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How South Africa Vice President Cyril Ramaphosa obtained his billion dollar wealth

Cyril Ramaphosa was selected by the ANC to become a major beneficiary in empowerment deals. He was one of a few. These deals where aimed at creating wealth outside of the ANC formal structures. The reason was to firstly entrust selected individuals to gain access to not only substantial wealth but also to ensure that such beneficiaries would donate substantial moneys to the ANC .

The ANC aimed to fund it self via selected and well positioned cardes placed within the private sector.
This was done firstly to create a funding loophole which could not be done within the ANC as the capitals raised were from within its own alliance. Secondly it ensured that the ANC would not need to rely on other companies to raise funds which could have become a risk if the private sector colluded against the ANC. Thirdly it would provide a mechanism for broad based ownership on the JSE and link private sector companies to the ANC
For this reason Ramaphosa resigned in 1996 as Secretary General of the ANC .  At the time it was stated that he fell out of relations with Nelson Mandela for not being recognised as the successor when Thabo Mbeki. This was a smoke screen as you will see below
This is how it all went down
In 1996 Ramaphosa took position as Deputy Executive Chairman of New Africa Investments Limited (“Nail”) and resigned from the ANC.  NAIL invested R7 million to start up an investment banking company called Pleiade Investment Corporation.  Pleiade was in fact a vessel used to raise capital but “publicly it was a financial advisor” and “brokered” an investment deal between SBC communications and MTN. SBC communication simultaneously entered into a joint venture investing R25m into Pleiade Investment corporation which was renamed AMB Capital.
In 1996 AMB capital acted as “advisory” to a R2.7 billion broad based empowerment deal in which the National Empowerment Corporation/Consortium (NEC) took a control in Johnnic Holdings Limited. Not only did AMB capital act as advisory but it also raised capital to the value of R2.1 billion for certain members of the National Empowerment Consortium to acquire a controlling stake in Johnnic Holdings Limited (Mutlichoice, Mnet, Hotels and Casinos).
The members of NEC mostly came from the labour unions, its pension funds and is also where most of the capital were raised (Full funding details was never made public). The R2.1 billion was mostly raised out of Labour Unions pension funds. As part of this acquisition, AMB Capital “put forward” Ramaphosa for the position of Chairman to Johnnic holdings. Considering Ramaphosa’s history with labour unions it can been seen why he was needed within the deal structure.
They were using Labour Union member pension funds in equity deals. Within 1996 (Same year Ramaphosa resigned from the ANC and AMB Capital was created) AMB Capital raised a further R1.3 billion for Ikageng Share scheme, AMB Southern African Investment fund and AMB Holdings (Parent company of AMB capital).
Various deals took place with various investment companies being created and by the end of 1997 the above broad based deals took a stake of 10% of the total listed JSE shares. When considering and acknowledge the Afrikaner took close to 20 years to achieve the same level of ownership on the JSE.
Most of the broad-based deals was structured as preferential shares varying between 3 -8% discount to listed share price values. It also saw many of these companies secure lucrative deals with Government.
Over the next decade all these broad-based deals saw Ramaphosa elected into various Executive and Non-Executive positions on the largest firms listed on the JSE. Thes roles Ramaphosa occupied helped favour these companies with government contracts and helped level their BEE status.
To mention a few positions:
Alexander Forbes South Africa, Black Economic Empowerment Commission, Johnnic Holdings Limited, KreditInform (Pty) Limited, Sasria SOC Limited, Vancut Diamond Works
Deputy Chairman
Rebserve Holdings Limited
Executive Chairman
Millennium Consolidated Investments (Pty) Limited, Shanduka Group
Independent Director
Independent Non-Executive Director
Non-executive Chairman
Non Executive Director
Vice Chairman
 Commonwealth Business Council
Ramaphosa acquired substantial wealth forming part of so many executive roles within JSE listed companies. He no doubt gained substantial wealth form preferential share options. I however think it would be unfair to say that Ramaphosa did not work for his wealth. He was certainly advantage based on the circumstances of the time.
Considering the turn of apartheid, questions will remain how fair and how beneficial these deals were. Questions would be asked how much money did the ANC raise for its election campaigns and many other questions will follow. Based on our countries diversity, biased opinions and factions, the answers to these questions would certainly be polarised.
I however must say that I am disappointed that 3 years into democracy black ownership on the JSE was already at a total of 10% and today ownership is questioned. Considering that almost half of the JSE share value is foreign owned it means after three years of democracy local ownership saw almost 20% in the hands of the previously disadvantaged.
Today we have stagnated and argue who owns what. What is not argued is the wealth of RSA billionaires such as Ramaphosa. It does leave a hollow feeling that this wealth has been obtained on the back of low income earners invested pension funds. Have those poor income earners pension funds gained wealth at the same rate as Ramaphosa?
That is a question only Cyril can answer.

