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Mastercard: Diligent About Digital In Africa



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A cashless continent?

In an interview with us in mid-2016 in Johannesburg, Malhotra had said: “People consider the likes of Facebook and Apple as digital giants that have transformed things, and they really have, but if I really think of a company that 50 years ago digitized cash, I would like to believe we were the pioneers of what is called the digital economy. Obviously, you require technology and infrastructure to continue the transformation.”

 And the first challenge to converting a cash economy to electronic is education.

“There is a common perception cash is better. But if you lose your wallet, and if you have cash in it, you will never see your cash again but you actually have a chance of getting your card back. Secondly, cash is a very inefficient form. Somewhere, the world has forgotten it started with the barter system: you moved to mineral trade, then diamonds and gold, you changed that to coins, silver and gold, you changed that to bullion and then moved to cash. Cash has been a phenomenon only for the last 600 years or so. The time has come to digitize it. Why can’t we just accept that and move forward?

“Once you get over that hurdle, you start with infrastructure, and that’s where partnerships with governments and different stakeholders come into play,” he had said.

It’s these conversations and partnerships that have been bringing the Dubai-based Malhotra to Africa’s shores several times a year. During our interview in July this year, he said: “Just to give you a flavor, I visited four African countries over the last 15 days.”

Mastercard is ramping up investments and expanding its reach across Africa. New offices have opened in Senegal and Cote d’Ivoire, with another on course in Zimbabwe. There are more people on the ground, closer to the local markets. Over the last five years, the company’s employees in Africa have gone up by over three times, and 40% of all new hires in MEA are in Africa.

The company has also stepped up the backing of African fintechs, investing in a number of firms such as Flutterwave and DukaConnect, and e-commerce platforms such as Jumia. In Rwanda, Mastercard has provided a grant of $1 million, spread over three years, to advance economic growth and financial inclusion.

In 2015, the company opened its first Lab for Financial Inclusion in Kenya partnering with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Some of the innovations made here are then exported to other parts of the world, attests Malhotra.

“We have some outstanding examples of products and platforms that have been created in Africa.”

Agriculture is one of the focus areas alongside education and MSMEs (micro, small and medium enterprises).

One of the thrust areas for Mastercard is a farmer network that connects buyers and sellers of farming goods, providing them with a digital identity and enabling them to sell produce, buy inputs and receive payments for seeds and fertilizers via their feature phones, bringing more transparency into the value chain.

The other example is Kupaa, a digital payments tool that is making paying school fees easier by allowing caregivers to pay them via a basic cell phone in small amounts and allowing multiple individuals to contribute funds to the child’s education.

“Most people at the bottom of the pyramid cannot afford to pay school fees on a monthly or quarterly basis, but they can on a daily basis, if they are daily wage-earners. We have created a platform that is almost like crowd-funding that allows to pay for kids’ education,” says Malhotra.

“There are many global organizations that looked at this model saying that it is truly a real example of public-private sector partnerships that are about inclusive growth. I am very encouraged on how other people are taking to these platforms.”

Solar energy is also in the mix, with a product called M-KOPA enabling Ugandans to have power in off-grid homes. They make ‘pay-as-you-go’ Quick Response (QR) transactions for solar energy solutions.

Raghu Malhotra President for Mastercard in the Middle East and Africa. Picture: Motlabana Monnakgotla

“Clearly, we are trying to do things differently in bringing many platforms and cobbling them together… You should expect more and more such innovations coming from us in the future,” says Malhotra with exuberance.

Salah Goss, Vice President and Head of Mastercard’s Lab for Financial Inclusion in Nairobi, who has had extensive experience in the financial inclusion arena, calls it a “human-centric design”.

“It’s about giving communities that are excluded access to services they care about; it’s not financial inclusion just for a bank account, but to support an economic livelihood. It’s about adding efficiency and choice, safety and security. And that happens with digital. We are laying the superhighway of digital transactions, so, people can benefit and connect to the global economy,” says she.

What Mastercard has also realized as important is partnering with – rather than countering – mobile network operators to build a stronger payment ecosystem on the continent.

READ MORE | The Madhvanis: The Industrialists Who Have Tasted Sucrose And Success

“I admire the mobile companies on how they became interoperable between themselves, [and that] is how they created scale. Because they created scale, the cost of hardware went down very dramatically,” says Malhotra.

