When discussing emerging markets and the future of work and profit, “Data is the new oil” is an expression that has solidified its place in the conversation. If data is the new oil, as the popular phrase goes, then data is our most valuable resource, it powers almost everything we use today to work, move and live, and it is virtually unusable if unrefined.
Innovating beyond proprietary data is becoming more and more important. This is especially true in Africa, the continent that some of the world’s youngest and fastest growing economies call home, where business intelligence and revenue models are calling for a new framework of doing business. This framework, the open innovation ecosystem – where a good number of leap-frog innovations are necessary – requires the need for speed through collaboration from not just the private sector, but the public sector and its stakeholders – such as universities and innovation agencies – as well as the agility and prowess of startups.
Companies across the continent are using external data in addition to their internal data, to better understand and pursue new business developments in the continent’s innovation ecosystem. Here, we’ll explore how African corporates are innovating intelligently which is resulting in the ability to make better business decisions.
How It’s Being Played Out IRL
In his book Outside Insight: Navigating a World Drowning in Data, Meltwater’s founder, Jorn Lyseggen, unpacks the edge of the intelligence and value that both proprietary and third-party data has an impact in, in what he calls the “new decision paradigm,” giving corporates a competitive advantage and enhancing their decision making.
One of South Africa’s oldest banks recently invested in Cape Town-based aerial data-analytics startup, Aerobotics, which makes use of aerial imagery and machine learning algorithms to solve problems in the agriculture industry. Of course, the options for using the same technology and concept across industries like finance and insurance, are endless. This bet on the technology of drones and data science was a deliberate focus on the strategy of the future of agri-finance for the major bank, understanding and recognising that in an aim to win more business, the third party data and use of Aerobotics technology will be a shift in new business and product development across customers and competitors for the corporate.
And, with technological trends like artificial intelligence (AI), advanced analytics and cloud computing, one way in which Accenture in South Africa is making and informing industry with their data, and leveling up competitive intelligence is through thought leadership positioning. This has enabled Accenture to create and enable themselves and other companies to change how people work and live beyond industry, like platform economies through their intelligence, and thus influencing the business intelligence of industry through data.
African businesses are thinking about ways to truly innovate under a framework of open innovation, even though the resources and capabilities may not always be plentiful. Accenture’s Technology Vision 2018, revealed that “ … South African executives (73%) agree with their global counterparts (79%) that organisations are basing their most critical systems and strategies on data, yet many have not invested in the capabilities to verify the truth within it.” Herein lies the opportunity to better scope the future of African innovation.
2020, 2025 and 2030 agendas set by organisations and corporates are not too far from actualisation, and the reality is that innovation is not self-driving but it’s a social concept that needs humans to execute visions. The appetite and curiosity for this new oil that is data and operating through the framework of open innovation is at its peak for intelligent enterprise, so how do we prepare for such innovation?
These present future institutions are the pipeline of talent that will be nurturing the future of work in businesses and its tools in order for us to be technology ready, and to have a workforce that is future-proof.
According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM), the latest report for South Africa has revealed that the country’s entrepreneurial activity is as its highest level since 2013; this is good news, and in order for SMMEs to continue playing their role in the economy, we need to cultivate the space.
Perhaps more entrepreneurs are needed, my argument lies in the kind of capital that’s invested to groom and scale the current businesses that we have to produce the quality entrepreneurs that the country needs. A matter of quality of quantity. In order for this space to thrive, more capital, intentional collaboration and a government enabling and agile platform needs to be enabled.
Open Innovation Culture
The new kind of innovation that’s occurring across industries is able to be done through collaboration. This kind of culture allows for more opportunities to develop products, new customers, charter new territories of innovation and technology, add value to proprietary data and so many new possibilities.
Keep Learning, Keep Going
Lastly, in order to truly crack the code of innovation, this opportunity needs to be taken from a systematic, actionable perspective. Modest investments are being made to continue to study the strategic, operational, regulatory and societal implications of data and intelligence in South Africa’s industries and more capital needs to influence policy. In order for South Africa to participate in such an economy, more research needs to conducted so as to play the game and create an environment where intra-trade may happen.
