, says that being in the telecoms business allows his work to touch many people on a daily basis: “You can see it in the real world, you’re not just pressing buttons on a screen.”

He gives the example of IoT connecting and monetising existing infrastructure such as streetlights for WiFi hotspots; traffic and crime cameras are the next step for digital adoption.

Mashale shared this idea and others with the commission on the Fourth Industrial Revolution appointed by President Cyril Ramaphosa earlier in 2019, and they are building his suggestions into their report.

Despite being positive about South Africa’s IT development, Mashale is concerned about the unbundling of spectrum which has hampered faster internet and driven up data costs.

“South Africa hasn’t been allocated 4G spectrum; mobile companies have to use double the infrastructure to mine 2G and 3G to create a 4G-like experience,” Mashale says.

There have been several promises and postponement by government to fast track the allocation of spectrum.

Mashale warns that in this aspect, South Africa risks falling behind Rwanda and the rest of the world, which is preparing for 5G. This high-speed internet connection will allow cars to communicate with each other on the road and other infrastructure. — Tehillah Niselow

LinkedIn: Melao Mashale

Wandile Sihlobo (28)

Wandile Sihlobo (28)

Chief economist, Agricultural Business Chamber of South Africa

Wandile Sihlobo is the chief economist of the Agricultural Business Chamber of South Africa and a commissioner at the International Trade Administration Commission of South Africa. He is a columnist for Business Day, Fin24 and Farmer’s Weekly and runs his own blog, Agricultural Economics, which analyses the trends in South Africa’s various agricultural commodities. At only 28, Sihlogo has a significant body of work and experience behind him, and he already sits with the leaders of the country to build reform policies for South Africa.

“I spend a lot of time in agricultural economic research, which often informs policies and programmes that South Africa’s private and public sectors embark on,” says Sihlobo. “I am also involved in advisory positions such as the presidential panel on land reform and agriculture, and I play a part in public service.”

Sihlobo enjoys conducting public debates through the platforms he writes for, discussing the agricultural matters that affect South Africa and its industry. He believes that the agricultural sector needs to be seen not just as a part of livelihood and food security, but as a strategic sector of the economy across Africa.

“I would like to play a more active role in policymaking in an effort to ensure we have a solid, competitive and growing agricultural economy,” concludes Sihlobo. “This is with the hope that whatever I am doing, it will assist in boosting rural economies and providing much-needed employment. I also want to play a role in other important sectors of the economy, sectors that will help us to move our society forward.”

With this level of passion, foresight and insight, it is very likely that Sihlobo will achieve his goals and dreams in short order — he has ticked so many boxes already.

Twitter: @WandileSihlobo

Phakamile Hlazo (34)

Phakamile Hlazo (34)

Founder & Managing Director, Zulu Nomad

‘We’re disrupting the market in every way we can,” says Phakamile Hlazo of her role as a tech-enabled entrepreneur in the tourism industry. Through her company Zulu Nomad she seeks to inspire and inform others about the opportunities for travel in Africa and beyond.

At 21, Hlazo was awarded a Rotary International Scholarship and became a South African ambassador to the United Kingdom. She represented South Africa proudly, and upon her return  realised that the international travel bug had bitten, then made her way to work and live in China for three years. During this time she established an Instagram account to share her experiences and was quickly overwhelmed with requests for travel tips — a trend that continued as she met friends from around the world and travelled to all corners of the globe to visit them.

It was from this hunger for travel knowledge that Hlazo’s business grew: not only did she enjoy sharing her experiences, but also found fulfilment in reassuring fellow travellers about their options and how to share in the “insider” experiences that she’d discovered. To allow for further growth of this skill, she founded her tourism startup that offers curated travel experiences in Southern Africa. She noticed that those asking for advice were often only aware of higher-end travel options, so she’s devoted particular attention to ensuring that backpacking and other more affordable adventures are highlighted. “It’s about deciding how we want to travel,” she explains. “I try to find really unique experiences.”

Zulu Nomad employs a small team of full-time staff in South Africa and Mozambique and works with Black-owned small businesses in the tourism sector. The company has been particularly impactful in the lives of a small community in Tofo, Mozambique: by bringing tourists to the region a regular basis, the business has created a sustainable year-round income for its residents. Skillful use of social media have won the destination much attention online, leading to the creation of jobs both in South Africa and Mozambique. Hlazo’s vision includes implementing similar measures in more of the countries that she and her company visit, spreading the word about the possibilities of travel, and spearheading initiatives such as The Africa Travel Hackathon to bring the potential of tech in tourism to life. – Cayleigh Bright 

Twitter: @phakahlazo

Moeletsi Mirage Taiwe (23)

Moeletsi Mirage Taiwe left the bright lights of Johannesburg, shortly after completing her BA at the University of Johannesburg and returned home to Dennilton, Limpopo, where her father is a small-scale farmer.

