Thursday, 25 August 2016

Single parents supporting our next generation

Take a moment to let that sink in. Think of the further implications. It means that most children in South Africa are growing up in homes without fathers. Most families have to get by on a single person's salary. Most of the burden of raising the next generation is being carried by women on their own.

We clearly need to focus on alleviating this burden as a society, and creating more support structures and processes. We also need to find as many ways as we can of encouraging these (mostly very young) women.

Facing financial vulnerability

The traditional family set-up will have the man providing most of the financial resources for the household. Of course, as women's emancipation has evolved, women are increasingly contributing equally financially. However, there are still many places in South Africa where the traditional model is followed: men going out to work to support the family, with women raising the children and running the household.

In our single mother scenario, this traditional model falls away, leaving these women exceptionally vulnerable to financial threats. Old Mutual published a report few years back estimating that at least half of all single mothers in South Africa receive no financial support1. The result is that they either work full time, work a lot of overtime or have more than one job. All of this in addition to being the primary caregivers at home. This is sometimes exacerbated when the woman also has to support her own elderly parents who live with her. The one benefit of this scenario is that at least there is someone else to help look after
the children while the mother is working.

What's very clear is that we need to provide much more support for women caught in these situations. One option is the state- or corporate-sponsored day-care centres that have begun to emerge. Another is to examine whether these women are earning a fair salary, given the recognised income disparities between men and women in South Africa, and indeed most of the world.

Encouraging and enabling skills development

Part of the reason for the financial pressure experienced by these young single mothers is that many are only qualified for traditionally low-paying jobs, like being domestic helpers. There is a desperate need for these women to learn the skills that will allow them to earn higher incomes.

Various bursary, scholarship, and commercial government initiatives exist; we can only benefit from their continued expansion, and a redoubled effort to focus specifically on single mothers. These women face a dual challenge - even if they receive full financial aid to study and gain new skills, finding the time for studies between a full-time job and running a household is often a bridge too far. This again speaks to the need for family support structures to allow these women to develop their potential.

Alleviating the effect on the next generation of girls

The Human Sciences Research Council has found that having a father in the home leads to better mental and intellectual development and school performance. Conversely, the absence of a father was found to lead to depression and other emotional distress.

When it comes specifically to the girl child, research shows that growing up with a father leads to a girl who has higher self-esteem, is less likely to engage in risky sexual behaviour, and has less difficulty creating and sustaining relationships later in life. The result is lowered rates of teen pregnancy and children born outside of marriage, as well as a lower divorce rate and less likelihood of marrying too early.

Now remove the father from this picture and the effect on the young girl is the opposite. Which means that in the majority of households in South Africa, young girls are growing up with an almost predetermined set of dysfunctional traits that can handicap them for life. And then they themselves are almost inevitably called on to head their own households at far too young an age.

Intervention at all levels is required to untangle this Gordian knot. It remains all our responsibilities, in whatever our capacities, to encourage these young women and girl children, both in emotional ways and also in practical ways that address the very real challenges that they face on virtually all fronts.

Let this be the message we take from this year's Women's Month.
What are your suggestions to better support our single mothers? Tell us here, or tweet us on

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Support the women in your life

As we continue to celebrate Women's Month, it's a good time to focus on the glue that binds not only women but people together – solidarity. This can mean many things to different people, from active participation to silent support. However, what I'd like to highlight are some of the ways that we can show solidarity with each other by inspiring and supporting the women in our lives.

First, look at yourself

There's nothing so humbling as taking a good long look at ourselves. It's also terribly important that we do this if we are to live and act with integrity. What we also find when we honestly know ourselves, is that we develop more empathy. We recognise where we have fallen short, and can imagine how it must feel for others. This can help us to identify more with other people, and be more supportive of the women around us, rather than being judgemental.

The other benefit of this is that it allows us to recognise your own prejudices and biases. Once we recognise these we can work towards eliminating them.

Support, rather than compete

We should all, hopefully, realise that in our modern society we are still working to overcome centuries of patriarchy and that one of the effects of this is that women usually have to work harder for fewer places at the top than do men. This obviously creates more competition.

However, it's vitally important that, as we compete for career opportunities, we don't adopt a constantly competitive attitude towards the women with whom we work. There is always plenty of room to be supportive of our colleagues, even if it means giving them the glory. An attitude like this will pay more dividends in the long run, not least because it will make you more persuasive and effective with the people around you.

Show appreciation

There are few things as inspiring as feeling that we are appreciated. That what we have said or done was worthwhile, and acknowledged as such by others. On the one hand, it's a stroke for the ego, of course. On the other, it's an important part of self-validation.

This gives the simple act of showing appreciation a very powerful effect – one that we should try to use as much as we can. This can range from a simple thank you to a bunch of flowers or a glowing endorsement in an email.

Learn from each other

These days we rely on the education system so much, along with corporate and other training, that we start to forget that each one of us can be a teacher to someone else. Passing on skills, wisdom, tips and tricks from one person to another is still the most effective way of developing knowledge and ability. So let's take every opportunity we can to pass on our own knowledge and skills to each other.

Take and promote accountability

This might not seem like an obvious way to inspire people but bear with me. When we learn to take accountability for our lives, we start to feel more self-empowered and in control. Not only that but when we feel an accountability to other people, we tend to think and act in more community-spirited ways. Lastly, having other people to whom we are accountable gives us a source of objective opinions about our performance and development.

So let's encourage each other to be accountable for ourselves in all aspects of our lives, and help to serve as accountability barometers for each other.

How do you support the women in your life? Tell us here, or tweet us on

Thursday, 11 August 2016

South African women making a difference

When we celebrate Women's Month it's customary for us to look to eminent South African women who have made significant achievements. The same people are usually on lists of influential women: Thuli Madonsela, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Charlize Theron, Bridgette Radebe, Natalie du Toit, Maria Ramos... we know their names.

So in this Women's Day article I want to focus on three hugely influential women who aren't necessarily household names to the same extent.

Wendy Luhabe

Wendy Luhabe's significance lies not in the fact that she is one of the most powerful businesswomen in the country who has gone on to become Chancellor of the University of Johannesburg. It's her work as a social entrepreneur that sets her apart.