The Future of Africa
The biggest, oldest and most established companies are most vulnerable to disruption and innovation and the way to beat archaic systems and not end up like a Blackberry or Kodak is to not just look at a company’s proprietary resources and capabilities, but to establish an innovation culture that’s for the present future. In order for Africa to truly be at the forefront of innovation globally, and be prepared for such, all stakeholders will need to realise that innovation requires the trust of stakeholders to collaborate, and the risk appetite for new technology and data to penetrate businesses and the lives of customers to enhance them and make intelligent paradigm-shifting decisions.
This article was first published on Meltwater.
I have to admit, cognac or any kind of brown liquor is the last kind of liquor that you’d see me voluntarily drink. I’ve always found it, like sushi, as something that’s an acquired taste and personally, found it too harsh on my palate; but a few weeks ago a Bisquit experience invited a sweetened and new experience through their Women’s Dinner hosted by Bisquit Africa Brand Ambassador Xolisa Ndlala. The theme of the dinner was one of empowerment and a cultivated elegant experience, and the brand promised like their cognacs, that it would get Better with Bisquit.
Upon arrival, two cocktails were available to consume, a Chocolate Old Fashioned which comprised of the Bisquit VSOP (I really don’t like chocolate, even in alcohol) and the sweeter option of the Joie De Richese made with the fruitier Bisquit VS, Lime Juice, Sugar Syrup and Basil Leaves. Besides the cocktail’s lovely sweet taste, its ingredients were also something that one could recreate the cocktail at home with friends when hosting. Ndlala highlighted that the reason for the cocktails was also to introduce newbies to cognac like myself and the Biquit brand to women, exploring ways to make the brand inclusive to its drinkers.
Introducing the brand’s direction and his involvement in his new ambassadorship role, Ndlala addressed the ladies, who were from the sectors of financial services, technology and social development to advocacy on the brand’s drive to get more women to be knowledgeable about cognac and drinking more of it, as its still seen as a man’s drink.
True to the cognac experience and its roots, the dinner pairing experience was hosted at HeadQuarters (HQ) which is a Parisian-inspired steakhouse lounge located in Cape Town. The tasting menu was, for each course accompanied by a unique Bisquit product namely the VS, VSOP and the immaculate finish of the XO with the dessert, which even for a newbie like me can have it on the rocks and sip into it into the evening after a well deserved day, to celebrate or to relax.
With the right food pairing, the cognac experience was not as overwhelming as I thought it would be, and having the consumer education made it just as enlightening as I confessed in the first paragraph that my alcohol consumption is only limited to wine, champagne, gin and the occasional cocktail.
Thank you Bisquit for an incredible evening with great company, and great cognac – my first cognac bottle purchase has definitely been influenced.
- Women in Tech
- University of the Western Cape
- Mzukisi Qobo
- Circle of Young Intrapreneurs
- Chapter Lead
- Cape Innovation Technology Initiative
- Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation
- Young Corporate Leader
- One Young World
- fourth industrial revolution
- Venture Capital
It’s been a while since I’ve posted on the website, and between work, school and the new role with Circle of Young Intrapreneurs as Chapter Lead, an incredible global organisation for young intrapreneurs, it’s been a tough balance but I want to thank you for the continued support and constant resharing and engagement with the content. As such, I thought it only fair to share on some of the activities that’s been keeping me busy on these streets which includes some speaking, mentoring and some contributions on other platforms.
Some speaking engagements included:
1. Facilitating the Cape Innovation Technology Initiative Tech Skills Readiness Programme with their Software Engineering cohort as they embark on their careers. This is a great programme that looks at aspiring software engineering students largely from previously disadvantaged backgrounds, and seeds knowledge and skills so as to cultivate the STEM future workforce for South Africa! An incredible knowledge sharing afternoon it was.