Meet Lere Mgayiya – SA’s shoe-shine Millionaire

Lere's Shoe Shine is the largest shoe-shining business in Africa, with a turnover of over R2,5 million a year. We chat to Lere Mgayiya about how he turned a small idea into a huge success
Lere’s Shoe Shine is located in five of SA’s major airports and has become a favourite stop-off for business travellers from across the world.
Mgayiya’s first job was distributing boarding cards for South African Airways, but after five years he switched to negotiating with various farmers for his uncle’s livestock transportation business. When this didn’t work out long term, he used the network of farmers he had developed over the years to start a business supplying eggs to the South African parliament. While a great idea, he didn’t earn enough to make a decent living, so Mgayiya invested money he won on a game show into a tree planting business. He lost everything within six months.
Down and out, but not discouraged, he spotted a man shining shoes at Greenmarket Square in Cape Town and discovered he earned about R3 000 a month. This was a lightbulb moment for Mgayiya, who saw an opportunity for a viable business model.
First he had to work out where such a business would make the most profit, and he could think of no better place than the airport, through which a steady stream of people pass, 24 hours a day.
In 2002 he approached Umsobomvu Youth Fund, an organisation established to offer support to young entrepreneurs. They helped him put create a business plan, which he presented to the Cape Town International Airport to apply for a stand in the terminal. Approval was only granted a year later, in November 2003.
Mgayiya had to sell his TV, radio and fridge to raise the capital to buy two shoe-shine chairs.
“I had one guy working for me when I started, so there were two of us shining shoes and we worked 18 hours a day, six days a week,” he recalls. “In our first month we made a profit of R9 000, which we did not expect at all; we’d expected only about R4 000.”

Every day for the first two months he left home at 4am, got to the airport at 5am and would only get home at around 10pm. By the third month, he was able to buy two more chairs and employ more people.
“It was amazing, every time we increased the capacity, the customers came,” Mgayiya says.
The company was initially called Airport Shoe Shine, but the name was quickly changed.
“Because the customers were engaging with Lere, they didn’t want to support Airport Shoe Shine. They kept coming to me, telling me that Airport Shoe Shine made the business seem impersonal, when it was, in fact, the complete opposite,” Mgayiya shares.
It was amazing, every time we increased the capacity, the customers came
This exceptional personal service is part of the reason Lere’s Shoe Shine is the success it is today. ‘Lere’ becomes the customer’s friend, his personality becomes an experience and that experience keeps customers coming back.
“Every guy who works for me is also a ‘Lere’ as far as his characteristics and personality traits are concerned. He is welcoming, he is an old friend and he delivers,” says Mgayiya, adding that consistency is also vital.
“I consolidated the business and made it a brand, so the guys in Johannesburg do exactly what the guys in Cape Town do. That makes them a corporation and it makes the business more professional. Our guys are not just shoe shiners, they are sales people,” he explains.
The business is formalised, focused and well branded, and proper training is given to new staff. This is what has set Lere’s Shoe Shine apart from the rest.
“The guys earn by commission, meaning that they eat what they kill. This makes them want to grow their customer base and build relationships with specific customers. To do this, they deliver an above-average service, which positively contributes to the business’ brand,” says Mgayiya.
He is passionate about the development of others in his community.
“It is gratifying to be fulfilling my purpose, while at the same time uplifting other people. It’s amazing that I can make money while also making change.
“Our business is about trust and integrity, and in order for my employees to show that to the customers, they must first see it in me. It flows from me, to them, and it translates positively with the customers,” Mgayiya concludes.

