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People And Culture In The Workplace

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Corporates must make a deliberate effort to accelerate the development of women and appoint them to senior positions, says KG Bako, the Managing Executive: People and Culture, at Absa Corporate and Investment Bank. Bako says this will inspire young and up-coming women professionals to have people to look up to. She feels it is time there are more female chief executive officers and others in C-Suite positions.

“I am passionate about women empowerment so I always make sure I am fully hands on when it comes to these matters. I mentor and coach a number of young women professionals, both at CIB and externally. I believe sharing personal stories of our professional journeys does open one’s eyes and empowers them with tools to choose from when faced with challenges. I believe those of us who are in the top have to create a path for the young professionals,” Bako says. “Having someone as your voice in key decision making forums is key and we need to see more and more women being sponsored.”

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She narrates her own experience rising up the corporate ladder, where she faced challenges with gender-based stereotypes, where there were perceptions one could not perform at a certain level simply because you were a woman. “So most of the time, you are finding yourself having to repeatedly proving yourself and working twice as hard as your male counterparts in order to gain recognition,” Bako says.

She believes your immediate supervisor can have a significant influence on your career growth, because they are the first point of reference when you face work challenges. But it is not always that easy, especially if you are a woman. Being told you are not ready for growth or new opportunity is one example, when you are denied growth opportunities deliberately, Bako says.

“When I engaged my boss at the time, I was very clear what I wanted; I had done a self-assessment, so I knew I was ready. When the response was no, not this year with no explanation, I had to give them the benefit of the doubt, that they don’t know or have all the information required for them to make an informed decision,” Bako continues.

“I decided to write a motivation with all the facts (no emotions) that led me to believe I was ready and that changed their perspective.”

Bako says one should take personal charge of their career growth as no-one is going to do it for you.  She says: “Surround yourself with people who will take you forward. Challenges are gifts that force us to search for a new centre of gravity. As Oprah Winfrey said, don’t fight them; just find a new way to stand.”

Bako holds a degree in Social Sciences from Wits University and also a Master of Business Administration General degree from Henley Business School. She believes her career choice was natural because from a young age, she has always been caught between the love for numbers and people.

“The more I worked with people, the more it became clear where my passion was. When my plan of becoming a Clinical Psychologist was not realised there was no better place to nurture the love for both worlds than being a Head of People and Culture in an investment bank,” she says.

Bako admits many people struggle with striking a balance between work and family, particularly as they rise up the corporate ladder. She believes it requires understanding and concerted effort from all role players; from the employer and the culture within the organisation to family members involved.

READ MORE | The Laws Of Impactful Banking

“Firstly, the employer has to be deliberate about an inclusive culture they create to ensure women are able to have work life integration. Secondly, the culture you create at home has to align to your ambitions to excel professionally. The family set up has to support this, understanding there will be days when you have to put in long hours and someone has to take care of household chores,” Bako says.

“With technology these days, you don’t have to be physically in the office to do your work. Not only is the ease of accessing your emails, but you can join meetings using technology, again this speaks to the culture of the workplace. Once you have both worlds set up to enable your ambitions, the main role player is yourself,” she says.

Bako advises that one has to be clear about their plans and know who forms part of your support structure, at home, work or socially. She believes these structures become useful while you also find time to take care of yourself, mentally and physically.

“Make time for physical activities, whether it’s the gym or yoga class whichever works for you. We need to do a better job in putting ourselves first on our To Do list. It can sometimes be self-inflicted; we need to get our priorities in order and organise ourselves better,” says the mother of three daughters.

Her advice to young women is “If you don’t get out there and define yourself, you will be quickly and inaccurately be defined by others as Michelle Obama said.”

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Sanlam & NASASA Launch NASASA Financial Services For Stokvels

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Sanlam and the National Stokvel Association of South Africa (NASASA) have launched NASASA Financial Services (Pty) Ltd; a brokerage catering to the financial services needs of the South African stokvel market. NASASA is a self-regulatory organisation with a database of 125 000 stokvel groups, reaching about 2.5 million individuals. The new entity will foster greater financial inclusion for all members.