Although rising to the highest levels of business in South Africa, having being chair of the Vodacom Group, she has found the time to start and maintain organisations dedicated to the empowerment of previously disadvantaged women.

She started her Bridging The Gap consultancy back in 1992, the aim of which was to impart skills to previously disadvantaged women to help prepare them for the business world. Two years later she launched Wiphold, a women's investment holding that has become a vehicle for tens of thousands of first-time women investors. It also became the first company solely owned by women to be listed on the JSE.

She then began a new private equity fund for women-owned businesses and has written a book life and business coaching book, Defining Moments all profits from the sale of which go into a fund for the upliftment of women.

Salukazi Dakile-Hlongwane 

Salukazi Dakile-Hlongwane is an unassuming career economist who has dedicated her career to women's development in Africa. It's a cliché to point to humble beginnings, especially when they are so commonplace in our country, but it's once again true of Dakile-Hlongwane. Her father was a civil servant and her mother sold dresses in their Soweto neighbourhood.

It was education that opened all the doors for her. She went to school in Lesotho and then to university in the USA, majoring in development economics. She then founded Nozala investments in 1996, along with Jean Ngubane and Dawn Mokhobo, aimed at women's economic advancement. It has supported 10 women's empowerment groups since then, and controls a trust that helps people to start businesses in impoverished areas.

She has also worked for the African Development Bank, SADEC and FirstCorp, and is a director or MultiChoice Africa.

Yogavelli Nambiar

Not a name that many people know, but Nambiar has spent decades deeply involved in social entrepreneurship – specifically helping to meet one of the most pressing needs of our developing economy: starting and sustaining small businesses.

She is currently the founder of the Enterprise Development Academy at the Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS) and the University of Pretoria Business School. However, this just scratches the surface of her contribution to education in this country. Her focus at GIBS is on providing scholar-ship based business education and support to small business entrepreneurs. In just over two years her unit has worked with over 1 000 entrepreneurs, from IT start-ups to spaza shops.

Previously in her career she was a member of the team that developed our country's National Youth Development Strategy, and the working group that created the Code of Governance for the non-profit sector of South Africa.
Which women do you think should be household names? Tell us here, or tweet us on

Friday, 5 August 2016

Celebrating South African women

We celebrate Women's Day on 9 August each year, yet most of us only have a vague idea of what the principles are behind it. We know that it's about recognising the role that women play in our society and in our lives, as mothers, sisters, wives and daughters. We perhaps also understand that there's a feminist or anti-apartheid aspect to it, mostly through the posts we read from our friends on Facebook.

So we thought we'd take a closer look at the reasons why there is a Women's Day, and why as we celebrate we also need to remember the very real challenges that women face in our society because of their gender.

Why is there a Women's Day?

First we should note that there is a difference between International Women's Day, which falls on 8 March every year, and National Women's Day, which is specific to South Africa.

Our National Women's Day commemorates the women's march to the Union Buildings in Pretoria in 1956, in protest against the repressive Pass Laws. Women from all across the country marched, led by four stalwarts of the women's movement and the anti-apartheid struggle: Lilian Ngoyi, Helen Joseph, Rahima Moosa and Sophia Williams-de Bruyn.

These women and their various community organisations organised a march of this scale in an era without the Internet, without WhatsApp, without cell phones – sometimes even without access to landlines. Messages, instructions and organisational details were spread around the country by dedicated people driving to the most remote regions.

On the day, over 20 000 women arrived from across the land, each one with a strong understanding of why they were there. Besides the march being by default an anti-apartheid event, it was aimed particularly at the proposed extension of the notorious Pass Laws to women, which would have made it even more difficult to work and raise their families. A petition was left outside the office of JG Strijdom, the then prime minister – he had refused to accept it in person.

The march became most important mass mobilisation of women in our history, and for this reason we commemorate it each year.

That's the celebration part.

Women's Day and the girl child in South Africa

The other reason why we commemorate Women's Day, is to remind ourselves and others of the enormous challenges that still face the girl child in South Africa. Women's Day is also about focusing on these issues in a continual effort to remove them.

The most obvious and, to be honest, horrific reality facing the girl child is the threat of or actual physical harassment, abuse and violence. Our country has a relatively high level of these maladies and eradicating violence and abuse against women is and must remain a national priority.

The girl child is also vulnerable to the consequences of teen pregnancy, particularly the interruption of her education. Education is such an important aspect of our developing country that this can have a lifelong negative effect on the woman. Proper, accurate and widespread sexual education and access to contraception still needs to be rolled out more comprehensively across our country.

It also often falls to the girl child to play the role of surrogate mother in the home, especially due to the AIDS pandemic. These girls have to deal with the dual disaster of becoming orphans at an early age, and having to look after their siblings. We need to create far more effective support systems for these young girls.

There are many other issues facing the girl child and women in general in our society, but the final one I'd like to focus on is the patriarchal system itself. Many of our cultural norms are still biased against women, because they come from an outdated era before we developed the more sophisticated human values that we now emphasise. Women from all walks of life will tell us of everyday incidents that underline the extra challenges that they face compared with men. For example, the automatic assumption that an engineer we are going to meet will be male, or the way we encourage boys to be scientists more than we encourage girls.

So let's all use this Women's Day – in fact, this entire Women's Month – to remember the values that the courageous women of 1956 marched for, and to concentrate more than ever on removing the unequal obstacles that women still face in our country.

How do you think we can honour Women's Day and create a better society for women? Share it with us here, or tweet us on

Thursday, 28 July 2016

Think long-term - really long-term

We're often told that we should plan ahead. This takes on new meaning when we put it into a really long-term perspective, like thinking about the kind of society we want to create for the next generation.

It's one thing to plan for one's own future, and even for our children's future, in terms of things like education, but it's a lot more difficult to plan how their lives will turn out. There are so many different social and environmental factors over which we ultimately have no control.

So how can we think ahead and prepare a future for the generations that will follow us, without being able to really plan for what will happen? The best we can do is to try and influence our immediate communities so that through them we can create the kind of society we want future generations to inherit. The most effective way to do this is through our own individual behaviour, so here are a few ideas.