Book: African Millionaires and How they Made their Wealth

African Millionaires and How they Made their Wealth: Stories of Successful African Business People and their Ventures that will Inspire, Encourage, and Motivate You

Godfrey Madanhire Dreamworld Promotions Zimbabwe South Africa

American comedian Demetri Martin once defined a life coach as “a really expensive friend with limited credentials”. That was almost a decade ago, and coaches are still the butt of many jokes today. Yet the industry has continued to grow massively, defying the eye rolls to make millionaires out of many people, including Godfrey Madanhire, the founder of South African company, Dreamworld Promotions.
Godfrey Madanhire
Godfrey Madanhire
Headquartered in Cape Town, Dreamworld Promotions sells motivational audio discs (written and presented by Madanhire) which are distributed to subscribers monthly. The company also holds events and workshops through which Madanhire provides inspiration to both individuals and major corporates.
Madanhire, who runs the award-winning company, says he is increasingly landing lucrative speaking opportunities. To drum up more gigs, Dreamworld recently established a dedicated sales division. From humble beginnings, the company now rakes in about R10m annually (about $830,000) and employs 50 permanent staff and 150 others.
Born in Zimbabwe, Madanhire was 26 when he arrived in Johannesburg, South Africa in 2000 to seek a better life for himself and his dependents back home. Back then he believed he could find greater fortunes in South Africa than his teaching job could ever offer.
In a recent conversation with How we made it in Africa, Madanhire talked about his journey so far.
Tell us about your first job when you arrived in South Africa.
I struggled to find work but didn’t give up because I was determined to keep the promises I’d made to my mother. I found a position with Premier Growth Group selling short-term insurance. Direct sales wasn’t my dream job, but I persevered and became successful. And it paid off – a few years later I was sent to open a new office in Cape Town. By 2006 I was managing 11 branches. I had achieved well beyond my wildest dreams and it was exciting.
What made you decide to become a life coach and motivational speaker?
I enjoyed motivating and sharing my experiences with my team and it was rewarding to see positive outcomes. It occurred to me that kind of reward does not come from being a branch manager, or even from your bank account. I needed to commit to an activity that would help me to transform lives, so in 2006 established my own company.
Looking back, were there signs this is the path you would follow?
Steve Jobs once said something very interesting – that we can only join the dots backwards. My life, when I look back, makes perfect sense now even though then it seemed like a puzzle that’s not connected at all. My work as a teacher and in insurance sales involved teaching, working with different people, advising and helping them achieve a different world view. When I was just 10 and growing up in a broken home, I stayed up many nights conjuring comforting and wise words to tell my mother in the morning.
What does a life coach really do?
Generally, we advise people on life. We aim to train clients to reach goals instead of just dreaming about them, and those objectives can include working in a family or business set-up – for example to get employees to buy into a founder’s vision or even motivating for better performance. To be a good coach and motivational speaker, you need a story to tell, to speak with passion and credibility, and to make personal connections. I think I have an exciting story to tell – a story of a person who started with nothing and created a profitable enterprise.
How big is the industry in South Africa? Do you see growth prospects for your company?
Life coaching is big business due to the pressures facing businesses in these hard economic times, and the myriad problems in our society. More business executives are increasingly looking for sources of honest feedback, and spaces where they can be challenged on their thinking and approach.
The speaking industry is lagging behind, compared with countries like the US and UK. More work is needed to bring more organisations on board.
We see exciting opportunities for our company going forward. We have already through commission-based agents made inroads in Namibia, Swaziland and Lesotho. In the short-term we plan to continue expanding in South Africa and to enter more Southern African countries and Kenya. We just need to establish a suitable and cost-effective mode of entry.
What can you share with aspiring entrepreneurs?
The most important thing is to find a business idea you are passionate about. Be an expert in your field. I have seen many small businesses fail because they didn’t have a firm grasp of their trade. Learn how to work and deal with other people, whether it’s your employees or customers. I believe dreams come true, but of course one has to work hard. One big challenge for businesses is staff retention, and I can testify to this. You’ve got to find creative ways of keeping employees. For example, at Dreamworld we help the employees to understand our vision – that it is not just about sales, but making a difference in people’s lives.
Your thoughts on xenophobia in South Africa and businesses that have been ruined due to the attacks?
Our society is in turmoil. Life coaches should be out there talking to people, reminding them of the concept of humanity. I can imagine the hopelessness felt by people who worked extremely hard to establish their businesses, only to wake up one day and it’s all gone. And just because someone feels that you were born in the wrong place. It’s not a trend we expected to see, and it doesn’t augur well for the country and the business climate. We need to start instilling the culture of humanity in young people. A good start is the classroom. Additionally, responsible and accountable leadership is important.
Looking across borders, insecurity is a concerning issue. I think people are taking out their anger and frustration on innocent people, and in terrible ways. We need to cultivate a culture of dialogue, to start believing in the power of conversation. And governments need to start taking people more seriously, addressing grievances rather than waiting for protests.