Jacqui Rickson, Chief Executive: Group Benefits at Sanlam Developing Markets Limited and Board member of NASASA Financial Services says, “For South African stokvels this is an opportunity to formalise their existence without having to forego their traditions. The peace-of-mind that each member of a stokvel will be protected in their time of need is invaluable.”

“Stokvels are powerful financial services providers in their own right,” says NASASA Financial Services CEO, Mizi Mtshali “and have the potential to help grow South Africa’s economy once they enter the more formalised sector through appropriate product offerings”. Currently, there are over 800 000 stokvels in the country, aggregating an estimated R50-billion pa. They are, however, quite exposed, especially to liquidity issues that may render them unable to discharge benefits to their members, as well as scams that promise to resolve such issues. This results from a lack of accessible, relevant products that meet the needs of a more informal savings sector. 

As a result, some burial stokvels may not pay enough to cover funeral expenses in their entirety. By offering broad-based financial services to members, NASASA Financial Services will empower stokvels through greater socio-economic inclusion and security.

Jacqui Rickson says, “This venture supports our client-centric focus by allowing financial inclusion to be extended to South Africans who are on the edge of the formalised insurance structures.  Through this, we can help families recover financially following difficult, unexpected events.”

NASASA Financial Services is currently licensed as a Juristic Representative of Sanlam Developing Markets, with a long-term plan to become a Financial Services Provider (FSP).  NASASA Financial Services will distribute tailor-made products nationally via its distribution force. Sanlam as underwriter, through NASASA Financial Services, will initially offer group-based funeral benefits, tailored to each individual type of stokvel.

Products are competitively priced and start at R15 per person. Once the stokvel has selected its option, the stokvel will pay one premium for the whole group. For burial stokvels, Sanlam has designed a full product, covering up to nine family members and all products have been created in partnership with NASASA.

Currently, the product offering includes:

  • A Principal Member Only Funeral Benefit
  • An Immediate Family Funeral Benefit
  • A Principal Member Plus Up To 9 Dependents Funeral Benefit
  • Grocery and Airtime Cash Benefits

NASASA is about educating their members about wealth and more appropriately, financial health, which includes saving on the expense of premiums through aggregation and paying group rates rather than more expensive individualised rates. We’ve designed products as an extension of this; as a tangible, affordable, non-intrusive offering that seamlessly blends the required formal structures with community-based traditional structures.

Mizi Mtshali, NASASA CEO, adds, “The research conducted during the build-up of our product launch saw the solution being entirely built by participating stovels. As a result, we deliver unmatched value by buiding a solution briefed in by our constituency. Amongst the majority of South Africans, funeral insurance fulfils an unmistakable need. While many are excluded from the formal financial system, those who do interface with the sector largely feel inadequately serviced. Burial Societies are formed as providers of such services and have developed systems around the real needs of their members. There are roughly 200 000 active Burial Societies in South Africa, with the majority being self-underwritten.

Because such groups rely on their collective savings to discharge their benefit to members, they often face liquidity problems that may lead to their disbandment. This brings about the need for an underwriter who will take on the risk on behalf of the group, as well as offer a set of products and services built around the group’s needs. NASASA is tasked by its members to solve this problem, and we have identified Sanlam as the most suitable partner in this regard.”

Mtshali says this venture will also facilitate job creation, which is key to socioeconomic inclusion, “For South Africans, this opportunity provides meaningful employment particularly in the township economy. Not only is this a step towards financial inclusion, but a giant leap towards societal transformation”

Down the line, NASASA Financial Services is aiming to extend its offering to include life cover as well as short-term products like household insurance and is investigating the potential of integrating other banking products.

Content provided by Sanlam

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RISING WOMAN: A Celebration Of Women

Advertorial BY STRATEGY BUSINESS GROUP

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A celebration of women, thought leaders, innovators, thinkers, problem solvers, and drivers of growth and development who are contributing to the Rising Africa Story.


ABENA BRIGIDI

CEO Nimed Capital, Ghana

Nimed Capital’s Managing Director and CEO demonstrated a flair for finance early in her professional career. She quickly rose through the ranks at Zenith Bank from a customer service advisor to a relationship manager and head of customer service. Her expertise in corporate finance, funds and investment management, as well as investment research, has effectively paired with her entrepreneurial drive to create one of Ghana’s leading investment banks. Today, the investment analyst, author, and speaker is a passionate advocate for empowering women through recognition and promotion of the efforts and successes of women in various industries.