2. When this email came into my inbox, I couldn’t stop beaming. It was the Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation and what made me happier was the request to mentor for the day and share my journey was with their Youth@Work and their 60 phenomenal young women, who looked like me and came from the same township and a desire for knowledge and access was there. The opportunity was to engage with these young women on finding employment and choosing a career path – which as we all know how intimidating it can be when you’re still in your late teens. I’m so honoured to be able to get the constant opportunity to engage with young, black women and use my platform for such, to empower with information and access more than anything - be it through work or otherwise. I was left inspired ?❤
3. About two weeks ago, I flew to Pretoria to facilitate a panel discussion on Power and Influence of Young Trailblazers in Corporate and Business that had fellow One Young World Ambassador Farai Mubaiwa on the panel. The Young Corporate Leader‘s Women’s Day celebrations included a keynote addresses by Ipeleng Mkhari and Dr Matete Madiba, just to mention a few of the phenomenal women who got to use their platforms and engage with us. Well done to fellow Ambassador Kamogelo Lesabe for pulling this stunning event together with your team
4. I really do enjoy spending my time with my peers and those even younger, especially still in their teens and impressionable when it comes to making impactful decisions like what subject choices and the career choices that are available for their choosing – of course the bias in me leans towards STEM careers, especially in the age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. I got to have some time with these students at the University of the Western Cape (UWC) recently. Mmaki Jantjies, Head of Information Systems at UWC shared the experience.
Associate Professor at SARChI, Chair of African Diplomacy and Foreign Policy, University of Johannesburg on his podcast. In it, we looked at the role of Venture Capital as well as other ingredients for start-up success in South Africa, which can be found in this link - https://soundcloud.com/mzukisiq/start-up-opportunities-and-venture-capital , aswell as a feature on Daily Maverick on South Africa’s Silent Start-Up Revolution which he authoured
One the most impactful and growing technology entrepreneurial schools in Africa is Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST), which over the years has premise in Ghana and recently Nigeria and South Africa, with plans to launch in Ivory Coast and Kenya soon. I had the opportunity to host a session on Open Innovation and Community Building at one of their Community Conversations in Cape Town, as well as share some of the nuggets from the experience and my journey as a junior executive in corporate innovation- https://meltwater.org/open-innovation-and-community-building-with-vuyolwethu-dubese/
It happened! Exactly a month ago on the 24th of July, I turned 24 years old, and as you’re aware – it was my crown birthday and since those only come once in a lifetime, a birthday solocation seemed the only reasonable way to celebrate this new age. Early in 2018, I had planned a trip with a girlfriend of mine, which unfortunately didn’t work out, but I was determined to add another stamp onto my passport and see at least one country in Africa; this was the birth of Birthday Solocation. I’ll admit, this adventure cost a little more traveling alone (around R20 000), but the picturesque island of Mauritius and the friendliness of the Mauritian Rupee to the South African Rand were pretty compelling arguments for me. The adventure awaited …
Traveling to an African island is on my 2018 vision board, so I had started saving earlier to actualise this goal, and it was between Seychelles (which my budget wasn’t ready for unfortunately), Mozambique (the unfortunate failed trip) and Mauritius. After some research and comparative pricing with flights and accommodation, I settled on an Africa Stay package (assisted by Karlien) which included return flights with Air Mauritius (and airport transfers), a 5 night stay at 3 star Tropical Attitude Hotel (all inclusive) and complementary activities to mention a few. I’ll admit, the reason why I chose to go via the agency route is because I was intimidated at the thought of navigating a foreign place on my own, this option also saved me time, and it was with a reputable firmUpon my arrival on the evening on July 26th in Mauritius (+2 hours ahead of South Africa), I had the chance to have a walkabout at my hotel, and after I was settled, very pleased to find that they stock and import a lot of South African wine, so I was right at home. Through Kreola, I was assigned an incredible agent, Marie, who came to my hotel and helped me choose a series of activities over the duration of my stay and making a decision to not do them all was one of the toughest I’d had. Two of my favourite trips including island hopping (including Ile au Phare, Ile de la Passe, Ile aux Aigrettes) on The Love Boat (did I mention the Nigerian and SA playlist was fire?), a tasting and private tour of at Premium Distillery Rhumerie de Chamarel and visiting the capital city of Port Louis and Pamplemousses Garden which is not too far from the capital.