“Once I finished my degree in 2016 and came home … I realised the amount of poverty around me and started to do small projects,” Moeletsi says.

She went on to do a technical course in crop production at the Buhle Farmers’ Academy, where she learned the practicalities of becoming a farmer.

Her nine hectare cotton and bean farm employs four permanent workers and 30 seasonal pickers on land that formed part of a government redistribution programme in 2002.

Agriculture has a waning allure for young people, who turn to cities for employment or educational opportunities, but Moeletsi has a different view.

“Money is all the same, if you are in the city or on a farm. It is pointless for me to live in the city if I cannot find employment. I would rather go home, find a job and even create a job. I’d also love to be in the city and wear heels but passion took me into farming,” she says.

As a young Black woman, Moeletsi says it was extremely difficult to enter farming and she had to lean on older, white commercial farmers for advice, technical support and equipment. She also leads much older staff members, often standing in the sun all day with them during harvest time.

Moeletsi says capital is limited and she helps with the manual labour to try to save on costs.

Cotton, which is her farm’s main output, is planted in November and harvested in about May. Moeletsi find cotton to be a valuable agricultural product because few farmers in South Africa grow it.

She has not received financial assistance from the government to date but she is planning to ask for more land to lease from the state because her vision is to increase her cotton output. — Tehillah Niselow

Xolisa Nqodi (32)

Xolisa Nqodi (32)

Managing Director, Shesha Tuks

Xolisa Nqodi is a 32-year-old entrepreneur based in Johannesburg. He is managing director of Shesha Tuks, a mobile advertising and transport company that was founded in 2013. The company has a fleet of eco-friendly Tuk-Tuks that transport people across the cities of Johannesburg and Pretoria. It’s a sassy solution to the public transport problem, but the sass doesn’t end there. The Tuk-Tuks also provide customers with mobile advertising and branding opportunities. Since the company started, it has grown to a fleet of 53 Tuk-Tuks as well as 57 staff and Nqodi plans to grow his company in Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and Durban in the near future. “I am inspired by the talent we have in our country and the optimism we have, irrespective of race, colour or creed,” he says.

“Our dreadful past is, in itself, an inspiration that teaches us and future generations that never again shall we be limited by our own ignorance but understand the true value of our collective existence.” Nqodi feels that he learns about people and business every day, using this inspiration to drive him even further in his business and his goals. His plans are to diversify his existing business model and to expand into other areas outside of Gauteng allowing for the company to continue its impressive growth trajectory.

“I have drawn inspiration from various people in my journey but the one person who stands the tallest is my best friend and older sister,” says Nqodi. “She has always believed in my potential and shown relentless faith in me. Her enthusiasm about life in general has always been an inspiration to me and, to this day, she continues to be a beacon of positivity.”

When asked what advice he would give to other young South Africans entering the city in search of their dreams, Nqobi says: “Walk your own journey, pick your fights wisely and believe in yourself a lot. Be prepared to fail and learn, always be willing to listen, and really just don’t give up.”
Nqodi’s bright vision for his future isn’t dimming as the young entrepreneur takes his company to new and impressive heights. He remains firm in the belief that South Africans should always inspire and learn from one another as that way lies a successful future. — Tamsin Oxford

Twitter: @TukTukGent

Refiloe Rantekoa (28)

Refiloe Rantekoa (28)

Founder, Borotho Bakery

Refiloe Rantekoa is a young entrepreneur from Soweto who operates Borotho Bakery, known for selling bread at very affordable prices for the community. The business began in the back room of his grandfather’s house, where Refiloe would bake and sell a meagre twenty loaves a day at first. Now, Borotho Bakery sells around 500 loaves of bread every single day, still at an affordable price, while also having created employment for five additional people. This growth was explosive, to say the least, and Rantekoa had to exhibit considerable ingenuity when meeting this demand, even using shopping carts as a delivery mechanism to keep their clients satisfied. The story of Rantekoa and Borotho Bakery spread quickly and soon enough Thomson’s Reuters, an international news agency, came to document this small yet smart business operating in the heart of Soweto.

His story clearly points to the source of his business acumen.

“I was raised by my grandmother, she taught me how to sell when I was just 8 years old. I had to sell fat cakes every morning before I went to school and maize at the bus stop every day after school… Therefore the confidence and the spirit of what I do had been instilled in me from a very young age.”

Given his background, the success of Borotho Bakery is a testament to the strength of Rantekoa’s character. Having weathered such harsh circumstances growing up, he’s giving back to his community through the Borotho Foundation, which will provide clothes, stationery, and other necessities to underprivileged children. Refiloe exhibits the qualities of a great entrepreneur, having been chosen by the Township Entrepreneur Awards as the Best Start-Up Business of 2018 as well as personally being awarded young entrepreneur of the year, as well as a life-changing philanthropic force in his community. Driven by his vision of creating a business that will inspire others to follow his footsteps, he’s a role model to young South Africans everywhere, regardless of their circumstances.