Brigidi herself was recognized as one of the Woman Rising’s 100 Most Outstanding Women Entrepreneurs in Ghana in 2017 and adjudged the Emerging Woman Entrepreneur of the Year.


YOADAN TILAHUN

CEO Flawless Events, Ethiopia

Running seamless, perfect – flawless – events was a vision of Ethiopian-born Yoadan Tilahun.

Initially launched in Washington, DC and transplanted to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Flawless Events has worked tirelessly to earn its well-deserved reputation for innovation and creativity. As a result, it has achieved substantial growth in its 15 years of operation.

Tilahun is known for instituting exceptionally high work standards and always doing business with integrity and honesty.

Tilahun is also an enthusiastic advocate for professionalizing the MICE industry in East Africa and is an active member of the International Congress & Convention Association (ICCA). In 2018, she was named Seasoned Entrepreneur of the Year by Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW).


MICHELLE TAKON

Founder Narnia Events, Nigeria

What advice would you give young women entrepreneurs?

Firstly, young women entrepreneurs need to understand the business they’d like to go into; the business environment, target market, and then ensure that their business ideas will solve a problem before they embark on their entrepreneurial journey.

I would also tell them to make sure that whatever they choose to do, should be borne out of passion and not based on what other people are doing or how much money others are making.


DR. IBILOLA AMAO

STEM Specialist & CEO Lonadek, Nigeria

Dr. Amao established Lonadek with a greater purpose than just providing technical consultancy to ensure that local and indigenous companies utilized established systems, processes and procedures to deliver quality goods and services. She envisioned a company that could continually develop the capacity of young Africans in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.

Dr. Amao also mentors young professionals and engages with Junior Engineers, Technicians, and Scientists (JETS) clubs. Over the last 25 years, Lonadek has successfully trained over 5,000 certified engineers, designers, and cost consultants in the utilization of engineering software and information technology.


QUEEN OHAMARA

Founder, Qmara Vie Planners, Nigeria

Qmara Vie Planners is a boutique events management company based in Abuja, Nigeria and founded by Queen Ohamara. The company emphasizes adding luxury and sophistication to their client’s event while maintaining a sense of modernity.

Qmara Vie Planner is comprised of a young, vibrant team that is constantly innovating and pushing themselves to creatively turning dreams into reality. The company prides itself on curating unique once in a lifetime experiences. That is why her company bears all the stress of planning an event so clients can enjoy their special day.


ADAMA AMANDA NDIAYE

Adama Paris, Senegal

Adama Amanda Ndiay is a Senegalese fashion designer born in Kinshasa, Zaire. She epitomizes the multicultural fashion designer of the new millennium.

Adama is also the founder and producer of many fashion events such as Dakar Fashion Week, the Afrika Fashion Awards, also known as the Trophies of African Fashion (TMA), and the Black Fashion Week in Prague, Paris, Bahia, and Montreal since 2010. Adama and her team also launched the first Fashion Africa Channel in 2014. She is a passionate advocate for the promotion of women entrepreneurship throughout Africa.


TANG SAU MUOI

CEO of ILCI Business School & IESIG Management School, France

As I ran from war and emigrated to France, I never had the chance to finish my education. I was certain that the only way to succeed was to be well-educated. The benefit of a good education was exemplified by my children; all five attained Master’s degrees and have good jobs.

I wanted to give the same chance to children from abroad, to benefit from a good education. I established the IESIG School and ILCI Business School with the main focus of offering programs that align with future employment needs.

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FOCUS ON KENYA: A Chain Reaction Of Investment And Economic Growth

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“Kenya has the largest, most diverse economy in East and Central Africa, serving as the regional hub for logistics and air transportation, financial services, ICT innovations, and international media coverage. We have a clear vision for economic development. Our focus is on implementing more business-friendly policies and reforms to reduce investment costs and enhance the sector’s global competitiveness.” – President Kenyatta