Get involved in community organisations

It doesn't matter where your personal priorities lie, you should be able to find a community organisation that fits your needs or suits your interests. These organisations are in many ways the backbone of our communities because they play central roles in people's lives. By participating in them you will be able to make a very direct and meaningful contribution towards building a future society.

Two of the most obvious organisations that you might want to get involved with are a church or a sports club. We South Africans love our sport, so finding a sports club near to where you live shouldn't be a problem. If you're young and fit enough you'll obviously get the most benefit from actually playing the sport. If your playing days are over you could coach the kids. Otherwise, you can help in another capacity – most sports clubs have administrative committees to run them.

Similarly, religion plays a central role in the lives of many people in our country, so finding a church to join will be easy. There are plenty of service roles that you can fulfil in a church, from singing in the choir to youth counselling.

Become politically active

There are many ways to become involved at a political level in our society, and only a few of them involve being a politician. You can get involved in fundraising for your preferred party, or join its local branch. If your focus lies on a specific issue, like LGBT rights, for instance, you can join an organisation that represents this focus. Being politically active simply means doing something concrete for something that you believe in.

Help to educate others

Not everyone is called to be a teacher, but each one of us can pass on our knowledge, skills or experience to others in our own way. So whether at work or in our community organisations or interest groups, we should try to identify younger or newer members who we can help along by passing on what we have learned and what we can do. Sometimes it might simply be a case of sharing some life wisdom with another person. The aim of it all is to help those who come after us to develop more quickly and more thoroughly.

What ideas do you have for thinking really long-term? Share it with us here, or tweet us on

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Real leaders focus on personal development

Most of our studies and career development course focus on the specific knowledge and skills we need to do our work. There has always been a very strong emphasis on these so-called "hard skills", and with good reason - these skills are paramount if we're to do our jobs properly.

In recent years, however, there has been more of a recognition that we need all manner of other skills to work effectively, perform optimally and get satisfaction from our jobs. These are the "soft skills", like interpersonal relationships, for example - how well we work with our colleagues.

As a result of this recognition, it has now become virtually par for the course that the development of soft skills is an important part of grooming future leaders. They need to have the skills to deal effectively deal with the people who they manage. Not only this, but they need to pass on these skills to others so that everyone in the organisation can benefit.

The importance of balance

Whereas previous incarnations of our societies didn't pay much attention to the so-called "touchy-feely" side of work, we have now realised that we also need to consider these aspects when striving for a healthy work-life balance.

If we don't create a proper balance in our work lives we run the risk of becoming less and less productive. That's why organisations place such an emphasis on the softer skills.

It's the responsibility of leaders to teach those they work with about personal development and how to deal with life issues and the work-life balance.

Career growth requires personal growth

Have you ever noticed that most of the people who seem to cope with work without breaking a sweat, who never seem stressed and who always seem to have enough time to get everything done are the most experienced people in the organisation?

That's because they have learned - often through trial and error - how to work efficiently. They have developed personal characteristics that allow them to perform well under pressure, without suffering in their personal capacity.

This means that in order to do our work as effectively as possible - both for the company that employs us and in order to be healthy and happy - we need to develop specific skills. Among them are perseverance, calmness, patience and empathy.

In short, to grow in our careers we need to grow as people too.

What organisations and leaders can do

Good leaders are able to teach these life skills to the people, both by mentoring them and by being observable examples. Companies that are seeking sustainability and growth need to put in place formal structures that allow leaders to accomplish this.

The next generation of leaders needs to be identified early so that they can be put onto a company programme of personal development and growth, facilitated by the company leaders. Leaders themselves should be trained to be constantly cognisant of the importance of this personal development mentorship so that they are able to take advantage of opportunities to pass personal skills on at any point in their interactions with the people they manage.

We have seen time and again that the most worthwhile investment an organisation can make is in the development of its people - to the extent that it becomes a no-brainer. It is the leadership that needs to drive this.

What do you think leaders should teach? Share it with us here, or tweet us on

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Real leaders create other leaders

An old Japanese proverb holds that the mark of a master is how many other masters he creates.

There are lots of cliches about leadership. We hear that the best leaders lead from the front. That they lead by example. However, perhaps the most important role that leaders can play when it comes to creating sustainability, consistency, and growth in society is captured in Tom Peters' now famous quote: "Leaders don't create followers, they create more leaders".

The importance of continuity

Society needs continuity. Its policies, projects, initiatives, businesses - even its norms and values - need to be carried through from one generation to the next. If this doesn't happen, there is too much volatility for society to bear. We won't be able to sustain anything. We won't be able to think and act in a long-term fashion. We won't be able apply planning. We'll effectively be winging it from one generation to the next.

This is why it's so important for each generation of leaders to identify and nurture the next wave of leadership. The next group of people who will lead their companies, teams, schools, universities, communities and the country, building on what has been created before. The baton needs to be passed if we are to avoid stagnation, and grow to our full potential as communities, economies, and countries.

How do we create leaders?

There are many ways in which we can inculcate leadership - advanced education, training programmes, skills development initiatives and the like. However, there remains an age-old method that is still highly effective. In fact, it could be argued that this is the most important factor in creating true leaders. This is mentorship.

Mentorship is how we have traditionally created leaders in our societies, although we used to call it an apprenticeship. From ancient tribal customs to the most modern leadership development approaches; this has been the common thread.
Leaders will take selected people under their wings, so to speak, mentoring and grooming them to take over leadership positions one day. Knowledge and wisdom are passed on, and skills and expertise are taught. The apprentice is shown how to think like a leader. How to develop a leadership psychology. This can really only happen through interpersonal contact - working closely together in a mentor-mentee scenario.

Future leaders also need to gain as much hands-on experience as they can. It's a big step to take from only having to be responsible for your own work to being responsible for the output of others. This means giving your future leaders as many opportunities as possible to practise and develop their leadership skills.

Most important is the leadership mindset. Leadership requires a very different mental attitude. Future leaders need to learn that it is necessary to accept accountability - even if they are not directly responsible for something. They need to develop an attitude of "the buck stops here".