Ghanaian millionaire Patrick Awuah quits Microsoft to build university that Educates young Africans

VENTURES AFRICA – In a time where Africans still queue up at the embassies of foreign countries, with the hope of being granted visas into countries with ‘better living conditions’, a rare few like Patrick Awuah are sacrificing a life abroad to make a difference at home.
In 2001, after living in America for almost two decades, Patrick Awuah returned to Ghana, leaving his job at Microsoft, where he earned millions as program manager to set up Ashesi University in Accra, to educate young Africans. “If the current leadership core was educated a certain way, if they were problem solvers, if they had deep compassion for society, we would be in a different place,” he thought. Hence, Ashesi University is known for its innovative curriculum, high tech facilities, and strong emphasis on leadership. The University stirs a new path in African education.
In his TED Global talk in 2007, Patrick Awuah explains his call to educate Africa’s future leaders, and why he believes this is very important.
At the age of 16 in Ghana, Patrick Awuah had his first memorable experience of leadership. At the airport to meet his father, he is stopped by two soldiers wielding AK-47 assault weapons. “They asked me to join a crowd of people that were running up and down this embankment. Why? Because the path I had taken was considered out of bounds. No sign to this effect,” he noted.
Typical of teenagers, Patrick was quite concerned of what his peers, especially girls, would think if they saw him running up and down the hill. So he argued with soldiers. Luckily for him, a pilot falls into the same predicament. The soldiers addressed him differently because he wore a uniform; they explained that they were only following orders. The pilot takes their radio, talks to their boss, and gets everyone released. Patrick learnt several things from that experience. “Leadership matters – those men are following the orders of a superior officer. I learned something about courage – it was important not to look at those guns.”
A few years after that event, Patrick left Ghana to attend Swarthmore College in the United States. “The faculty there didn’t want us to memorise information and repeat back to them as I was used to back in Ghana. They wanted us to think critically. They wanted us to be analytical. They wanted us to be concerned about social issues.” At Swarthmore, Patrick got high marks for his understanding of basic economics in his economic classes, but the deeper lesson was that, the leaders, the managers of Ghana’s economy were making really bad decisions, some of which had fuelled the near-collapse of the country’s economy. “And so here was this lesson again – leadership matters. It matters a great deal,” he explained.
In spite of Patrick’s Epiphany at Swarthmore, it wasn’t until he started working at Microsoft Corporation that he realised it. “I was part of this team, this thinking, learning team whose job it was to design and implement new software that created value in the world…. And I realised just what had happened to me at Swarthmore … The ability to confront problem, complex problems, and to design solutions to those problems. The ability to create is the most empowering thing that can happen to an individual.”
At Microsoft, Patrick became a parent. The thought of his children’s perception of Africa in comparison to the rest of the world instigated a desire to return home and change the overwhelming narrative that portrayed the dark continent. He was determined to contribute his quota towards the continents development.
On his return 14 years ago, he found out that for every problem three things kept coming up; corruption, weak institutions, and the people who run them – the leaders. Patrick asked two very important questions: where are these leaders coming from? What is it about Ghana that produces leaders that are unethical or unable to solve problems?
In search of answers, he scanned the country’s educational system and realised that nothing had changed during his time away. “It was the same learning by rote, from primary school through graduate school. Very little emphasis on ethics … and the typical graduate from a university in Ghana has a stronger sense of entitlement than a sense of responsibility. This is wrong.” Patrick’s resolve to address this problem resulted in the conception and birth of Ashesi University, an institution launched to develop young African leaders. “Every society must be very intentional about educating its leaders … so this is what I’m doing now. I’m trying to bring the experience I had at Swarthmore to Africa. What Ashesi University is trying to do, is to train a new generation of ethical, entrepreneurial leaders. We’re trying to train leaders of exceptional integrity, who have the ability to confront the complex problems, ask the right questions, and come up with workable solutions.”
Ashesi started with 30 students in 2002 in a rented building. Today the university campus is set on a 100 acre land near Aburi, an hour’s drive from Ghana’s capital, Accra, with over 500 students. The academic curriculum is a blend of Liberal arts and Sciences. “we’re going to educate computer science students who’ve also done philosophy, and leadership, and ethics … we’re going to educate business majors who’ve studied literature and have also done computer programming because we think that broad perspectives are important,” a bullish Patrick told the audience at the TEDEx talk.
The university has an Honour Code, where the students pledge to be honest and to hold each other accountable. The students of Ashesi University take ownership of their ethical posture on campus. “This is a huge break from the norm in most African universities, where corrupt practices run free,”Patrick says. “While the Honour Code may constitute a reach for a perfect society, which is unachievable, we cannot achieve perfection, but if we reach for it, we can achieve excellence.”
If more exceptionally minded and critical thinking individuals like Patrick Awuah would rise to the occasion of transforming Africa, the continent will make great strides in ridding itself off corruption, weak institutions, and most importantly unethical and inefficient leaders.