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Kenya is known as one of the most innovative countries in Africa with the strongest and most reliable internet connectivity in the continent thanks to the undersea cables that connect Kenyans to the world wide web. The country has shown exceptional economic progress in recent years, even jumping ahead an incredible 56 positions on the ease of doing business index in 2018, placing them at number 61. The Kenyan people are strong, dedicated, and eager to use their talents and assets to create a new future as a middle-income country. This goal has been spearheaded by the plans established by President Uhuru Kenyatta’s administration. The Vision 2030 Plan and Big Four Agenda are the keys to propelling Kenya forward for years to come. The Big Four Agenda, which is focused on four major pillars of economic development: Food Security, Affordable Housing, Manufacturing and Universal Healthcare, is the secret weapon to developing key sectors and causing a ripple effect through the entire economy. Through the implementation of this plan, Kenya will soon be a world leader in numerous sectors, as evident from their current success in utilising their ICT advantage in developing existing industries to create a better life for all.

            The administration is dedicated to capitalising on Kenya’s diverse economy in order to develop the economy. President Kenyatta says, “Kenya has the largest, most diverse economy in East and Central Africa, serving as the regional hub for logistics and air transportation, financial services, ICT innovations, and international media coverage. We have a clear vision for economic development. Our focus is on implementing more business-friendly policies and reforms to reduce investment costs and enhance the sector’s global competitiveness.” Paving the way for foreign direct investment is another key factor to facilitate the country’s growth. FDI in the past has been positive, especially with the amount of inclusivity and the influx of Internet start-ups that Kenya has seen in recent years.

            SEACOM has established an economically viable and reliable fibre broadband access, which has given life to many sectors so that they may grow, expand and modernise. Access to stable Internet has been a crucial addition for Kenya and many East African businesses. Tonny Tugee, Managing Director of SEACOM, says, “Our ambition was always to better equip African companies with high-performance Internet so that they can harness its potential for growth, with positive effects for local economies.”

The greatest asset of strong and reliable Internet access is the connectivity and inclusivity it brings to users across the country. This tool has already been embraced by companies such as Absa Group member Barclays Bank of Kenya. Jeremy Awori, Managing Director and CEO of Barclay’s Bank, states, “Technology allows you to meet customer needs and improve customer experience more efficiently and cost-effectively. It enhances your control and provides you with data that enables you to take more efficient decisions.” These decisions have been made to ensure financial inclusion for all Kenyan citizens as the country goes fiercely in the direction of its inevitable bright future.

            The growth of the economy opens the door for other sectors to enjoy Kenya’s achievements as well, just as public-private partnerships in the country are helping to develop sectors such as energy, education, healthcare, transport and infrastructure. Judith Nyakawa, Director of Public-Private Partnerships Unit, says, “We are enablers in the President’s Big Four Agenda. We contribute to improvements in the road, health, and infrastructure sectors. As a unit, we are continuously looking for alternative ways to raise funds so that government development budget can be used to meet other needs.” These initiatives are creating a closer and more inclusive sense of community among Kenyas, connecting them and providing better access to roads, transportation, healthcare and insurance, among other needs.

            The fulfilment of these needs will lead to a successful and driven population, but also to more opportunities in other sectors such as agri-business; manufacturing; financial services; ICT; tourism; and transport and logistics. To foster the rapid and favourable growth of these sectors, Afreximbank has invested in Kenya and developed plans to support its companies. Afreximbank is the most prominent pan-African multinational financial institution committed to financing and advancing intra- and extra-African trade. The heart of their plan lies in the Fund for Export Development in Africa (FEDA) which will provide seed capital to African companies to help them expand and grow in the thriving economy. In a briefing, Afreximbank said, “The bank’s location in Nairobi will create more job opportunities for the youth and generate business opportunities for entrepreneurs to venture into. Afreximbank has already become a significant player in Kenya’s economy, having financed deals close to 300 million U.S. dollars.”

            The progress that Kenya is continuing to enjoy is a chain reaction of dedication from its people, administration and sectors who see a bright future in store for the country. The Vision 2030 has brought successful results since its implementation in 2008 and the momentum is not stopping anytime soon. The country’s sectors are energised and ready to expand through the improvement of public infrastructure, even stronger ICT, and financial inclusion for all. The Big Four Agenda will use the country’s strengths and tools to ensure Food Security, create more Affordable Housing, enhance Manufacturing and provide Universal Healthcare for all, skyrocketing Kenya into a middle-income country.

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