As he says himself, “The hunger to make, to build, and to inspire is something that will remain long after our time has passed.”

-Cayleigh Bright 

Twitter: @Refiloe_rantekoa

Tim Shier (34)

Tim Shier (34)

Founder and CEO, Burning Bennu

Tim Shier (34) has spent the past 12 years of his life launching businesses and non-profit organisations across South Africa. Each has become a success; each focuses on a variety of themes that range from increasing social cohesion to saving farmers from sheep theft and predation. He has also developed an online competition engine that donates more than R200 000 to various charities each year. In addition to all of this, Shier lectures at Oxford University in the field of disruptive marketing and financial technology, and he has plans to launch another three companies in 2019.

“I am inspired by the idea of creating something out of nothing,” he says. “What develops and inspires me is the process of validating a preposterous idea and either succeeding in uncharted waters or learning uniquely valuable lessons from failures.”

Shier describes his role as inventor, enabler, learner and janitor. He doesn’t believe that job titles accurately reflect the value of roles but rather the ability to behave with agility is what is of value in a world of rapid change.

“I have tried to diversity my business interests by finding opportunities that feed my desire for varied learning,” he says. “This has proven a useful tactic in scaling my time and by prioritising sustainability over profit I am now able to make a more direct and connected contribution to the societies I live in.”

Over the past four years, Shier has founded 16 businesses of which 12 have remained active. He plans to apply and share the learnings he has gathered during his lifetime to build a community of future-focused, like-minded individuals.

“There is more opportunity in Africa than anywhere else in the world,” he concludes. “Don’t go anywhere. For young South Africans’ dreaming of success I recommend you pick an African problem that resonates with your values and find a way of solving it. Then repeat the process. It doesn’t matter how fast you’re moving, as long as you don’t stop.” – Tamsin Oxford

LinkedIn: Tim Shier

Smangele Sibisi (28)

Smangele Sibisi (28)

Founder and owner, Indalo Nubian Naturals Hair Salon

At 25, Smangele Sibisi opened a business that she knew was needed: her own natural hair salon. Three months Iater, she had 10 employees, and the warm reception from her customers gave her the motivation she needed to press on with her business journey — although it wasn’t always easy. “What I didn’t expect about entrepreneurship is that you never rest,” she reflects now. “You’re forever on the hustle to keep your business up there with the rest.”

And “up there with the rest” she is, having established her second branch in 2018 and finding her business ranked in the top three natural hair salons in South Africa.

“This year my brand Indalo Nubian Naturals is turning three years old and employs 23 young people,” she’s proud to say. “This has helped me learn the importance of helping one another, since we have a high rate of unemployed youth.” The very practical aspiration of creating jobs goes hand-in-hand with her larger goal of creating a more inclusive hair industry that provides an excellent standard of care for natural hair in South Africa. Helping her clients to embrace their natural hair and access a knowledgeable, caring salon experience is important to her.

Next on the agenda? Starting a natural hair academy to spread this knowledge further, and opening up an industry for young professionals with the talent and passion for styling natural hair.

“I’m still preparing, gathering information and registering with Seta [Skills Education Training Authorities], but I’m excited about the journey,” she says. After all, she’s adept at making things happen through her own perseverance. Speaking of her proudest moment so far, she says, “When I opened my second salon, it took a lot of strength from preparing the space to financing it out my pocket and savings to launching it.” But it was the dream that she’d held in mind for a long time, and she was able to make it come true, so when her natural hair academy is up and running she’ll no doubt be having another gratifying  “I can’t believe I did that” moment.

— Cayleigh Bright 

Instagram: @indalonubiannaturals

Kagiso Sebediela (29)

Kagiso Sebediela (29)

Chef & owner, Freedom’s Kitchin

Kagiso Sebediela says his love of cooking was inspired by his mother. The chef and owner of Freedom’s Kitchin says he was a “mama’s boy” and would spend hours in the kitchen with his mother. His journey evolved from watching his mother cook on Sundays to eventually preparing the family meals himself.

“I loved cooking so much that I was the only one doing so in varsity,” he says. For Sebediela, cooking was a “means to sit around a table and converse over a modestly good meal.”

Cooking is a very communal activity, which is why Sebediela was attracted to it. Even as a young man, he says he always loved people and sharing his experiences with them. “This dates back to my primary school days, where I loved telling stories and visiting friends’ homes and allowing myself to be immersed in their culture in order to share my own with them,” he says.

His company Freedom’s Kitchin is a food solutions business based in Johannesburg. It was born out of a deep desire to share great food with friends. Freedoms Kitchin’s motto is “we believe that innovating in the food space keeps us critical and keeps us top of mind”.