This is quite possibly the most important aspect of leadership that we need in this country at the moment. It's the attitude we need in our leaders if we are to face our challenges successfully - nothing ever gets done properly if everyone passes the buck. A strong leader doesn't do this.

Do you think we do enough to develop leadership? Share it with us here, or tweet us on

Thursday, 30 June 2016

Have you thought about your tertiary education?

If you're entering your last couple of years of school or are already in Matric, chances are you'll have given some thought to what you want to do after school, in terms of a career or studying further.

Some people are lucky in that they have had lifelong career ambitions; they know exactly what they want to become and what to study to achieve this. However, most of us enter our final years of school not quite knowing what career we want.

How are you feeling about your own future? Here are some things to consider when planning your education.

Get career advice

The smartest thing to do is to match your studies to your career ambitions. Of course, to do this you need to decide what career you want to follow.

One of the best ways of doing this is to attend any career functions that your school organises. They usually bring in different career professionals to talk about what they do and advise you on what to study.

Your other option is to go for some kind of career guidance counselling. There are plenty of people who specialise in exactly this, so it's simply a matter of making an appointment. You'll typically fill in some aptitude questionnaires and have a short interview, after which you'll be given a report on the kind of careers that would suit you best.

If you still have no idea what career you wish to follow, getting a tertiary education is still important, as it creates a solid basis on which to build any career, and any further studies you may want to pursue. Try to choose a course that will leave you with options, like a general degree in communications, for example. The idea is to keep as many career doors open as possible.

Do your research

Whether you know exactly what career you want or only have a vague idea, you need research the courses that you could study in order to prepare yourself.

Some careers have well-defined educational paths, so one simply follows the curriculum as it is set out. These are usually the professional careers, like those in engineering or the legal world. If you decide on a career like this, your educational path will be clearly set out for you.

If you want to pursue a career that doesn't have such a clearly defined study curriculum, it's a case of choosing a course that will teach you the theory and nitty-gritty of the career arena that you want to enter. So, for example, if you want to become a media entrepreneur, you can choose courses from a wide range that will give you a solid basis. This could include topics like communication, media studies and politics, depending on your particular field of interest.

Speak to people who are already pursuing the careers you are interested in - find out what they studied, or what they would recommend that you study. Research courses online, to find out which ones will best further your career ambitions.

Plan an educational path

Now that you have an idea of what type of studies to pursue, you can start to plan your actual courses. You may want to start with a short introductory course to get the feel for the subject, in case you're still not entirely sure what you want to do with your life.

Once you've orientated yourself to the study direction you want, you should plan what your main qualification will be, to begin with. Do you want to study for a university degree, or will you only need a college certificate? Can you do some sort of mentorship that will lead to you studying for a tertiary qualification?

In other words, you need to get a clear idea of what qualifications or certifications you will need in your chosen career. Build up a view of all the possible education options that relate to this career, and create an educational plan for yourself. You don't have to do it all at once - you may find that it will be best to get a basic qualification, then get some work experience before studying further.

Remember, you can control your career through your educational choices. Put a plan in place for how you will get the qualifications you need and you'll find that your career path will be all that much smoother.

Do you have a plan for your education? Share it with us here, or tweet us on

Thursday, 23 June 2016

How to use good debt rather than bad debt

Unless you're very fortunate, debt is something you will have to contend with during your life. You may already have some form of debt, possibly a student loan or, on a smaller scale, a clothing or book store account.

While debt is so difficult to avoid, we're usually advised to try and steer clear of it, and to eliminate it as soon as possible if we absolutely have to borrow money. So the idea that there is such a thing as good debt may come as a surprise to you.

Knowing the difference between good and bad debt in the context of an overall financial strategy is an important part of reaching financial stability or generating wealth.

What is bad debt?

Bad debt comes in a few forms. The most basic form of bad debt is money you borrow that you can't afford to pay back. We usually incur these debts when we make impulse purchases or buy something that we know we shouldn't, but can't resist.

Another common form of bad debt, which emerges particularly when times are tough, is the buying of consumable items like food or disposable products using a credit card. The problem here is that you're paying a high interest rate for non-durable goods, and unless you pay back the debt within the allotted time, your cost of living will shoot up, as you are paying so much more for the everyday basics.

One of the most popular forms of debt is, unfortunately, also bad debt - our credit account at our favourite clothing store. This is another example of borrowing money at interest to buy things that don't hold their value and end up disposable.

So what is good debt?

Types of good debt

Good debt is money that you borrow in order to generate wealth - to make more money. It is the type of debt that builds wealth over the long run, leaving you better off than you were. It is effectively an investment.

The most important aspect of a good debt, therefore, is that it must generate some sort of value. This can be tangible, in the case of a profit made, or less measurable, like the benefits of an education.

There are several types of debt that we generate wealth or serve as an investment.


The first and arguably the most beneficial form of good debt is educational debt, in the form of money you borrow to pay for an education. The reason why this is a good debt is that the education will most likely allow you to generate more income than the value of the loan. In other words, you'll make a profit, if we measure it only in financial terms. Of course, education has plenty of other benefits, which further increase its value and make it a good debt.


A house bond is another form of good debt. It is a straightforward investment in something that increases in value over time: property. The vast majority of home owners sell their properties for more than what they paid, making this form of debt a solid investment. The other benefit of having a house bond is that it allows you to borrow further money against it, which increases your financial flexibility - as long as the other debt you incur is also good debt, of course.

Debt consolidation

Yet another type of good debt that can improve your financial status is refinancing. If you are paying off a number of different debts at relatively high interest rates, it will become a lot cheaper if you are able to borrow a single sum at a lower interest rate, with which you can pay off the rest and only have a single source of debt.

Learning the good debt lesson

Now that you understand the difference between good debt and bad debt, and how good debt can be used to create wealth, you'll be able to make smarter financial decisions.

Start by reviewing your current debt - are you paying off a lot of different debts? Are some of the interest rates really high, compared to others or to the prime interest rate? If so, it might be worthwhile approaching a financial institution for a consolidating loan at a better interest rate, to end up with a single loan that will cost you less.