I could not have asked for a better way to usher me into this new chapter into my life, perhaps learning a bit of French or Kreole before I left for Mauritius might’ve given me a bit of an edge as a tourist, but these are a part of the learnings of traveling. Traveling alone as woman in a foreign, I ofcourse was worried about my safety, which was another reason why I chose to do this trip via agencies, I needed that confidence – and I have to say, I felt quite safe in the Mauritian streets, even in the evening. Coming from the airport, I even forgot my bag which had my laptop, router, wallet, passport and just about everything my life was about but I went to the Airport Police Station the following morning and ALL my belongings were intact.
I definitely would love to do this more, inside my country and outside my continent, not only to add more stamps to my passport but to add to the confidence of traveling alone and enjoying being challenged by one of life’s great litmus tests. I’d definitely love to commit to another birthday solocation next year for my 25th birthday, I’m thinking Thailand and cruising on their islands, the gorgeous Caribbean or the undisputed Contiki trip across a couple of European countries. Where’s your next vacation? I’d love to hear more from you!
One of the most archaic, traditional systems in the world is getting a facelift, it’s being disrupted from the outside in at a pace that is necessary for the sector to grow. Banking is being turned on its head through the agility and prowess of fintech startups across the globe, and interesting to me is the revolution of partnerships with startups that’s making the threat a sweetened growth hack opportunity.
More and more, we’re beginning to see the quite intentional innovation through large corporates, particularly banks with the agenda of strategic partnering with fintech startups to not only tell a good story but innovating with the intent of incrementally and radically transforming products within the bank’s objectives.
In Africa, we’ve seen successful partnerships like ABSA through their RISE signing POC deal with Peach Payments to test their product and Nigeria’s GT Bank investment in Accounteer with live integration to enable the bank’s financial services are prime examples of how the fintech dream team has mutual benefits for both entities.
Leverage the Open Innovation Agenda (Data, Infrastructure and Technology)
Innovation is expensive, and as disruptive as the process is and as sexy of a story it is to tell, the selling of innovation is nothing compared to the sweat equity involved to successfully take a product to market from ideation. One of the most heartbreaking cycles is witnessing a startup working with an entity, be it an accelerator or a bank with the intention to scale or prove a concept, and the innovation agendas are not aligned. Once the alignment is recognised and relevant, for the bank be it to incrementally or radically innovate their products which has an impact on their systems, or a growth hack opportunity for revenue and having more customers, and adding value to their data and technology. Whereas, the opportunity for startups usually comes in at acceleration of proof of concepts, going to market faster through capital investments and other capabilities and the chance to build on top of the infratrsucture of the bank through open integration.
Access to Capital, Network and Domain Expertise
As I mentioned in the previous paragraph, the opportunity to support startups from the bank’s perspective comes in at monetary investment capital, access to the network that of the bank and the knowledge sharing through domain expertise. In 2017, Merrill Lynch South Africa and Royal Bafokeng Holdings in partnership with Rand Merchant Bank’s Alphacode invested over R4 million in 4 fintech startups for the development of these high impact startups. Through Alphacode, fintech startups like Bankymoon, Livestock Wealth, Slide and Commuscore to name a few have to had access to resources such as an advisory network and a co-working space available.
The Opportunity to be a (First) Customer and The Acquisition
One of the most celebrated bank(able) fintech dream team partnerships is between startup Firepay and Africa’s biggest bank, Standard Bank to launch Snapscan. This partnership worked because of the aligned innovation agendas, and provided Standard Bank the opportunity to provide a solution to and grow their customers and supported the bank’s emerging payments strategy, and for Firepay, to have Africa’s biggest bank not only as a customer but now also as an investor in the business, and the opportunity for their product to scale beyond borders.