Dick Enthoven Billionaire Founder of Nandos

As one who queued in the original Nando’s in Rosettenville for many a Sunday evening meal, I’ve been a close observer of the rise and rise of the spicy chicken empire. As you would. The management have changed from the original Nandocas led by ever ebullient Robbie Brozin, but that hasn’t stopped the brand expanding into one one now recognised from Wimbledon to Bondi Beach. Brozin spends most of his time on philanthropic causes. Replaced by the sons of his original backer, Dick Enthoven, who is reputed to have made more than R5bn on that investment. In this fascinating insight into the family behind Nando’s, Bloomberg lifts the veil ever so slightly on one of South Africa’s most successful and most reclusive entrepreneurs. – AH  
Photo credit: h0lydevil / Foter / CC BY 
Nando’s Afro-Portuguese-themed, quick-service restaurants are known for their signature peri-peri chili marinated chicken. A half bird sells for seven pounds ($10.27) in London and 57.90 rand ($4.70) in Cape Town. Photo credit: h0lydevil / Foter / CC BY
By Devon Pendleton
(Bloomberg) — It’s lunchtime in Cape Town, and a stream of customers are lining up at the Nando’s restaurant on Long Street. A cashier, Zimktha Loza, tries to take phone orders over the din of Portuguese-inspired music.
“I have regular customers every day,” Loza said. “I hear their voice and know what they are going to order.”
Long lines at Nando’s, which opened its first eatery in South Africa in the late 1980s, are a common sight at outlets far away from Cape Town. The fast-growing spicy-chicken chain has 1,100 locations in 22 countries, helping make its original backer, Dick Enthoven, a billionaire.
The son of an insurance magnate, Enthoven kick-started the business by giving two entrepreneurs, Robbie Brozin and Fernando “Nando” Duarte, a loan to expand their chain of chicken restaurants in the early 1990s. Today, he owns more than 320 Nando’s outlets in the U.K.
The business accounts for half of his $1.1 billion fortune, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. The rest of his net worth derives from Hollard Insurance Company Ltd., South Africa’s largest closely held insurer. He’s never appeared on an international wealth ranking.
“At its heart Nando’s is a private family business,” said a Nando’s U.K. spokeswoman who asked not to be identified, citing company policy. “The principal backers in Nando’s, shortly after its founding, are the Enthoven family who have provided private capital and significant business know-how to grow the business in South Africa and globally.”
She declined to comment on Enthoven’s net worth.
Quick Service
Nando’s Afro-Portuguese-themed, quick-service restaurants are known for their signature peri-peri chili marinated chicken. A half bird sells for seven pounds ($10.27) in London and 57.90 rand ($4.70) in Cape Town.
“Nando’s has done really well because the whole concept is based around a very simple product which everyone understands,” said Peter Backman, managing director at Horizons, a London- based food service consultancy. “They deliver this product imaginatively, with great fun and at a very good price.”