“The concept of interoperability is really important… It’s the right way of doing things for the consumers. I feel mobile companies have suddenly embraced that and therefore, our partnership with mobile companies is exactly in the same line, saying can we drive efficiency and scale for you to create the right value you want to create for your customer. So it is about working together with them on various points.”

Another important focus is Mastercard’s investment in women, who are traditionally underserved in Africa. Goss says they “suffer from financial exclusion, and part of the work is to break the cycle of invisibility”.

For instance, according to the Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs in 2018, only 18.8% of South African business owners are female, compared to 46.4% in Ghana, which is ranked as the country with the highest women-led companies in the world. This number could be improved, with the right support to aspiring female business-owners.

‘The purity of the people in Africa’

This year, Malhotra was appointed as a member of the United States’ (US) President’s Advisory Council on Doing Business in Africa. His role will be advising the president of the US, through the secretary of commerce, on ways to strengthen commercial engagements between the US and Africa.

“I am honored to be on that council… It’s going to have various facets to it. I don’t have all the details as yet, but the idea is to say ‘hey listen, Africa is a continent on the move, many things are changing’. It’s a look into the future as well and to also, hopefully, try and address the various barriers that currently exist to ensure better commercial arrangements between the US and Africa.”

Coming out of the aegis of the US President’s Advisory Council, adds Malhotra, is Prosper Africa, an initiative that unlocks opportunities to do business on the continent, to increase two-way trade and investment between the US and Africa.

All this will see Malhotra intensifying his trips to Africa, a continent he has been visiting for the last decade. Yet, each time, even before he lands on African soil, he says he is captivated by its beauty.

“I don’t think the world has really understood how beautiful this continent is. The first thing that stood out for me when I came out of a plane in Africa, was the sky,” he recalls. “I find purity in the environment. Every single time I go to an African country, when I look up, it gives me the same feeling. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a rainy day or how the clouds are on a clear day. There is something there, so when people say that humankind was born in Africa, I kind of get it. The purity of African nations and the people is a real joy. Through all the chaos, there is purity. That’s what stands out for me.”

With a career spanning more than 25 years, prior to joining Mastercard in 2000 in New Delhi, Malhotra, the son of an army colonel in India, served in a variety of roles at Citicorp, American Express and ANZ Grindlays Bank.

“I joined Mastercard because I wanted to join a company where I wanted to run a business slightly away from banking. Nobody in the world was willing to give a risk manager the job as a head of a business. But Mastercard gave me a chance. I used to run area countries for South Asia and then I realized what a great industry it was. There was a huge shift taking place with the world moving to a digital form. That is really where my journey with Mastercard began,” says the lean leader, nattily dressed in a grey power suit for FORBES AFRICA’s cover shoot in Johannesburg.

There is a disarming smile when you quiz Malhotra about his favorite Africa sojourns. Top of the list was his impromptu visit to Victoria Falls on the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe, following a business trip in South Africa.

“I was in South Africa and had a choice to fly all the way out to Dubai, and I said ‘forget it, I am going to go hiking’ and decided to go to Victoria Falls [in Zimbabwe]. I hiked, went ziplining over the gorge, took a helicopter ride over the falls, and did a boat ride through the river. I felt one with nature, and very much in harmony with the land.”

He experienced similar exhilaration many years ago in Argentina, when on his own, he went glacier-climbing over a weekend, after a business trip.

“You are just alone and at that point of time, maybe it must be the rarefied air there, I got clarity in my head and I started thinking it’s really nice to be by yourself from time to time, as busy as you are, being the leader you are, the husband you are, the father you are or could be, or the uncle you could be. If you don’t spend time with yourself, you are not really being your whole self. This just means don’t spend all your time trying to make other people happy, take some time off for yourself too, and I think that really helped me,” says Malhotra as advice to fellow business travelers living out of a suitcase most of the year.

READ MORE | How mogul Abdulsamad Rabiu has become a billionaire again

Back home in Dubai, the other half of the power couple is Malhotra’s successful banker-wife Banali. They have two daughters, aged 19 and 11.

Soon coming up in the glistening Middle Eastern city, is Expo 2020, which Mastercard is partnering with, rolling out a raft of its payment, biometric, AI and wearable technologies. The glitzy showcase will draw tourists from around the world for “a converged digital experience”.

But Malhotra will be back to Cape Town in February, he promises, to celebrate his 50th birthday. There is no other place but Africa he would rather be, to mark his next crucial milestone.