Next, look at your future plans and how you intend to fund them. Look at the all of the things that you will need to go into debt to achieve, and check whether they will cause good debt or bad debt. If the latter, try to find a different way to reach your goal.

And don't forget to look for opportunities. For instance, you might not have yet considered buying property, because you're scared of the debt. Now that you know this is good debt, you can take it on with more confidence, knowing that it will actually make you money.

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Successful young South Africans on the world stage

As part of celebrating Youth month, it's opportune to pause and recognise young South Africans who are making their mark on the world. While they're excellent role models for all of us, we've chosen most of them, especially for their entrepreneurial characteristics. Starting businesses is one of the most important things that we need to do in this country, both to stimulate economic growth and to create jobs.

So let's look at a few South Africans who have shown special entrepreneurial flair and achieved international success. Then as a bonus, there's an inspirational sports story.

Vinny Lingham - Gyft

Vinny Lingham worked for a few companies in Johannesburg before getting the idea of starting his own business to provide digital gift cards for corporates and other organisations. He named his company Gyft.

Gyft grew to be so successful that it made a serious impression internationally, leading to Lingham selling it to the largest credit card processing company in the USA, First Data, apparently making him a millionaire in the process.

As usual, his wasn't an overnight success. He had previously founded and run a website building company, Yola, and a search engine optimisation company, Clicks2Customers.

Khanyi Dhlomo - Ndalo Media

Khanyi Dhlomo began a career in the media industry when she was 20 years old and since then has built a media company that has seen her recognised by Forbes magazine as one of Africa's most successful women.

She was an early developer, becoming editor of True Love magazine at the age of only 22. After several successful years in this position, she spent some time overseas, working and studying. She returned to South Africa armed with an MBA and some strong ideas. She founded Ndalo Media, which now publishes the enormously successful magazines, Destiny and Destiny Man. 

Bheki Kunene - Mind Trix Media

Bheki Kunene's story can certainly serve as an inspiration for all of us, which you'll soon see when you read what he has had to overcome. All of us appreciate the trials and tribulations we will have to go through when we start a business, but Kunene has had more than his fair share of adversity.

Shortly after founding Mind Trix Media, Kunene was falsely accused of murder and had to spend a week in police custody before being released - with an apology, at least. Undeterred he continued to build his business, before another disaster struck, in the form a fast-moving car that fractured his skull.

With characteristic determination, Kunene has bounced back from this setback as well, and his company has flourished. It now deals with large corporations all over the globe, from Africa to Europe and Asia.

Gift Ngoepe - Pittsburgh Pirates

Gift's story is a true fairy tale. Born and raised in a sports clubhouse in Randburg, Johannesburg, he is now poised to enter the very highest level of baseball in the USA - the Major League, what the Americans call "The Show".

To South Africans raised on a diet of soccer, cricket, and rugby, this might not seem like a big deal, but consider this: last year over 72-million people physically attended baseball games in the US. On any given Saturday, more than 2-million people watch Major League baseball on TV.

Baseball was the sport played at his clubhouse, so Gift began playing when he was very young. He was chosen to play for South Africa at the World Championships and earned a place at an academy in Italy. Here he was noticed by a representative of the Pittsburgh Pirates, a Major League team. He signed a professional contract and has spent the last few years playing in lower leagues.

The exciting news is that Gift has now made his way close to the top and has been selected to the Major League squad. If he is selected for the team itself he will become the first black African to play Major League baseball in the USA.

Which successful young South Africans inspire you? Tell us here, or tweet us on

Thursday, 9 June 2016

It’s Youth Month – the focus is on you

There are many ways in which we celebrate Youth Month in South Africa. The government has announced plenty of events across the country, ranging from memorials to lectures to concerts. Private organisations are doing similar things.

So why is there all this attention on youth at this time of year?

Obviously, it’s all centred around Youth Day itself, on 16 June. This commemorates the 1976 Students’ Uprising, most visibly associated with the famous picture of Hector Pieterson.

So there is a good deal of gravity to the focus, and an emphasis on the freedoms that have since been won for the youth of the country, as well as on the lessons that have been learned and the values that we all want our society to be based on, now and in the future.

The importance of Youth Day

The students who risked their lives in the Students’ Uprising were protesting against being forced to receive their education in Afrikaans. Of course, this issue was just one aspect of a broader system of oppression, which is ultimately why they were marching in Soweto on that day in 1976.

The peaceful protest turned violent, resulting in death and injury, and sparking much wider and intensified action. Youth Day, by commemorating these events, reminds us of the price that a previous generation of people our age – and even younger – paid for the freedoms we enjoy today.

How can we mark Youth Month?

Probably the most important thing we can do to mark Youth Month is to remember the events of 1976 and acknowledge the brave and principled stand that the youth took.

We should also learn lessons from them – for instance, that although we have rights, we should not take them for granted; they were hard-earned.

It doesn’t have to be all about sombre reflection, though. We should also celebrate our freedom – and the mere fact that we are young. It is, after all, a time of our lives brimming with potential, when the world lies open before us. So we should enjoy ourselves during Youth Month – attending concerts and participating in other social events.

Youth Month celebration ideas

If you’re wanting to mark Youth Day or do something to participate in Youth Month this year, we’ve collected some ideas for you.

Those of you in Cape Town can take part in the Miles For Smiles Beach Walk on 16 June, organised by Operation Smile.

Music lovers can head for the Silver Mountain Music Festival, which runs from 16 to 19 June in the Langeberg Mountains.

At the Linder Auditorium in Johannesburg, there will be a full programme of classical music for those so inclined.

For those wanting a more immediate experience, the Metro Walk in Soweto allows participants to retrace the steps of the youth on that fateful day in 1976.

What are your ideas for commemorating or celebrating Youth Month? Tell us here, or tweet us on

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Africa Vision 2063 – where will we be?

Africa 2063. You might not think that a vision so far into the future applies to you. After all, if you’re a student or young professional, you’ll be in your mid-sixties by then, ready to retire. Which means that we belong to the building generation. The ones who will spend our lives making this vision for Africa a reality for those who come after us.

Let’s ask ourselves then, when we get to 2063 and look back, what are the things we will want to have achieved?