Sebediela started the company in his final year of university. He was completing his degree in biochemistry and psychology while working as a behavioural therapist at the same time. Freedoms Kitchin started as a service to campus students in 2012. It was conducted using Twitter. “We were cooking 80 meals that Sunday on a two-plate stove. Total madness, I tell you.”

From humble origins to the business he now owns, Sebediela has no intention of stopping. His next goal is to achieve a multifaceted business in the food space.

He is all about expanding in the future; he wants to run a company with a nationwide footprint. He hopes his business will expand to deliver meals to people’s homes through the many platforms available through technology.

While Sebediela obviously has a deep passion for food and cooking, he says he loves music even more. “I love music more than I love food and intend to pursue this in my spare time.”

— Fatima Moosa 

Twitter: @freedomskitchin

Tebogo Mokwena (25)

Tebogo Mokwena (25)

Co-founder and Chief Technology Officer, Akiba Digital

Skilled software engineer and entrepreneur Tebogo Mokwena (25) has taken part in some significant moments throughout her dynamic career. She was part of the team that built the first digital bank in Southeast Asia; she has cofounded a financial technology company, Akiba Digital; and she completed a triple major in biochemistry, computer science and genetics at the University of Cape Town and the University of California, simultaneously. Furthermore, she is the owner of digital consulting firm, Bold, and a fellow at the Peace Revolution African Fellowship.

“My role today as an African female entrepreneur with software engineering expertise is to make use of technology to create experiences that fundamentally make the lives of Africans better,” she says. “I hope my contribution to Africa will empower women and others so that they push the boundaries of what is deemed possible.”

Mokwena’s plans for the future are as bold and bright as she is. Her plan is to spin up highly innovative technology start-ups led by women, start-ups that solve social challenges in new ways. She wants to create an innovation consortium that brings together African innovators across different industries and sectors to engineer world class products.

“I want to solve specific social problems such as health, education, security and finance for Africans,” she says. “We need more young women in technology, creating and building new things and pushing boundaries. The software engineering space is highly dominated by men and for this to change, we need to be at the table. We need to participate and cocreate the narrative.”

For women looking to change their lives as they move forward, Mokwena says: “Start learning how to code now. This is how you will learn to think of solutions. The beauty of technology is that it is created and shaped into anything by creativity and that is something we all have.” – Tamsin Oxford

Dr Cherise Dunn (33)

Dr Cherise Dunn (33)

Cofounder, Africa Makes 3D Printing for Development Initiative

Dr Cherise Dunn is one of the pioneers bringing 3D printing, additive manufacturing and design thinking education to everyday South Africans.

Co-founder of the Africa Makes 3D Printing for Development Initiative, Dunn is a serial entrepreneur. While completing her doctoral studies in cancer research at UCT, she founded an education consultancy that provides innovative entrepreneurship programmes for unemployed youth and adults, with a focus on emerging technologies.

Dunn was also instrumental in the establishment of, and was the lead ambassador for the Durban chapter of Future Females, a movement to inspire more female entrepreneurs and better support their success.

After researching social challenges experienced by African youth, she later cofounded the Africa Makes 3D Printing for Development Initiative. The project is a social hybrid enterprise that uses 3D printing for socioeconomic and educational development (#3D4D).

Dunn says the initiative started as a movement to empower disadvantaged youth in Africa by upskilling them in 3D technology for the future of work in the fourth industrial revolution.

“For us, this means equipping young people and adults with greater social and emotional intelligence and the knowledge of the economic potential of exciting emerging 4IR technologies such as 3D printing and additive manufacturing. The practical implementation skills to maximise the sustainable use of this technology in their communities is then crucial. We encourage African youth to resourcefully solve their own community-specific challenges using human-centric 3D printed solutions,” she says.

Recently Dunn was recognised by the US Department of State as one of the 4IR leaders in the world, and was nominated for the International Visitor Leadership Programme for Women in Entrepreneurship, the premier cultural programme offered by the US. As the only representative from South Africa, and the only techpreneur from the continent, she visited seven states during her extensive visit, engaging with numerous leading public and private organisations.

“I am passionate about making relevant technology more accessible to disadvantaged communities, and aim to encourage entrepreneurship in youth by fostering skills for success in the 4IR. I would like to encourage Africa’s youth to be proactive in solving the challenges they may be facing in their lives.”

-Linda Doke

Amanda Potelwa (31)

Amanda Potelwa (31)

Entrepreneur, Bellascene Wines and Sunrise Gems

Amanda Potelwa runs a boutique consulting agency that primarily focuses on agriculture, which is one of her major passions. She believes that this sector is crucial to unlocking the continent’s potential.

“Agriculture is a tangible way of empowering people. You can sell one cow and pay for your child’s school registration fees,” Potelwa says.

This brings her to another area of focus: education and its connection to agriculture. Potelwa was born in the Transkei, a former Bantustan under apartheid, and she learned that the ticket out of poverty is a good education.