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Forbes Africa | 8 Years And Growing




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As FORBES AFRICA celebrates eight years of showcasing African entrepreneurship, we look back on our stellar collection of cover stars, ranging from billionaires to space explorers to industrialists, self-made multi-millionaire businessmen and social entrepreneurs working for Africa. They tell us what they are doing now, how their businesses have grown, and where the continent is headed. 

Since its inception in 2011, and despite the changing trends in the publishing industry, FORBES AFRICA has managed to stay relevant, insightful and sought-after, unpacking compelling stories of innovation and entrepreneurship on the youngest continent, in which 60% of the population is aged under 25 years.

 Many of those innovations have been solutions-driven as young entrepreneurs across the continent seek to answer questions that have burdened their communities.

 Always on the pulse, FORBES AFRICA has chronicled and celebrated those innovations – prompting the rest of the globe to pay attention and be fully engaged.

 A prime example of this is the annual 30 Under 30 list, which showcases entrepreneurs and trailblazers under the age of 30 from business, technology, creatives and sports. In 2019, we had 120 entrepreneurs on the list, finalized after a rigorous vetting and due diligence process to well laid down criteria.

 We have always maintained the highest standards of integrity in all our reporting.

 As we transition into the next milestone, FORBES AFRICA reflects on the words of civil rights activist Benjamin Elijah Mays, who once said: “The tragedy of life is not found in failure but complacency. Not in you doing too much, but doing too little. Not in you living above your means, but below your capacity. It’s not failure but aiming too low, that is life’s greatest tragedy.”

 With the transformation in the media landscape, the recent awards given to the magazine for the work done by a hard-working, determined and youthful team, serve as a reminder that we are doing something right.

 Early this year, FORBES AFRICA journalist Karen Mwendera received a Sanlam award for financial journalism as the first runner-up in the ‘African Growth Story’ category. In January, FORBES AFRICA’s Managing Editor, Renuka Methil, received the ‘World Woman Super Achiever Award’ from the Global HRD Congress.

 In reflecting on the last eight years, this edition revisits a few of the strong, resilient men and women who have graced our covers.

For some, fortunes have literally changed, as witnessed in the fall of gargantuan African empires such as Steinhoff. Of course, there have been massive moments of triumph too, which have seen some new names feature on the annual African Billionaires List. There have also been moments of tragedy with former cover stars passing away.

 Africa is ripe for the taking and is seen as the next economic frontier. The unique position the continent finds itself in will no doubt give FORBES AFRICA plenty to report on. Here’s to more deadlines and debates for the next eight years.

– Unathi Shologu

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Pioneer For Women In Construction Thandi Ndlovu has died




The cover of the August (Women’s Month) edition of Forbes Africa beautifully captures the essence of the woman I interviewed only a few weeks ago. Gracious, soft-spoken, brimming with life and energy. Dr Thandi Ndlovu impressed the entire Forbes crew on that afternoon cover shoot with her broad smile, and open yet powerful demeanor.

It is with great sadness that Forbes Africa heard of the accident that took her life on Saturday the 24 August 2019.

READ MORE |COVER: Feisty And Fearless Pioneers Thandi Ndlovu & Nonkululeko Gobodo

She had given so much to South Africa and its people – through the apartheid years and during the 25 years of democracy, literally building a better future, first through her medical practice at Orange Farm and then through her company, Motheo Construction Group and the scholarships for tertiary education granted by her Motheo Children’s Foundation.

That sunny winter’s afternoon, I asked her if she, at the age of 65, was considering retirement, and she laughed. A lively, amiable laugh. She told me she was healthy and strong and easily worked 12 to 13 hour days.

READ MORE | WATCH | Making Of The Women’s Month Cover: Thandi Ndlovu & Nonkululeko Gobodo

She loved hiking, and has climbed Kilimanjaro twice, reached the base camps of Mount Everest and Annapurna in Nepal. At the time of the interview, she was training to climb Machu Picchu, the famed ruins in Peru’s mountains.

One of her biggest passions was to make a difference in people’s lives and to motivate people to achieve the best they could. The other was to redress the racial tensions that still remained in South Africa.

Dr Thandi Ndlovu, South Africa is poorer for your passing.

-Jill De Villiers

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Feisty And Fearless Pioneers Thandi Ndlovu & Nonkululeko Gobodo





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Thandi Ndlovu and Nonkululeko Gobodo, moulded by South Africa’s apartheid past, tore their way into male-dominated sectors , leading them boldly through a quarter century of democracy. Failure was never an option.