The dream team partnership doesn’t not come with its challenges, it’s not all rosy, after all, financial innovation and startups are competing with an archaic system with inertia to change from the security policy to the production management process. Partnering with banks is no walk in the park – especially given the early stages of these kind of collaborations.
As the ecosystem embarks on the journey, it’s key for both banks and startups to recognise that the bankable partnerships are not innovating not against legacy, but with legacy systems because of the valuable intelligence of failure’s patterns and the combination of new models, science and data through which both entities have the capabilities to impact.
And as a final word, ensure that your core values, and not just your technology and data talks to each other.
I must admit, growing up, the turtleneck was not one of my favourite items, especially when I had to wear it instead of my white T-shirt when it was too cold in winter, my mother would insist on it and I hated it because it wasn’t the uniform that I was accustomed to. Fast forward more than a decade later, and it’s become an adult staple item of clothing, for any gender. It’s that one item of winter clothing that you can wear multiple items that goes with a suit, a dress or a skirt.
In this blog, I wear this item 3 ways to work, and share with you what the outfit exudes about the kind of modern woman in the workplace that I believe it says about me:
1. Tucked in a Mini Skirt
This is one of my favourite looks that I love to repeat in winter, a turtleneck tucked into a skirt. A black turtleneck paired with black stockings and thigh high boots serve as a great canvas for creativity with the skirt, this is where you can add some colour to an outfit on a gloomy winter day. I decided to pair it with a plaid skirt to add a bit of coloured character.
What does this outfit say about me at work? I’m a young assertive woman whose confident to take on the business of the day! Thigh high boots have a tendency to perk up confidence in more ways than one.
Plaid Skirt: Thrift Store
Thigh High Boots : Zando
2. Layered under a Dress
There’s no item like a dress in a woman’s closet, it can weather any season and can be paired up with any shoe. So, how do we take advantage of it this winter? We layer the black turtleneck under a ringlet strap dress and heighten the look with black pumps fit for a look that can take you from a boardroom presentation to a late night cocktail networking event.
What does this outfit say about me at work? My playfulness is nothing that has to be hidden, I can bring myself to work, and take it from the co-creation workshop to a networking mixer.
Pumps: Nine West
Bracelet: Gift from friend, India
3. Sneakered in a Kimono
This outfit has two elements of my clothing that I love to bring to work, pants and African print clothing. In this last outfit, the poloneck is tucked in beige pants and powered up with an African print kimono that adds some serious and maturity to the look. Adding some more colour to the look was courtesy my Adidas bright pink sneakers and accessorizing with a bracelet that a friend of mine gifted me when she went to India a few months ago.
What does this outfit say about me? This is the kind of outfit I’d wear on a Monday or a Friday, to kickstart the weekday or end it on a high. This is the outfit that a global African millennial would wear hosting a workshop or has a ton of meetings and errands to do. It says “I came to slay” as loudly and confidently as possible.
Pants: Kelso @ Edgars
Kimono: Braamfontein Market
It was after a much needed catch up with my mentor, over some lunch where education was the theme of the few hours we spent building the trust of the relationship and updating each other on what was new and how we could continue building each other and our ecosystems. It was intimidating to sit down with an accomplished, educated and intelligent woman, but I’m glad the tough conversation was had. It was one of the keys that led me to making a decision that was about opening up to being more, experiencing more and living more – getting out of my own way.
I was going to go back to school to obtain my under graduate degree, 6 years post matriculating from high school. Besides the reasons mentioned above, the two other motivations was the value that I know education has the potential to add to my professional and personal life, and this was also a promise that I had made to my father before he passed away.
So why did I wait 6 years to pursue my under graduate qualification? I’ve got very good reasons and excuses which were very good delay tactics, please see below:
· Pending …
- · My application was unsuccessful in two universities through past
- · I was just really lazy and afraid to start all over again
- · I didn’t think I still had it in me, curriculums and times change – insecurity’s timing is perfect. It’s a good thing that it was no measure for faith!