Potelwa began her career at Investec’s private banking division and counts a leadership fellowship at consulting firm McKinsey between 2014 and 2016 among her accolades. This opportunity exposed her to projects in numerous sectors, including agriculture, banking and healthcare.

In November 2016, Potelwa was able to use her passion for agriculture in her day job when she joined Nigeria’s largest maize-producing company, Babban Gona. She was initially a senior associate, but was soon promoted to head of corporate finance. She led a $20-million debt-fundraising initiative to support Babban Gona’s 18 000 smallholder farmers during the 2017 season, and initiated a $40-million fundraising project to support the 40 000 smallholder farmers targeted for the 2018 season.

“Our farmers went from being impoverished and unseen individuals to being recognised as esteemed and accomplished members of their communities,” Potelwa says. “They were now able to use the proceeds from the Babban Gona programme […] to buy motorbikes, cars, houses, travel, afford healthcare and, most importantly, to take their children to school.”

Potelwa decided to move back to South Africa and establish a consulting firm using the knowledge and skills she had acquired during her stint in Nigeria. In 2018 she founded the Pan-African Unleashed Consultancy, which is still in the early phases of growing as a business.

“The goal is for the business to focus on […] financing (through establishing an agriculture-focused venture capital fund), agro-processing and [offering] an insights and advisory division to provide best-in-class advice, underpinned by rigorous insights drawn by our team,” Potelwa says.

— Tehillah Niselow

Twitter: @AmzPotz

Bradwin Roper (34)

Bradwin Roper (34)

CEO, FNB Lesotho

The 34-year-old chief executive of First National Bank in Lesotho Bradwin Roper, counts his corporate ninja mother and serial entrepreneur father as the wind beneath his rise to head up FNB. “I was raised by two powerhouse parents … which gave me an advantage in the corporate world,” he says.

The family moved out of Eldorado Park, East of Johannesburg, a township designated by the apartheid government for the coloured community, when Roper was a teenager. He matriculated from Dainfern College, one of the richest schools in the country. He credits the contrasts in his life for developing his ability to relate to “South Africans from every background”.

“I’ve never forgotten the value of a rand, I try to be as humble as possible,” Roper says, recounting his climb of the corporate ladder at the banking giant.

He cites the formula: Happiness equals reality minus expectations as his mantra and has kept his expectations low. “It’s unfathomable the places that I find myself”, he grins.

However, being chief executive of FNB’s Lesotho division at just 34 years old also requires a great deal of sacrifice.

“There’s a certain level of decorum … the buck stops with me. I’m the responsible officer, if things go pear shaped, I could go to jail, it’s an incredible amount of pressure,” Roper says.

As a coping mechanism, he has latched onto a heathy lifestyle, training six days a week, practicing yoga and hiking in the mountains Lesotho is famous for.

“I’m trying to break the mould that you need to work 16 hours a day to be an effective CEO and I try to lead by example,” he adds. He sees the workplace of the future as increasingly flexible and is opposed to “employees clocking in for 12 hours but only being present for two.”

As banking increasingly moves online, shutting branches and forcing mass layoffs, Roper says FNB has almost stopped identifying as a bank. He cites the company’s mobile offerings through FNB Connect and eBucks Rewards system as proof that the financial services company is evolving into a “platform”.

But Roper never set out to be a banker. Indeed, his first degree is in chemical engineering from the University of Cape Town. The intersection of technology and traditional banking allow Roper to flex his engineering skills as the company insources all its IT functions, and

Roper credits his chemical engineering background with a four year heavy emphasis on mathematics for teaching him to solve daily problems in the corporate world of finance.

“The skill set is transferable in any industry … which is hugely valuable, given how transient the world has become,” he says. — Tehillah Niselow 

Twitter: @BradwinRoper

Diksha Somai Pillay (33)

Diksha Somai Pillay (33)

Lead Digital Operations Global shared services, Anglo American PLC

Self-described digital diva, Diksha Somai Pillay started off her grown up life as a chemical and mechanical engineer, but has reinvented herself in the mining and property arena.

Her interest in mining began when she was awarded a bursary by leading coal producer Exxaro Resources to study chemical engineering at the University of the Witwatersrand in 2004. After graduating in this field, and doing her masters at Stellenbosch University, she climbed the ranks at Exxaro and during her nine years there, reached positions such as project engineer and head of digital and innovation.

Somai Pillay, who was born in Ladysmith in KwaZulu-Natal went on to attend a programme in Artificial Intelligence at the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2018, where she was one of the youngest attendees. The experience opened her eyes to the “stagnant and archaic” thinking at executive level in South Africa.

She speaks passionately about the need for mining companies to reinvent themselves and the presence of technology in the sector as a major disruptor, which forces a consideration of how mining resources will happen in the future.