On a sunny winter’s afternoon in a quiet suburb of Randburg in greater Johannesburg, a second white Mercedes-Benz pulls up in the driveway of a photographic studio, and finds a shady spot to park.

Already seated next to a pool glinting blue in the sunlight, an elegant woman dressed in black and white sips green tea and talks about her early life growing up in the former Bantustan of Transkei in South Africa.

Absorbed in recounting her story, she looks up as a tall, slender woman, also in a chic black and white ensemble, walks towards her. The two women beam in recognition. They are here to be photographed by FORBES AFRICA and to share their unique stories as businesswomen in two traditionally white male-dominated sectors – auditing and construction.  

This year, South Africa celebrates 25 years of democracy. As the country started shaking off the shackles of oppression in the 1990s, both these women embarked on their paths to greatness. Both had been moulded by the harsh final years of apartheid, gaining the strength and conviction to fight for what they believed in.

In the process, they built successful businesses, changed perceptions and became role models.

And as with all stories of achievement, their journeys came with times of adversity.

Nonkululeko Gobodo. Picture: Motlabana Monnakgotla

Nonkululeko Gobodo: The visionary in auditing

 As a young girl, Nonkululeko Gobodo had very low self-esteem. She was shy and quiet and as the middle child in a family of five children, she felt overshadowed by her very outgoing older siblings. Her mother made it clear that she thought Gobodo wasn’t “going to amount to anything”.

Yet, there were factors in her upbringing, at home and in her community, which shaped her and prepared her for a future as a captain of industry.

Her mother was very hard on her. “I’m someone who needs affirmation and she did the opposite of what I needed. Fortunately, my father was doing that, he was doing the affirmative things.”

As an educator, her father was excited when she achieved “goodish” results at school, even slaughtering a sheep in celebration.

“When my parents were running shops, I used to be the one who would help in running the shops during the holidays. And I was quite young to be given the responsibility. My mother was literally taking a holiday, and I would run the shop perfectly, no shortage or anything like that. So, in spite of the fact that she was too hard on me, she must have thought she was nurturing this talent and making me strong.”  

Growing up in the then independent Transkei (now the Eastern Cape province of South Africa), Gobodo was largely sheltered from the impact of apartheid in other parts of the country.

“I lived in this world where you were sort of cushioned from what was happening in South Africa. So you were socialized to be a fighter, to be strong. My parents used to say that we should never allow anybody to tell us there were things we cannot do,” she elucidates.

It was an everyday thing to see black people running a variety of formal businesses like hotels, garages and wholesalers.

“I suppose I was very fortunate in that I was raised by these parents who were in business, who were working very hard during those times and with very strong personalities, both of them. Within the Xhosa tribe itself, although there is patriarchy and all that, Xhosa women are very strong and they are sort of equal partners with their husbands.”

Still very young, Gobodo fell pregnant. Her parents insisted on marriage. The marriage would end several years later, after the birth of three children, when she was 34 years old.

While taking a gap year working at her father’s panel-beating shop in Mthatha (then Umtata), during her first pregnancy, Gobodo discovered her calling. While her parents thought she would be well-suited to a career in medicine, she found joy in accountancy.

The gap year also revealed her innate strength to stand up for what she believed in. For the first time, she encountered racism. White managers remained in place when her father bought the business from the Transkei Development Corporation (TDC).

“They were really so upset by these black people who had taken over this business, and they were just bullying everyone. So I was able to stand up to them and then I realized I’m actually smart, I’m actually not this thing that my mother was saying, that I’m not just smart, but I’m strong, I’m tough, I can stand up to these men during apartheid years and it was not because my father owned the shop, but it was this thing of suddenly discovering who you are for the first time and just waking up to who you are and suddenly knowing what you wanted to do. Oh wow, accountancy, I didn’t know about that,” she smiles.

She was also inspired by the fact that black auditors did the books for her father’s business. They were WL Nkuhlu & Co, owned by Professor Wiseman Nkuhlu. Her father supported her decision to study BCom and she enrolled at the University of Transkei (now Walter Sisulu University).

Gobodo became a star performer at university and her confidence grew. After qualifying, the university offered her a junior lectureship. While there was no racism in the academic environment, it was here that she had her first taste of gender discrimination. A male colleague instructed her to do filing. She thought this was ridiculous considering her position, and she refused. He treated her as an equal from then on. 