- · I didn’t want to save for the course because I enjoyed being careless with my money, and I didn’t know that my company had a study assistance policy
· You get my drift …
After many dress rehearsals with myself and my mother, close friends, mentors and sponsors, I decided to get over myself and begin the journey, I enrolled.
- 1. Picking the Qualification
After I finally had plucked up the courage to sit on the University of South Africa (UNISA) website, I went through the qualifications that appeared not only intimidating, but relevant for the future of corporate innovation, startups and strategic partnerships through data and modelling in preparing or the current and future economic and industrial revolutions. The data led me to BCOM Business Informatics qualification. The modules looked relevant to the objective of my desire to go back to school. I applied and got accepted. I was extremely nervous and happy at the opportunity to become a better employee and a corporate innovation practitioner.
- 2. Preparing for the Qualification
I was accepted, so what was next?
I had been accepted and found out about my company policy, but because of the university administration and a strike that happened, I was late to apply which meant that the money had to come out of my own pocket. Because I had been intentional about going back to school, I had saved up a couple of thousands of rands, and my mother was also a gem and made an investment in my first semester, that helped. The cost of studying is high, if I were to advise someone on going back who has no financial aid, it would be to starting saving yesterday, a little does go a long way.
I also had to be transparent and disclose the decision to my manager, this so that should time come needed for studying and exam time (quite a few UNISA tutorials are on Saturdays), it would be no issue.
- 3. Doing the Course
You’re going to war, so strategize!
· Prepare a Timetable - To be honest, what’s really helped is having this timetable saved as my phone screensaver and putting in alarms on my phones. Be nice to yourself and schedule in a night off during the week.
· A Strong Ecosystem - Get yourself some considerate and supportive friends who will understand when you cannot go out (time and money) because of the current investment you’re making. In the long run, this will also
· Work Smarter – If you get an assignment that aligned to the theme that you’re already doing at work, or as a side hustle, complement the two and kills as many birds as you can with the assignment stone.
· Be Kind to Yourself – By this I not only mean spa days and popping a bottle of champagne when you’ve aced that exam, but eating better and taking that digital detox when necessary because the stress can manifest in pimples and headaches.
It’s been a tough few months, I won’t lie. To be honest, there was a period where I’d given myself one week off studying because I was just lazy to, even with the grace of my alarms attempt at reminding me only to be snoozed until it stopped. The truth is that you know you and your behaviour better than any tips that I could give you, and the reason of you going back to school fulltime or part time should be motivation enough.
Congratulations to us on taking the step to go back to being educated and seeing its value in our lives, and may continue to pursue by preparing and being ready to participate in our destinies.
One of the most exciting things to be at this age is to be young (by age and mind), African and being a part of an organisation at forefront of contributing to the knowledge economy and leveraging the power of data and technology to empower economies and communities. We’re also at a time where the emerging market that is Africa has the opportunity to craft its own the Fourth Industrial revolution perception through not only commodity prices, but to diversify away from these resources and move into sectors which will leverage the opportunity to use open innovation as a tool to shape Africa’s Future Agenda.
Open Innovation is a term coined and promoted by Henry Chesbrough, professor and executive director at the Center for Open Innovation at Berkeley . The professor described it as “ … a paradigm that assumes that firms can and should use external ideas as well as internal ideas, and internal and external paths to market, as the firms look to advance their technology. The boundaries between a firm and its environment have become more permeable; innovations can easily transfer inward and outward. The central idea behind open innovation is that in a world of widely distributed knowledge, companies cannot afford to rely entirely on their own research, but should instead buy or license processes or inventions (e.g. patents) from other companies.”
The holistic idea of open innovation relates to creating profit and community from technology convergence of perceptions and an efficient way to operate and find solutions.And although outlined what it is, it is NOT Just crowdsourcing and one dimensional transactions, it’s to foster accelerate creative and business value for all stakeholders involved.