To prepare for the jobs of the future, Somai Pillay believes the education system will need to be overhauled.

“We tend to focus too late on careers in robotics, science and technology … this should be a core foundation for kids, they are already so inquisitive,” she says.

She also describes herself as a “proud millennial’ saying that the age range 23-38 has been undermined by people who have worked for twenty years at large companies.

“They want people to work from 8am to 5pm and be on site all day, but technology allows us to be more efficient. These days, we know it is okay to have free time. I like to have fun at work, be open, social and connected,” she says, adding that millennials in the workplace need to have a “massive transformative purpose”.

— Tehillah Niselow

Twitter: @DikshaSomai 

Refilwe Mashale (31)

Refilwe Mashale (31)

Group Tax Manager, Reunert Limited

Refilwe Mashale is the group tax manager at multinational conglomerate Reunert Limited. Reunert manages a portfolio of over 40 businesses in the fields of electrical engineering, information and communication technologies and applied electronics. As its group tax manager, Mashale is expected to perform under tight deadlines.

In 2018 Mashale was appointed to establish an international tax practice at Reunert, to meet the needs of the multinational group’s long-term expansion strategy. Her background includes experience within the tax practices of both Big Four accounting firms and Big Five law firms in South Africa.

Mashale is active in the tax community, chairing and speaking at tax conferences and industry platforms, and publishing technical expert contributions locally and internationally.

Mashale’s passion for tax has led her to pursue an Advanced Diploma in International Taxation and she is currently completing her final examination. It is a global qualification issued by the Chartered Institute of Taxation in the United Kingdom. The qualification is held by only 1 000 international tax practitioners globally.

Mashale’s academic proficiency and professional skills are further complimented by her business acumen. She owns The Balloon Café, a start-up business she was inspired to establish in 2016 after working with venture capitalist firms at Edward Nathan Sonnenbergs, where she sought advice in implementing unconventional and creative business strategies to secure tax-efficient investments.

The Balloon Café, which employs four people, is an express helium balloon delivery service supplying various types of helium balloons. The business services a niche consumer market with professional, customised balloon decor installations and photography services.

Mashale is a strong advocate for young professionals to use their skills and expertise to advance South Africa. Putting her beliefs into action, she personally mentors several younger women, providing academic and career coaching as well as assistance in resolving issues of historic debt at tertiary level.

Papa and Hetty Boachie-Yiadom (34)

Papa and Hetty Boachie-Yiadom (34)

Entrepreneurs, P&H Boutique

 

Husband-and-wife turned business partners Hetty and Papa Boachie-Yiadom say after finishing university they felt like they wanted to start a business together. The pair met during their first week of university and got married in 2014.

“We wanted to create some form of a legacy together,” says Hetty, adding that working together is great, because she gets to create something “with her best friend”.

They weren’t sure what form that legacy would take and initially started importing Eygptian shirts. However, that business didn’t do so well. The pair then realised the way to go was to create a business that was an authentic and true expression of who they are.

Before they started their African print business, the couple were both bankers. “We were meant to be climbing the corporate ladder,” says Papa. But reading some business self-help books drove their passion to begin their own business.

“For me, I think I’m a natural-born entrepreneur,” says Hetty. The pair runs a successful boutique together: the P&H Boutique, stocking African print clothes.

Hetty says while African print clothing has always been around, Papa and her “have revolutionised the way people shop for African print”. She says they have managed to move the market for African print into shopping malls, making it more accessible for more people.

Papa goes on to say that for them entrepreneurship is important, because when it is done right, it holds that promise of a “great life for many, instead of [just] a good life”.

The pair are also involved in mentorship programmes to help other aspiring entrepreneurs. Hetty says this is important to them because when they started out, they didn’t have mentors at so they mostly relied on books.

“Now that we’ve grown our business to the point we’re at, we think it’s important to give back.” Hetty says, adding that they want to help others to “build sustainable businesses.”

The couple thinks that given the current economic situation South Africa faces, entrepreneurship is important to help with economic growth. Hetty works with women from rural areas, mentoring them with the lessons they’ve learnt to make a success of their business.

“You start to see that we need to give back, especially all the different things that we’ve learnt. That’s what we hope to pass on through our mentoring,” says Papa.

Zama Khanyile (34)

Zama Khanyile (34)

Fund manager, National Empowerment Fund (NEF)

 

Zama Khanyile (34) is a fund manager at the National Empowerment Fund (NEF) and in she is charge of the uMnotho Fund that deals with acquisitions, new ventures and expansions. A Chartered Accountant who studied at the University of Johannesburg and is registered with the South African Institute of Chartered Accounts, she leads a team of 15 investment professionals, carrying out the mandate to improve access to capital for black-owned entities, and she oversees the NEF’s women empowerment fund that finances businesses that are majority owned and managed by black women. She sits on a number of boards including that of  Qumbu Mall and the non-profit organisation African Women Chartered Accountants, of which she is the president.