“I made a decision to fight the system differently,” she says. “I was sure there was no system that would determine who I am and how far I can go. I used to say this mantra to myself: ‘Your opinions of me do not define me. You don’t even know who I am’. So I never allowed those things to get to me.”

Early on, she already had a vision to have her own practice, so she was not distracted by her peers complaining while doing their articles. She was determined to take advantage of the opportunity to get the best training she could get. “Those guys never became chartered accountants, so it was a wise thing not to join them,” she smiles.

In 1987, she made history when she became South Africa’s first black female chartered accountant.

Working at KPMG, she grew to rapidly build her own portfolio of challenging assignments.

“It was my driving force right through life to prove to myself and others that there was nothing I couldn’t do. And for me, being black really gave me purpose. I can imagine that if I was living in a world that was readymade for me, life would have been very boring,” she says.

She was offered a partnership eight months after her articles. She would be the first black partner, and the first woman. It was very tempting. But she remembered her vision to start her own practice and taking the partnership would be “the easy way out”. 

So she moved on to the TDC, where at the age of 29, she was promoted from internal audit manager to Chief Financial Officer within three months. Again in 1992, she decided to break “the golden chains” of the TDC to pursue her destiny. But first, she restructured her department and empowered five managers; thoroughly enjoying the work of developing leaders, and setting the tone for the business she runs now – Nkululeko Leadership Consulting.

READ MORE : WATCH | The Making Of The New Wealth Creators Cover

 At the time, her father questioned her decision to leave such a lucrative position to take the risk of starting a business. “Everybody was so scared for me and was discouraging me. I realized these people were expressing their own fears. I have no such fears. And it’s not saying I’m not fearful of the step I am taking, but I’m going into this business to succeed.”

The best way to do that was to step into the void without a safety net. So, no part-time lecturing job to distract her from her vision. “If I had listened to them, how would I have known that I could take my business this far?”

She describes herself as a natural entrepreneur. Yet, the responsibility of leading a business is not a joke.

“It sobers you up,” she says. “You realize you have to make this work, otherwise you’re going to fail a whole lot of people. But when you have the courage to pursue your dream, things sort of work out. Things fall into place.”

Eighteen months into the practice, she took on a partner and felt an “agitation for growth”. It came with a “massive job” from the Transkei Auditor General, and things changed overnight. With only four people in their office, they now needed 30 to complete the assignment and they hired second and third year students who attended night lectures at the university.

“At that time, as a black and a woman, you had to define your own image of yourself, and have the right attitude to fight for your place in the sun. And I can’t take for granted the way I was socialized and raised by my parents. My father was such a fighter. And he shared all his stories at the dinner table. He used to say in Xhosa: ‘who can stand in front of a bus?’, so you just have those pictures of yourself as a bus. Who can stand in front of me and my ambitions in life,” she laughs.

This self-confidence, belief in herself, direction, purpose and her clear vision steered her ever further.

“Unfortunately, I had a fallout with my partner Sindi Zilwa [co-founder of Nkonki Inc, a registered firm of auditors, consultants and advisors], and that was a hard one, a very difficult one. I used to say it was more difficult than my divorce, because that happened almost at the same time. First, the divorce started and a few months later, I divorced with my partner,” she says.

“It was a lonely time. It is amazing that out of hardship, we find an opportunity to grow and move to the next level.”

She went on a five -week program with Merrill Lynch in New York in 1994. On her return, she saw herself being cut out of negotiations to establish a medium-sized black accounting firm. While these plans were scuppered now, her vision still survived and no one could take that away from her.

She approached young professionals who were managers at the big accounting firms in Johannesburg to join her. “But you can imagine, they were young, they were fearful. It took about eight months to persuade and convince them.” 

Gobodo understood their fears as she herself had to overcome her doubts about moving from a small community in the Transkei to the big city. But the visit to New York had helped her overcome her fear. If she could make it there, she could make it anywhere.

Gobodo Incorporated was established in 1996. It was the third medium-sized black accounting firm.

The others were Nkonki Sizwe Ntsaluba and KMMT Brey.

She believes that providence has always sent “angels” to her at the right time in her life. Peter Moyo, a partner at Ernst & Young at the time, gave his time and invaluable experience leading to the establishment of Gobodo Incorporated. Chris Stephens, who was the former head of consulting for KPMG, facilitated bringing a fully-fledged forensics unit to the firm. They took up a whole floor at their new Parktown, Johannesburg offices instead of the planned half-floor.

