Nobuhle Ndlovu is among the few to break the glass ceiling in the male-dominated world of private equity.
An investment banker-turned-vice president at a private equity firm in South Africa, Nobuhle Ndlovu realized early on that her calling was to help humanity.
Awarded a full scholarship to Canada, she majored in Economics and International Politics, is fluent in Mandarin Chinese, and holds an MBA from the University of Oxford. She has lived and worked in seven countries across North America, Europe, Asia, and Africa.
It was after a stint at Standard Chartered that Ndlovu realized her true goal. “My internship taught me that banking is the easier route to track money and hold people accountable. The NGO space has a lot of wastage; I liked the concept of making a difference but being able to quantify it.”
Ndlovu started her career with the mindset that she didn’t need to prove herself.
“I had been schooled overseas by my own right through scholarships, and worked hard to get to where I am, but coming back to a South African setting, it all goes out of the window,” says Ndlovu, who started from scratch when she moved back to South Africa.
Ndlovu recalls her earliest job in corporate finance in South Africa as one of only two women in a team of around 50. “I recall thinking, ‘wow, in South Africa, this is still a thing’; I get it in New York, but South Africa?
“But I quickly learned that if you stay humble, put your head down and work, you’ll get the props – if props are necessary,” she says.
“For me, it was about ‘how do I get to the next thing’. There’s not a lot of faces that look like me so it was trying to balance that and doing my best to include others to pay it forward,” she says.
Ndlovu didn’t know she wanted to get into private equity but as she got older, she thought about creating businesses and sustainable ecosystems.
“Even before I went into mergers and acquisitions advisory, I knew I wanted to gain the necessary hard skills to be able to go into private equity,” she says
Today, Ndlovu is a vice president at Kasada Capital Management, an independent real estate private equity platform that focuses on the hospitality sector in sub-Saharan Africa. She also made it to the Mail & Guardian 200 Young South Africans cohort in 2021.
“I get to travel for work and spend a lot of time in East Africa. Hospitality is such an interesting space but it’s also about creating spaces that people want to spend their time and money in.”
You could look at it as real estate or FMCG because you’re catering to a fast-moving good, she says.
“My current fund is across sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) and it’s so fulfilling seeing how much you’re supporting the region.”
Some of the biggest lessons Ndlovu has learned over the years is that no market is the same.
“It’s about how you balance risk and return all the time and having the right people in place to buy and manage assets.
“We’re SSA-focused; we’re constantly trying to work out what market in SSA makes sense when, and where each asset gets anchored.”