The Global Innovation Index is created and published by INSEAD, the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) and Cornell University and it covers 127 economies around the world and uses 81 indicators across a range of themes. Although no African countries emerged in the Top 10 of the list, Kenya (80) and Tanzania (96) represented the sub-Saharan African region as innovation players to be on the lookout for. Products and innovations like MPesa, Jumia, Ushahidi and Obami are incredible examples of the type of innovation that can and has come out of the continent.
My argument stems at how better accelerated in proving the concept and taking the product to market could these products have been, had the application of open innovation been applied.
Is it not about time that Africa heightened the advocacy and importance of open innovation? And at that, not just leaving it to one sector, but push collaborative open innovation – the interconnectedness needed to scale a Future Africa Agenda .
One of the most fascinating cases for me is the idea of a Sandbox, which is a cloud based capability that provides access to samples of organisations content and tools and where there’s tangible value for all stakeholders part of the transactions. On Africa’s potential alike, I believe we’re ready for a sandbox, and to this point, not only because Africa data is costly but finding credible sources of data has proven to be incredibly difficult.
Organisations like Fintech Sandbox have shown the value of a sandbox for startup partnerships in Boston, CodeSandbox Live in providing value for real collaboration between developers and Any API which has over 500 open APIs that have benefitted many entities. These entities show us what is possible with the world of open innovation in both emerging ad developed markets.
With the many 2020, 2030 and future plans that Africa has for itself, the concept of open innovation to drive Africa’s Future Agenda is a tool that not only invites the strengthening of intra-African and global knowledge trade , but the opportunity to collaborate with stakeholders in the private, NGOs and public sectors to empower Africa’s success.
Images : EOH and Schema Open Innovation
It was the cover image that captured my attention to pick up the book and lean in, the image of two black women in their beautiful black hair, smiling at each other. With closer attention, I learned that one of the familiar faces with one of South Africa’s most decorated woman in business and leadership, Dr Judy Dlamini. It was the third point of observation, the title on the cover “Equal But Different: Women Leaders’ Life Stories – Overcoming Race, Gender and Social Class” and paging through the pages and seeing the black powerful women leaders profiled that convinced me to eventually buy the book with much excitement.
“My interest in this area of study is based on my strong belief that people are born equal but different. It is a belief that equity across gender, race, social class and sexual orientation will be attained in my lifetime.”
This is the opening quote of the first chapter of the book, where Dr Judy Dlamini unpacks the motivation for choosing the social identities of race, gender and class to carry the narrative of the book and the genesis of the book’s conception. The strongly academic tone of this opening chapter (very well consistent throughout the book) is sweetened by a framework suggested by authors Dlamini fondly quotes Nkomo and Ngambi (2009), a meso-level approach to women leadership that is operational at Societal, Individual and Organisational Level.
I’m so incredibly excited to be affirmed every day I see a sea of women, and particularly for my societal identity, black women who are successful in business and technology. Representation matters, it does, and what matters within the confines and decoration of the politics of the image of your role models is also what they consume to inform their society. Taking into account the time period of Apartheid that these women grew up in, the socialism of not only gender but race played a role in how their lives turned out and ultimately, what class they managed to place themselves in, consciously and unconsciously.
In the chapter that followed, Dr Dlamini goes on to profile numerous leaders including United Nations Under-Secretary General and Executive Director of UN Women Dr Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, CEO of Barclays Africa’s Maria Ramos, Founder of Fly Blue Crane’s Siza Mzimela, and current President of the Republic of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa to name a few – this is where it got real for me.
The general consensus from the series of interviews confirmed this for me from the array of women leaders interviewed:
· Most of the women interviewed were black women, and the further education either in Europe or North America afforded them the entry point into the social class privilege that they enjoy today
· Men, and especially white men seem to be better mentors and sponsors to women at the start and peak of their careers
· Black women don’t see white women as allies, mainly because as Gloria Serobe puts it “…. White women are struggling to accept that they were marginalised; the fact is that they were. They benefitted from employment equity.”