Sustainability isn’t only important from the point of view of preserving our planet and its environment. It’s also a crucial part of any development plans that we make for our own continent. With so many African economies either in early stages of economic development or extremely vulnerable to cost increases, it’s important that the products, processes and models we adopt can be sustained. In other words, that we can afford them in the long-term.

Of course, we also need to start managing natural resources more carefully, and developing alternative sources of energy, if we are to leave a world that offers next generations a lifestyle that is at least comparable to ours – ideally better. On a continent so blessed with daylight hours and other alternative energy production methods, we should hope to be world leaders in sustainability by 2063.

Strong identity, values and ethics

A common culture is one of the things that most strongly binds people together in large communities. If we think of some of the most successful countries in the world we find that a distinguishing feature is that they all have relatively homogenous cultural values. They have a shared culture that the vast majority of people are part of.

One of the big challenges we need to overcome in Africa is the tendency for cultural differences to be divisive. We only need to think of the many civil wars that occur to realise this. This places an exceptionally strong onus on us to work together towards a continent where we celebrate the vast majority of things that we share, rather than allowing our differences to divide us.

Unlocking the potential of women

It’s an unfortunate historical truth that centuries of patriarchy have shaped the world in ways that pose unique challenges for women to overcome. As the world thankfully becomes more egalitarian in gender terms, Africa has its own challenges to overcome, including removing the restrictions that women still face, both regulatory and psychologically.

There are many women’s’ organisations and initiatives that are vitally committed to ensuring that gender inequality disappears from all strata of African society, from the most basic level of healthcare to the highest offices of the land. These organisations are having an increasingly powerful impact on our societies, which bodes well for a future where African men and women live on equal terms.

Good governance and the rule of law

This is an area that Africa needs to focus on if it is to become a place that its inhabitants can really call a mother. The days of corrupt governments diverting resources that people really need must come to an end.

There are encouraging signs that a new generation of leadership is taking this very seriously. The so-called “Millennials” have a well-developed sense of social consciousness and, as they come to dominate the worlds of business and politics, they will hopefully transform these in ways that will serve the people of the continent more fruitfully.

What kind of Africa would you like to leave for your children one day? Tell us here, or tweet us on

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Invest in our African future

The word “investment” generally makes us think of financial interventions and opportunities. So when we are encouraged to invest in our continent we may wonder what we have to offer, if not money.

If we think about it for a while we realise that investment can mean anything that we put in towards building up the continent on which we live: economically, socially and ethically.

So let’s put our heads together to come up with different ways in which we can invest in #YourEduloanFuture, and in the future of Africa.

Buy African

One of the best ways to make a financial investment in our country’s economy, and by extension, the economy of the continent, is to support local businesses.

It’s really easy to do as well – it’s simply about choosing products that have been produced locally when you do your shopping. Of course, some of our favourite products and brands come from overseas, but with just a little shopping around it’s usually pretty easy to find locally manufactured alternatives, which often offer better value for money and are of equal quality.

Educate yourself

There is no better investment than education. It’s an investment in the most important asset of all: human capital. It’s a pretty straightforward equation too – more and better education produces people who are more skilled, who have more knowledge, and who are better equipped for the world of work and other endeavours that benefit the economy.

An educated continent is a healthy continent, filled with people who have the skills, abilities and knowledge to make valuable contributions in whatever careers they pursue.

Teach others

Education and learning are lifelong activities. We never stop growing, never stop accumulating knowledge. One of the best ways of acquiring knowledge is to learn directly from other people.

Educating each other by passing on the skills and knowledge we have gained is a very important way in which we can invest in our continent, through the people who live in it. If we look around we’re sure to find plenty of opportunities to do so. We can teach junior colleagues the deeper details of our jobs or professions. We can share information we’ve gained from reading or from television documentaries. We can join online discussion forums; there a plenty of ways to spread knowledge and information.

Look after what we have

Africa is a continent with an ancient history. Tradition plays an important role in our cultures, and we often look to our forefathers for guidance, wisdom and knowledge.

In the same way, we need to look after what we currently have: our cultures and their symbols, our heritage, our way of life and our shared values. This can range from preserving historical buildings and artefacts for the benefit of future generations, to making sure that we pay our taxes on time so that money is available to fund the many initiatives that preserve and further our cultural values. 

Environmental awareness

Possibly the biggest challenge facing our continent at the moment is the threat of environmental destruction. We’re constantly being reminded of the damage we’re doing to the earth and its atmosphere with what we consume and dispose of – with our cars, technology and need for sources of power to keep everything up and running.

Africa is particularly susceptible to the effects of environmental change: the continent is already very vulnerable to catastrophic events like drought and famine. This means that we need to be extra careful to live in ways that are as kind as possible to the environment. A little reading up online will give you plenty of ideas for how to do this.

Any investment is a good investment

There are plenty of other ways to invest in your future and in a bright African future for all of us who live here, and our children to come. It doesn’t really matter how you choose to do it – as long as we are all making an effort.

I’m sure you have your own suggestions on how each of us can invest in Africa through how we live our lives. Give us your ideas here, or tweet us on

Thursday, 19 May 2016

A continent of opportunity: what it means to be African

It's Africa Month – a time to highlight the opportunities that lie on our continent. It's also a time to celebrate everything that makes us who we are. In fact, it's also a good time to evaluate what it means to be African. And the best way to do this is to find out from our fellow Africans. How do our fellow Africans see themselves?

If we talk to the people around us about what it means to be African, you'll usually end up with clusters of similar answers. Each person has his or her own individual idea of their African identity, and they express these in a bewildering variety of ways. However, they all tend to agree on a few broad characteristics.

The most common feelings that people have about being African relate to a deep sense of opportunity. The types of opportunities that people see vary from one person to the next, but the common thread is that they all feel privileged or empowered by the opportunities they see around them.

A continent of opportunity

They describe a sense of having the opportunity to create their own identities, to pursue their own goals in life and to shape their lives in their own ways. They feel free to express themselves as fully as they can – to self-actualise. They experience this as a special feeling, and the more sober-minded among them will usually say that they feel it is a privilege.

