I was in Cape Town in early-2013 when I was reflecting on the progress we had made with FORBES AFRICA across the continent. A glaring gap was the number of stories about women entrepreneurs. The main reason was that as a startup magazine, FORBES AFRICA was overwhelmed with a waiting list of stories from 49 countries in sub-Saharan Africa; by virtue of women having a late head start in the business world, the stories were largely dominated by men who had done great things to transform Africa. To provide a platform, I decided to launch FORBES WOMAN AFRICA.
While emotions often get the better of me, I did, however, think that the idea had to be run by my fellow shareholders and senior management. After a fair amount of resistance, founded on pragmatic logic against the idea, I was able to get everyone to see my point of view. At the core of it was that there was a market gap for a magazine showcasing the success of inspirational women. The departure point from FORBES AFRICA was that FORBES WOMAN AFRICA was not about wealth but about influence; about the impact made by women in all walks of life and to bring forth stories that would otherwise never be told in FORBES AFRICA.
Having overcome the scepticism of my Board, the next decision was the choice of editor. A woman I admired and who was doing a show with us on CNBC Africa was Karima Brown. She gladly took up the challenge and FORBES WOMAN AFRICA was launched with a lot of fanfare with Precious Motsepe on our first cover. A few months later, after giving birth to the magazine, Karima moved to pursue another opportunity. I was at a loose end.
However, it was at a dinner I hosted in October 2013, that my banker sister-in-law, Shalini Mehta, invited a friend to join us. This friend was Renuka Methil. In my book, Be a Lion, I have said “meeting people is for a reason”; chance meetings are not coincidences but in our stars. Often, we miss these signs; however, for Renuka and us, this dinner meeting was a blessing and met the intended consequences of our stars. She was appointed Editor of FORBES WOMAN AFRICA by my son, Sid Wahi, who is the CEO of ABN Publishing.
It has been a tumultuous journey as publishing in today’s world is not for the fainthearted. The content has been simply fantastic and the magazine has risen to be the material of choice for inspirational stories. In the last five years, we have covered stories of exceptional women from all over Africa and showcased their great work in business, entrepreneurship and social development. We have discussed the trials and tribulations of women in the workplace and become a champion for equality. The word ‘equality’ is a living value for us at the ABN Group and I am so proud that we have been able to personify our values through affirmative action.
As we move ahead on this journey, I have the privilege of announcing that our Group Managing Director, Roberta Naicker, was unanimously selected as the Business Woman of the Year 2018 at the prestigious Standard Bank event in August 2018. It’s a moment of pride and joy for our young business that is today led by extraordinary women who are building a media organization one brick at a time.
On our 5th anniversary, I take this opportunity to congratulate our team led by Renuka Methil on a fantastic magazine that they have raised and wish them the very best in the period ahead. Renuka has now taken over the reins of both FORBES AFRICA and FORBES WOMAN AFRICA and our editorial integrity is in safe hands.
To our readers and supporters, our appreciation for your encouragement, without which we would not have the motivation to plough ahead on this difficult journey. Thank you to all our advertisers, subscribers and those that have made this incredible magazine commercially stand on its feet. Finally, to my fellow shareholders and Board (Zafar Siddiqi, Sam Bhembe, Busi Mabuza, Roberta Naicker and Sid Wahi), gratitude for having believed in this project and having patiently given management the support and latitude to build something that we are all so proud of.
– Rakesh Wahi