The company’s playful marketing ploys, such as a “finger selfie” campaign where people share pictures of their digits in creative situations, play especially well with youthful customers, said Backman. On Twitter, Nando’s is the most popular restaurant in the U.K., according to a study by Southampton- based consultancy eDigitalResearch, with twice as many followers as second-ranked Domino’s Pizza Inc.
One Direction
The fervor of Nando’s loyalists has spawned a fan website,, featuring reviews and statistics, such as the most populous U.K. city without a Nando’s (Stoke-on-Trent) and the first Nando’s to see the new day (a location in Suva City, Fiji). Celebrity devotees include singer Harry Styles from the band One Direction and rapper Wiz Khalifa.
The company’s parent, Nando’s Group Holdings Ltd., had revenue of 535 million pounds ($802 million) in the year ending Feb. 23, 2014. Enthoven, whose age couldn’t be confirmed, shares ownership of Nando’s international businesses, a mix of company- owned and franchised restaurants, with Duarte and Brozin, according to Nando’s spokeswoman.
The origin of the Enthoven family fortune dates back to the 1950s, when Enthoven’s father, Robert, an insurance broker and Dutch immigrant, identified the need for corporate insurance services in South Africa. Today, Johannesburg-based Hollard Insurance sells life and short-term policies on four continents. It had a book value of 5.99 billion rand ($563.1 million) as of June 2014.
Table Service
Dick Enthoven’s Oxford-educated son Adrian serves as chairman of Hollard while another son, Robby, is head of Nando’s U.K. Robby was tapped to run Nando’s in 1993, when the company had just two branches in west London, according to a 2011 profile in The Caterer magazine. He tweaked the format, switching from the South African takeout model to a combination of counter and table service.
The company opened its first U.K. location outside of London in 2000. By 2013, there were 300 Nando’s throughout the U.K. Part of the chain’s success, said Horizons’ Backman, is location. It’s hard to find a bustling street or shopping center anywhere in the country that doesn’t have a Nando’s.
“They’ve become the anchor site for new developments,” he said. “Nando’s is the must-have brand to be in there.”
While Dick Enthoven isn’t involved in Nando’s daily management, his influence is reflected in the restaurants’ decor. An art collector, he’s wallpapered the head office of Hollard with works by African artists and hired a curator to build a collection for Nando’s.
Art Collection
Altogether, the U.K. restaurants showcase 5,000 pieces of South African art, according to the company’s website, a collection ten times bigger than the one at the Tate Britain museum.
“I never buy anything with the view of selling it or to invest in it,” Enthoven said in a 2010 interview with Johannesburg-based newspaper Business Day. “I buy it because I enjoy it, because it is important to have it.”
The billionaire also helped assemble the art collection on display at Spier, his Stellenbosch wine estate. One of South Africa’s oldest wine farms, the property also has a hotel, conference center, restaurants and biodynamic farm.
Wines from the 300-year-old vineyards appear on Nando’s U.K. menu. They include a chenin-sauvignon blanc blend and merlot, both of which are said to “partner spicy foods perfectly.”