Their sense of opportunity extends beyond their personal lives; something that is especially true among the so-called millennials, who have a well-developed sense of social responsibility. They see the opportunity to shape the destinies of their countries and of the continent as a whole. They also appear to have a deep understanding of the opportunities they have to influence future generations in ways that are more beneficial to human relations, relations between countries, our relationship with animals and our sustainable coexistence in the environment.

A pan-African vision

The traditional, even ancient, pan-African vision is that African people, whether on the continent or overseas, have a common history and share a common destiny.

Fortunately one generally finds that this is mirrored in the attitudes of people in the street. They are strongly disposed towards the idea that cultural diversity is a central aspect of life in Africa. We all know this is true – we only have to look around us every day as we interact with our fellow countrymen here in South Africa.

There is also a deep sense of tolerance. Africa has seen more than its fair share of war, genocide, poverty and other miseries, but its people remain unbreakably tolerant, not only of others, but of the very hardships of life. It is this endurance that can be seen in everything from the woman who walks 5 miles before dawn to fetch water, to world champion Ethiopian long-distance athletes.

Along with this is a flexibility that permeates all aspects of society. As a continent almost entirely made up of developing countries, there is vast flexibility to still shape the places where we live, the values we share and the ways in which we interact.

Hope founded on ancient foundations

Being African is also characterised by a feeling of connectedness to powerful, almost primordial, forces. This is expressed in many different ways, from music to art and fashion, from our spiritual rituals to character traits like humility, empathy and respect.

One of the ways in which this connectedness is most strongly felt is in the way Africans describe themselves as embodying the struggle of their ancestors – how this is etched into their souls. They are naturally aware of the long journeys that previous generations undertook to reach the point where we now are.

It is this foundation of resilience and of overcoming through struggle that has produced an African outlook of hope, at an personal level, and applied to broader society and the continent as a whole.

Let's start a conversation. Tell me what you feel makes you African - right here or connect with me on

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Africa 2016: our time is now

The world is getting more excited about Africa. Dozens of countries are making meaningful investments in the continent, in everything from infrastructure and telecommunications to mining and manufacturing. We only have to look at the sheer size and number of projects currently underwritten by China to get a fair idea of how the world is becoming increasingly enamoured of Africa as development arena.1

But the excitement really ought to start with us – the ones who actually live here. We experience and understand the potential of this place we call home.

This is one of the main principles of the African Union's African Agenda 2063. It adopts a pan-African vision of "an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the global arena".2

In other words, it's up to us.

Why is Africa the new land of opportunity?

To answer this one could simply observe that the International Monetary Fund has predicted that 11 of the top 20 fastest growing economies in 2017 will be African. The oppportunities that this growth is and will continue creating are myriad and widespread.

We can dig deeper, however.

We can look at the underlying reasons for this rapid growth. Of course there have been surges in commodity prices – something which always benefits African countries. This is something well beyond our control, though; instead we need to focus on deliberate approaches and actions that have been successful.

Primary here are governmental initiatives to provide more friendly investment environments. These have mainly targeted corruption and armed conflict. In tandem with these have come regulatory reforms to make investment and the doing of business easier.

Countries have also begun placing a more pressing emphasis on the nurturing and development of what could be called "home-grown talent". This of course means improving the knowledge and skills of local populations, which has had a stimulating effect on the workplace.

Education unlocks the necessary potential

Knowledge is at the heart of everything. It underpins and informs our mindsets, our approach to life and the actions we take. Knowledge breeds understanding, which is the key to both creating and recognising opportunity. The more you understand, the more you can achieve.

Of course the obvious way to impart this knowledge is through formal education. Much of Africa has long had effective education systems, but a more recent development has been the emergence of many more tertiary institutions, offering everything from university degrees to short courses designed to impart specific skill sets pertinent to particular career and workplace requirements.

Allied to this has been an expansion of the concept of education - from something that stops at a certain age or point in our lives, to a lifelong journey of ongoing knowledge acquisition, career advancement and personal development.

Access to education is crucial

Given the pivotal role that education plays, continued economic growth and development depend on providing access to education for as many people as possible. This is one resource that never becomes exhausted, no matter how much it is exploited, so to speak. Any meaningful investment in education always brings a guaranteed return in human development terms, which in turn drives positive societal evolution.

It becomes clear then that in developing countries like ours, a carefully planned and committed effort must go into ensuring that those who want to study can do so, at any point in their lives. This is the duty we have as education finance providers.

Let's start a conversation. Let me know what you think here or connect with me on

1. World Bank: %20Africa%20Forum/2015/investing-in-africa-forum-china-and-africa.pdf
2. Agenda 2063:

Thursday, 14 April 2016

Eduloan Graduate Internship Programme

There is no shortage of challenges facing recent graduates in South Africa, due to prevailing socioeconomic conditions. Our country is going through a difficult phase in its development, with particular problems that we need to solve in order to move through this and build a successful economy and society.

The twin enemies – poverty and unemployment

Two of the most pressing concerns for the country as a whole are poverty and unemployment.

Statistics SA published a report in 2014, showing that around 20% of our population lives in extreme poverty, with 45% living in moderate poverty. That’s almost half the people in the country, so it’s very clear to see how hugely important it is to address this issue. Allied to this is the unemployment rate, which is currently at around 25%.

In order to sustain a healthy economy it is imperative that we maintain a certain growth rate, which is dependent on people having jobs and gross domestic product, both of which are severely hampered by unemployment. At the moment our growth rate is below what it should be, making it even more important for us to solve these twin problems.

In short, it is critical that we concentrate all our efforts on alleviating poverty, making people more employable and creating more job opportunities.

Of course the key to everything is education – which is where Eduloan comes in.

The big challenges for graduates

Graduates are particularly vulnerable to unemployment - the unemployment rate among young people reaches as high as 51%. This is not good news for graduates, who are hard hit by the lack of job opportunities when they leave university or college. They also find themselves in a situation where they only have the skills and knowledge they gained while studying – they don’t have the additional skills that are required in the workplace.

The other big stumbling block that graduates face is the fact that companies prefer to employ people with experience. A graduate obviously has no experience, so it becomes a catch-22 situation: graduates need experience to get jobs, but they can only get experience by finding jobs in the first place.