From foreign perspectives of both women and men leaders, the consumption of feminism from both men and men to the strategy of quotas to enable more women into not only boards but also the transition from middle-level to senior-level management, this book peeled many layers to its honest core. The one unpleasantry of the book had to be the constant repetition of quotes from Chapter 2 “South African women’s life journeys” throughout the book from Chapters 3 onwards through to the final chapter. The reference of the chapters were written in a manner as though the reader started reading from Chapter 3 and skipped pages, instead from the beginning.
“There was consensus among the interviewees that women tended to work in support departments, which did not expose them to leadership positions. Cora emphasised the importance of being in a revenue-generating position within the organisation as a success strategy, while Tomatoe Serobe, co-founder and CEO of WipCapital, emphasised the need for women to understand the business of their company as a whole rather than only the small division where they worked.”
For a young woman starting out in her career and/or business, this is a book of great insights and a look at what not only successful black women representation looks like, but also a consultation on where and how one would draw the line in being an ableist of sexism, tokenism and other –isms in your career journey. Take heed of the strategies and advice supplied by these global leaders and do your best in your journey.
Images : Dillion Phiri.
At present, I’m enjoying a relationship series sermon that’s lead by Transformation Church’s Lead Pastor, Michael Todd and it’s an engagement of learning how to be content with the fullness of one’s singlehoodness (in Christ). The sermons are not only engaging about romantic relationships, but also in relationship with oneself and their Creator, and the abandonment of the knowledge that you have that causes unnecessary consequences which eventually displace you and God’s provision of your purpose. It’s a wholesome message about recognising the pattern of renewed grace to operate in the fullness of one’s purpose.
Every year when the clock strikes midnight on 31st December, I get excited at the prospect of a new calender year and the optimism that it comes with, featuring heightened hope and unshakable faith at the new beginning. We usher into the new year with an inspired energy to create new chapters that will impact our lives in a way that we can only imagine. At times, these set of new eyes and faith can burn out before we even use them to the capacity that they’re meant to last, because the excitement of this new possibility eclipses the hard work of preparation and of pace, and instead replaces it with a pace of competitiveness and maintenance of a vision that was to be nurtured.
the process of preserving (maintain in original state) a condition or situation or the state of being preserved.
care for and protect (someone or something) while they are growing.
I pray that your new vision is nurtured and not just maintained, and that it’s guidance is under God’s provision and His divine enablement for Him to show you that He is indeed God. I pray that you receive your victory already because of this renewed faith, and that you pair all this by investing with sweat and other equity required to execute.
The Effort of Attention
And speaking of which, execution requires the effort of attention which is reciprocity. As you enter 2018 with vision boards and entries into education institutions that you’ve been accepted in, remember that (this is mostly me speaking to me) that nothing can impede the execution of the vision than lack of effort, even if God has provided.
What will make this year different than the last? How will this year produce a better you? Why do you wake up in the morning if there’s nothing that you do everyday that will take you closer to your vision and goals? And who will you relationship with that will hold you accountable and ensure that the 2018 you becomes the education that you’re praying for and working towards?
God’s Provision - Place of Purpose
This is the word that I believe in God for this season - that His grace is sufficient enough to divinely enable to me access to His divine compensation in provision for my purpose, and that where He has placed me, He will provide His promises at His pace of grace. January has been a month of affirming that word in my life for the past 24 days, and it’s only the beginning, and He’s already provided for the seeds I planted in desire almost 2 years ago, He’s doing it at His pace of grace.
I pray that we cast our nets deeper in the ocean, and not be satisfied with just maintaining our visions, but to nurture them into goals with the effort of attention. In Marianne Williamson’s “A Return to Love”, she expresses that the effects of your life is rooted in your thoughts and that that experience can only be transformed if we change how we think. In addition to this, I believe we also need to change how we perceive ourselves, so I pray that we see ourselves through God’s grace because through it, it’s how we can think about ourselves differently in order to access divine compensation.
To a year of operating in the place of God’s purpose.