Gloria Serobe: A champion of economic freedom for women


Author: Jane Notten
Publisher: Oshun Books

This is an extract from My Success, Your Success: Top tips from South African women entrepreneurs. It is reproduced with permission.
When the lists of black South African women who have played a significant role in the empowerment and inspiration of women in this country are drawn up, Gloria Tomato Serobe is usually somewhere in the top five. Co-founder of South Africa’s first and most successful women’s investment company – WIPHOLD – Gloria might only be a little over five foot tall, but she commands a reputation that dwarfs that of many other businesswomen.
It’s a reputation that has been fuelled by a 30-year career in financial services that is as illustrious as they come. On the eve of her 50th birthday (something she intends to celebrate for all she is worth), Gloria can look back with a certain amount of satisfaction. In her working life so far she has seen action on two continents with some of the heavyweight multinationals, been the Financial Director of a top parastatal and launched and sustained a women’s investment company that is making real progress in ushering ordinary South African women into the mainstream economy. Of all her achievements this last is probably the one of which she is most proud.
Gloria is, quite simply, driven by a passion to empower her fellow women, or more precisely, to give women economic freedom in a world that she perceives is still very much dominated by men.
‘It is still difficult for women to get the same opportunities in business as men,’ says Gloria. ‘That is what often discourages women from entering business. Our role is to make the world accept that women are taking their rightful place in business. All we want is to compete on an equal footing!’
It is these sentiments that brought Gloria and three like-minded women – Wendy Luhabe, Louisa Mojela and Nomhle Canca – together in 1993, on the eve of the country’s transition into democracy, when opportunity for previously disadvantaged people was knocking.
Each an executive in her own right, the four were determined to heed the knock and open the door to opportunity. They did not want to see men waltz away with all the opportunities. They put their heads together and decided that, with their collective experience, they could launch an investment company that could take advantage of the new economic climate. Together they raised R500 000 of seed capital (in investment terms a laughably small amount) and set about the seemingly daunting prospect of launching such a company. But from the beginning they were thinking of more than just opportunity for themselves. They wanted it to be an investment company that brought wealth not only to the four founders but also to the vast numbers of South Africa’s women – black and white – who were then still excluded from the mainstream economy.
‘We all had the one dream of creating a critical mass of women in business as opposed to each one doing their own thing. We knew that if we succeeded we would be rich, but we thought it would be so much nicer if we were also surrounded by other rich women,’ says Gloria.
For this reason they decided to do an initial public offer/private placement to women only. After two years of laying the groundwork – which included touring the country to mobilise and galvanise potential women investors and building up a decent portfolio of business for them to buy into –  their dream became a reality. In 1997 the fund was launched with an Initial Public Offer to women throughout South Africa for R25 million. The response, says Gloria, was mind boggling. Eighteen thousand women took up the invitation to become part of the dream and bought shares. Some of them were individuals, others were groups of women drawn from all nine provinces in the country, urban and rural. WIPHOLD (Women Investment Portfolio Holdings Ltd) had arrived on the South African financial scene with a bang.
‘Effectively from day one we were public company,’ says Gloria. ‘WIPHOLD was the first BEE company to establish a permanent broad-based shareholding – long before the BEE rules shifted in that direction.’
This early and intuitive understanding of the need for broad-based empowerment may have something to do with the fact that each of the four founders had a very personal experience of what it means.
Gloria, for example, knows first hand what it is to rise above your circumstances. From a conventionally disempowered background – she was one of nine children born in Langa township in Cape Town – she was fortunate to be given the opportunities in life to go far. Opportunities that she grabbed with both hands.
‘I have always treated all opportunities as if they would not be there tomorrow,’ she says simply.