“My role is to increase the number of black female chartered accountants and to implement initiatives that support them in their journey to qualifying, eventually becoming formidable and ethical leaders,” she says.

Khanyile is committed to making a difference in the lives of young, black upcoming chartered accountants and has focused her efforts on making this happen. She plans to continue her own personal growth as a responsible leader and wants to keep on converting her success into significance.

“My family has always been supportive of me and I have had a few women help me find my feet,” she says. “The women who helped me build my career are Futhi Mtoba, Lesego Sennelo, Philisiwe Mthethwa and Hlengiwe Makhathini. These women opened doors for me.”

When asked what advice she would give to young South Africans looking to pursue their goals, she says: “Opportunity often comes dressed as a challenge. You must be prepared to work and to rise to the occasion when the opportunities come to you.” – Tamsin Oxford

LinkedIn: Zama Khanyile CA (SA)

Twitter: @zamakhanyile

Tumisho Ntsoane (25)

Tumisho Ntsoane (25)

Farmer, Tetengwane Boerdery

Twenty-five-year-old Tumisho Ntsoane is an academic, entrepreneur and an inspiration to the people in his community. When he started his business, Tetengwane Broedery, a farm with broiler chickens and Dorper sheep, many people were baffled by his decision. They weren’t sure what place it had or whether or not it would be a success. Today, the company is thriving and is a highly professional, successful company that he built from the ground up without any formal funding. Ntsoane put his back into creating something out of nothing, and he succeeded.

“I am inspired by life and I fundamentally believe that I need to make a difference,” says Ntsoane. “I am a farmer and, to me, farming is my God-given talent that allows me to provide food and employment to people. My goal is become a commercial farmer so I can make an even more significant contribution towards my community, job creation and food production.”

Ntsoane has been an inspiration to the youth in his village, they aspire to do big things thanks to his mentorship and passion. He has planted the seeds of hope and passion into the hearts of those who live in his community.
“I want to take my company, Tetengwane Broedery, into the large commercial agribusiness arena over the next 10 years,” he adds. “It is something that I am incredibly excited and passionate about.”

When asked who has inspired and supported him as he’s built his business from scratch, Ntsoane replies: “My mother. She supported my decision to use the money she saved for tuition fees to start my company instead. She trusted in my vision and I was only 18 years old at the time. I say to all young South Africans looking to follow their dreams that they find their passion and remember that this passion fuels life.” – Tamsin Oxford

Twitter : @TBoerdery

LinkedIn: Tumisho Ntsoane 

Thapelo Mmusinyane (35)

Thapelo Mmusinyane (35)

Head: Real Estate, Ethekwini Metropolitan Municipality

Thapelo Mmusinyane (35) is a property developer with more than 14 years of experience in the business industry. A vibrant entrepreneur, he is currently head of the real estate unit at Ethekweni metropolitan municipality, a role he has achieved thanks to hard work and commitment to his future. From the Taung Village in the North West, Mmusinyane is an inspiration to others who come from rural areas, following their passion in the city.

“When I hear a story of someone who came from nothing and who overcame the odds by working hard and staying focused, that inspires me,” says Mmusinyane.

Mmusinyane manages the municipality’s real estate portfolio that is valued at an estimated R10-billion. This includes the preparation and maintenance of the valuation roll which generates in excess of R7-billion per annum for the municipality.

“I am passionate about real estate in general and believe it is my calling,” he says. “I want to improve the productivity and management of public sector real estate through active demand management and strategic policy. I also want to enhance transparency through modernisation of municipal asset registers.”

The person who has most inspired Mmusinyane is his uncle, Joe Ralokwakweng, as he provided him with a roadmap of who he could be if he worked hard and was passionate about what he did. His brother, Dr Boitumelo Mmusinyane also pushed him towards real estate, believing in his abilities and potential.

“My wife Nthabiseng Mmusinyane has always given me her unwavering support and encouragement and encouraged me to follow my dreams,” he concludes. “And the one piece of advice I would give to any young South Africans looking to follow their dream is – keep them alive and have faith in yourself.”—Tamsin Oxford

LinkedIn: Thapelo Mmusinyane

S’onqoba Vuba (32)

S’onqoba Vuba (32)

Co-Founder & Managing Director, Perpetu8

We are in an age where the concepts of Black Girl Magic and #BlackExcellence are so often heralded. One such young lady who lives and embodies both ideals is former financial services professional and entrepreneur, S’onqoba Vuba.

Vuba has an impressive CV, which includes the financial services sector and small business development. A proud Wits University graduate, Vuba has a BSc in mathematical sciences and a BSc honours in actuarial science. She has further harnessed her leadership capabilities through serving as an executive committee member of the Wits University Convocation.