From a small practice in Mthatha, Gobodo Inc. grew to a medium-sized company with 10 partners, 200 staff and three offices – in Durban, Cape Town and Johannesburg. It was an exciting time.

Gobodo firmly believes that visions are not static. Once a summit is conquered, there will always be another one waiting for you.

The next summit beckoned her 15 years later. Black Economic Empowerment (BEE), a program launched by the South African government to redress the inequalities of apartheid, was firmly established and accounting firms were compliant, and Gobodo Inc. started losing out on opportunities as previous joint-audits done in partnership with the big accounting firms fell away.

She started talks with Victor Sekese of Sizwe Ntsaluba to merge the two medium-sized firms.

Again, people questioned the wisdom of the move. What if the market was not ready for a large black accounting firm?

There was somewhat of a culture clash when the “somewhat older, disciplined, bottom-line” Gobodo Inc. and the “younger, more creative” Sizwe Ntsaluba teams came together.  A new culture combining the best of both emerged. Ironically, while no people were lost during the merger, some were uncomfortable with the culture change and left. 

In the beginning, “a lot of sacrifices had to be made to make this thing work. Like the name. My partners were saying Nonkululeko’s name should be in front because she’s the only remaining founder,” explains Gobodo.

Sizwe Ntsaluba wanted their name up front, and it was a deal-breaker. She decided the vision was bigger than her and she wouldn’t allow anything to jeopardize it. The company name was agreed on: SizweNtsalubaGobodo. The business grew to 55 partners and over 1,000 staff. 

“I think we underestimated how hard it would be,” she says. “Mergers are difficult in themselves, around 70% of mergers fail. People were laughing at us saying ‘ah, black people, they’re going to fight amongst each other and fail’, so we were determined not to fail. Failure was not an option.”

When they did their first sole tender, “you could smell the fear in the passages. There was so much fear”. Then the call came from the chair of the audit committee of Transnet to say the board had decided to appoint SizweNtsalubaGobodo as the sole auditors.

Gobodo had led the way to the establishment of the fifth largest accounting firm in South Africa. Her vision had been realized.

“It was just so fulfilling, really so fulfilling,” says the grandmother-of-three. “So it was time to move this thing forward.”

 She was the Executive Chairperson and Sekese was the CEO. She commissioned partners to find the best governance structure for the firm. Their recommendation was for one leader to lead the firm forward, and a non-executive chair.

“That was going to be boring for me. If I was not going to be part of driving this vision forward, it was time for me to leave,” Gobodo says. “There comes a time that the founders must leave and hand over to the next generation.”

Although she had achieved her dream, it was not easy to let go. The separation took three months.

“I learned a lot about letting go at that time. We have to let go layer by layer. I had to accept that they would do what they had to with the legacy. And here they are now, having merged with Grant Thornton. The dream was to be a true international firm, and now with SNG Grant Thornton, it is still basically a black firm going into the continent. The dream does not die. This is still a black firm taking over an international brand.”

Gobodo now heads Nkululeko Leadership Consulting, a boutique, black-owned and managed leadership consulting firm. Here, she can live her passion for developing leaders. She also sits on the boards of PPC and Clicks. The future awaits her with more promise.

READ MORE : Businesses Of The Future: 20 New Wealth Creators On The African Continent

Side bar: ‘The World Is Not Kind To Strong Women Leaders’

What were the greatest challenges she faced during her career?

“Making a success of your life in the South Africa of the past. As a black person, you always started from a place of being dismissed, as a woman, you always started from a place of being dismissed. So you had to be true to yourself and find yourself for you to be able to succeed. And that was hard. I don’t want to make it as if it was easy.

“The second thing was being a strong woman leader. The world is not kind to strong women leaders. And for me, being a strong woman leader was the hardest thing because both men and women don’t accept a strong woman leader. So you have this big vision, you are driven, you have to move things forward and if you’re a strong man, you’re accepted.

“But if you’re a strong woman, you are not. So you had to grow up and mature and try to find that balance of still moving people forward to achieve your vision, because I realized early that I would not get to the finish line without them. I could not leave them behind. So I always had to find that balance and sometimes, I didn’t do it well.

“Because there was this urgency of moving forward and you have to drag people with you. And they didn’t take kindly to that. Do I regret it? No, not really. I don’t think I would have achieved what I had. I had been given these gifts as a strong woman for a reason. I just feel sorry for strong women leaders, because it is still not easy for them today.”

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