Shining a light of hope and opportunity

Through working so closely with students, we have come to realise that we can help with the situation that graduates face. One of the best ways for them to overcome their challenges is through graduate assistance programmes that help them to acquire the additional skills that they need in the job market.

For this reason we participate in graduate recruitment programmes where we take in tertiary graduates for an internship that lasts for a period of 3 to 12 months. We place particular emphasis on reaching disadvantaged individuals and communities.

Over the past 3 years, we have recruited and trained an average of 10 graduates annually, through SETA-funded learnership programmes.

The aim is twofold: to expose graduates to a range of options for pursuing their career paths, and to give them work experience that is also enjoyable. In this way we help to nurture their talent.

Our ultimate hope is that by helping to make more people employable, we will be able to play our role in curbing unemployment and alleviating poverty in our country.

How the programme works

Every year Eduloan, in partnership with BankSETA, opens its doors to selected unemployed graduates, who are offered a year-long certification in a predetermined course, while gaining work experience and receiving a monthly stipend. These learners are hand-picked from hundreds of applications – based on values alignment, and their commitment, energy and zeal.

We first take the successful graduates through an onboarding process to acclimatise them to the workplace. On their first day of their internship with a company we hold an ice-breaking breakfast. Here the graduate programme manager gives them a snapshot view of the organisation’s history, and its current situation and direction. The interns then take part in a scavenger hunt, designed to help them get to know the office, the people in it and what they do.

From then on they are mentored and guided into the work environment, learning skills and gaining experience as they progress through the programme. The big emphasis is on the transfer of skills and expertise.

The programme is monitored and quality assured. Each year we reflect on it and re-engineer it for optimum effectiveness for all stakeholders.

What is expected of interns on the programme

Once a graduate is accepted and embarks on an internship, there are certain responsibilities that they need to meet:

Perform work for the employer that is relevant to the specific qualification.

Be available for and participate in all learning and work experience required by the programme.

Comply with all workplace policies and procedures.

Complete any timesheets or written assessment tools supplied by the employer to record relevant workplace experience.

Attend all study periods and theoretical learning sessions with the training provider and undertake all learning conscientiously.

Programme success

We’ve achieved a number of successes with our internship programme.

Most fundamentally, we have levelled the playing field by introducing high-potential individuals who thus far have had limited cultural exposure to the unwritten norms and expectations of the corporate or professional market. These are soft skills that usually form a critical barrier for people trying to secure and retain employment.

Our interns have achieved a more than 90% competence rate on the learnership courses, with an average of 60% finding employment after completing the programme.

Learner supervision develops leadership, while the employer receives a cost-effective workforce with regard to entry level functions and positions. It also allows for more cost-effective strategic project implementation.

As a result, this programme enables us to further unlock potential in the youth, while making a significant contribution towards the national job creation effort.

Let’s start a conversation. Let me know what you think here or connect with me on

Thursday, 7 April 2016

How to budget your first income

It’s a big moment when you get your first salary in your first job. Finally earning your own money conjures images of freedom and being able to splash out on all kinds of goodies.

As exciting as it may be, you need to apply some discipline. It’s far wiser to use the first money you make to start setting yourself up for financial security and independence later in life.

Putting the first money you earn to good use can give you a great start in life. So how should you budget your first income?

Monitor your living expenses

You need to get a clear view of your immediate living expenses, because you should obviously take care of these first. The thing is that it’s so easy to overlook small expenses, which means that you don’t really know how much it costs you to live each month.

By itemising each thing that you have to pay for every month, you get a clear picture of your financial situation, and can budget more accurately. You will know exactly how much you need to spend each month to sustain the basics of your life (like rent, car payments and so on). You will then also know exactly how much money you have left over each month.

Start paying off debt first

One of the most important principles of personal financial management is to pay off debt at soon as you can. For a simple reason – debt is expensive: it continues to cost you more and more money. Interest charges mean that you end up paying more for whatever you have received, so it’s really important to minimise these additional charges. The best way to do this is to pay off your debt as soon as you can. This is also one of the first major steps towards financial security.

Set up an emergency fund

Life happens – and you can never know what direction it will take, so it’s best to be prepared for any additional urgent financial situation. Put aside some of your income each month in order to build up this emergency fund. That way if something goes wrong (like your laptop breaking down), you’ll have the money to sort out the problem.

Begin investing in your future

The earlier you start putting away money for your future, the more you will have later. Conventionally speaking, you have a limited number of working years, so you need to make sure that the money you make during these years works as hard as possible for you. You also want to prepare for the years when you won’t be able – or won’t want - to work anymore.

One of the best ways of doing this is to take out a few retirement annuities. You can have as many as you want, so as you start earning more and more, invest in additional RAs. This will stand you in good stead later in life.

The 50/20/30 principle

Many financial advisers recommend using this method to budget and manage your money. It’s a simple model, using just three financial areas that you must look after.

The first 50% should be allocated to fixed living expenses, like rent, car payments, gym memberships and so forth. Ideally you should always try to keep these costs down to no more than 50% of what you earn.

The second 20% is allocated to your future financial goals – whether that is to have a hefty retirement fund, or to save money to start your own business later on. It includes anything that protects your financial future, like retirement annuities and insurance policies. This is also where you allocate your debt repayment. The idea being that you shouldn’t spend more than 20% of your monthly salary in these areas.

The last 30% is your liquid cash – your spending power. This flexible money is what you use for eating out, entertainment, and hobbies and interests. The important thing here is to make sure that you never spend more than 30% of your salary on these things.

Don’t forget to reward yourself

Let’s face it – managing your money is hard work. It’s especially difficult if you aren’t yet earning much money. No matter what you earn, however, following the advice we’ve given above will help you to be more financially stable. It just takes discipline.

At the same time, there’s nothing wrong with giving yourself occasional treats as a reward for being so responsible with your money. So don’t forget that while financial responsibility is a serious matter, you also need to make sure that you enjoy your life. It’s fine to spoil yourself once in a while.

Let’s start a conversation. Let me know what you think here or connect with me on EduloanSA