Vuba started as an actuarial analyst, in First National Bank’s graduate programme, and progressed to the role of brand insights manager for FNB Brand Management. Later she became the executive assistant to FirstRand Limited group chief executive, Sizwe Nxasana. While providing strategic support to his office, Vuba also became the head of the FNB Innovators Programme, where she assisted in the facilitation of innovation within the bank.

In 2016, Vuba joined Sifiso Learning Group and progressed from heading up special projects and operations to become the chief operations officer. She is also the managing director of an advisory and implementation consultancy for SMMEs called Perpetu8, and serves as the chairwoman of Futureproof.

Vuba is driven by her passion for finding systemic solutions in society that allow for people, teams, and companies to reach full potential. Distinct from her educational and career achievements, Vuba is involved in philanthropy work that focuses on youth development, and she facilitates talks that address young women. Through her achievements and energy for transformation, she effortlessly embodies Black Girl Magic and #BlackExcellence, and she loves the fact that “we are claiming the narrative as black people and as women”.

Vuba aspires to leave the legacy of sustainable working systems and solutions in every area she has touched that will positively impact all who come after her.

Twitter: @sonqoba_vuba

Sizwe Mkwanazi (26)

Sizwe Mkwanazi (26)

PhD candidate in Education, University of Oxford

Sizwe Mkwanazi, who is studying for his PhD at Oxford University, says his academic path happened “really by accident” because he obtained his matric equivalency from a TVET college. Mkhwanazi had to receive a ministerial permit to study at the University of Johannesburg (UJ), having previously obtained technical qualifications in Standerton, Mpumalanga, where his grandparents raised him.

He left school in grade nine and completed his education at a TVET college, working as a gardener in his spare time to fund his studies. Today, he confidently walks the hallowed halls of Oxford as a doctoral candidate.  After his PhD, Mkwanazi plans to remain within the academic field and become a Professor of Entrepreneurship Education; he’s set his sights on doing this at Harvard University Business School in the US. He wants to bring  his international experience back home with the establishment of the Africa Cooperatives University of South Africa.

Mkhwanazi is not just an academic and he has experience under his belt in entrepreneurship, having set up a recycling enterprise himself. He became interested in the technical aspects of entrepreneurship while tutoring undergraduates at UJ. During that period, he also established the Youth for Action Rural Youth Development Foundation.

Mkwanazi was appointed by Enactus, University of Johannesburg and Enactus South Africa as a co-faculty advisor for the university team in 2015, and he worked closely with the faculty advisor to bring entrepreneurship education into university modules. Enactus is an international organisation that connects academia and business through entrepreneurial-based projects that empower graduates.

Through Mkwanazi’s intervention, students doing community service work with people from other disciplines and partner with identified co-operatives and SMMEs in a guided way.

His focus on entrepreneurship education stems from his belief that the business community should work with academics to prepare graduates to forge their own paths. Mkwanazi maintains that entrepreneurship should be taught as a subject at university, like economics.

Mkwanazi’s PhD topic examines ecosystems and collaboration in the field of entrepreneurship education. “I think that academia has [a] responsibility to create ecosystems to start your own business and programmes,” Mkwanazi says.

Politicians often speak about entrepreneurship and young people starting their own businesses as a panacea to the country’s soaring unemployment rate. Mkwanazi says more credible research is needed to understand the contexts in which businesses are established and which factors drive their success.

Sipamandla Manqele (28)

Sipamandla Manqele (28)

Founder & CEO, Local Village Foods

 

Sipamandla Manqele is a 28-year-old entrepreneur breaking fresh ground in the realm of agro-processing with her business, Local Village. She produces a variety of artisanal and organic foods and has built a compelling value proposition within a niche health market. Manqele’s business has been running for three years and has already proven itself a viable and valuable startup, providing employment and community growth.

“I am inspired by our continent, Africa, its diverse cultures and its quest for social and economic unity,” says Manqele. “My startup was founded on a vision to create a network of vibrant and local agri-preneurs across Africa, all supplying equitably sourced and sustainably grown indigenous African ingredients to the global village. My goal is to connect ethical producers with conscious consumers, as this is the key to cultivating a better world.”

Manqele’s immediate plans are to scale up the business and take it to bigger retailers in South Africa and beyond the borders. She wants to play a role in the implementation of free and fair trade across Africa. When asked who helped her to bring her dreams to life and focus on her vision for the future, she says: “My husband has been a fervent supporter throughout this journey, and my mother and older sister have shown me how to work hard and choose my own path.”

Manqele advises any young South African looking to build their own story of success to look to who benefits from what they do.

“It is not success if you are the only one benefitting,” she concludes. “Work is a gift we should receive with open arms; there are no shortcuts, and instant gratification should not be something we pursue. We need to focus on rebuilding South Africa — politics is just one part of our society and we should not allow it to dictate how we treat each other and the contribution we make.” – Tamsin Oxford

LinkedIn: Sipamandla Manqele