The first of these was the chance to learn from her parents. Both superb role models to a bright young girl, Gloria’s parents were entrepreneurs and ran shops in the community. From them she learned much about the perseverance and hard work needed to make a success of life. Then her grandfather, whom she always cites as the most important formative influence in her life, gave her something equally important and utterly priceless – self-belief.
‘Like any grandfather mine doted on his grandchildren,’ says Gloria. ‘He always celebrated our successes and downplayed our failures. He made me feel important and that I could do anything I wanted.’
Showing promise from an early age, Gloria was given the opportunity to be the first girl to study at St John’s school for Boys in the Eastern Cape (one of the few good schools for black children at the time). Of course she jumped at it. From there she went on to earn her BCom from the University of Transkei and then won a Fulbright Scholarship that took her to Rutgers University in New Jersey, where she attained an MBA. After her formal education Gloria became an accountant for Exxon and worked in the US for a few years before returning to South Africa where she worked in the accounting sphere (for Munich Reinsurance and Premier Group).  Then at age 32 she took a sudden leap from accounting into the world of investment and merchant banking taking a role with Standard Corporate & Merchant Bank (SCMB). There she learned all about corporate and project finance and mergers and acquisitions. The move was also significant because at SCMB she met one of her future business partners– Louisa Mojela.
By the time she reached WIPHOLD, Gloria was therefore already a seasoned and much-respected business woman. So much so that around the time that she participated in setting up WIPHOLD she was offered (and had to accept obviously as it was another one of those opportunities she couldn’t let pass) a job as Financial Director of Transnet. It was to be one of the most challenging, but also very rewarding, legs of her career.
While working at Transnet she continued to be involved in WIPHOLD, helping it with its rights offer to women (R76 million) in 1998 and private placements worth R 424 million in 1999 as well as assisting with listing the business on the stock exchange that same year. However, by  2001 it became clear that WIPHOLD needed more than her peripheral involvement.
After its listing, WIPHOLD ran into trouble. A natural downswing in markets from 1999 coupled with the lack of full-time involvement by its founders meant that the company was suddenly in danger of going where all the other post-apartheid women-owned investment firms had gone – down the tubes. But Gloria and her co-founders were not about to let that happen.
‘The burden of being a pioneer is that you can’t afford to fail,’ she says. ‘You find you have attracted a following and become an inspiration and a role model. You become anxious to succeed, not only for your own sake but for your followers.’
Thus, Gloria resigned from Transnet and joined WIPHOLD full-time in 2001 in a bid to get the organisation back on track. She believes that it is necessary for the founders to stay sharp and committed at the helm so that they can continue to hold the organisation to its original vision. Today, three of the four original founders still work in the business.
‘If WIPHOLD fails it won’t be because the founders are not there,’  she says.
As part of the turnaround strategy, one of the first things they did was to establish Wipcapital, as a wholly owned financial services subsidiary of WIPHOLD, which allowed them to have a more operational focus. Gloria became its CEO.
Then, in 2003, WIPHOLD bought out its minority shareholders and delisted as a R1,5-billion company, a move that Gloria says was all about taking back control.
‘We felt that with listing we could no longer control who bought shares and our ideology of being a women-owned company was being eroded,’ she says. ‘Now just over 60% of the company is again owned by women, which is the way we like it.’
After that there was no looking back. In 2005 WIPHOLD grabbed headlines when it secured stakes in the local- and London-listed insurance giant Old Mutual – as well as in subsidiaries  Nedbank and Mutual & Federal. A deal worth R7,2 billion, it was one of the biggest BEE deals in the country at the time and also the first sizeable transaction to be driven equally by women.            In the same year, WIPHOLD also concluded a significant BEE deal worth R396 million with Distell and acquired a 1,12% stake in Telkom. Most recently, WIPHOLD and Sasol Mining announced a transaction (valued at almost R1.9 billion) which has seen thousands of rural and peri-urban women participating in a BEE transaction for the first time as WIPHOLD, through a new entity called WIPCoal Investments, became the BEE partner to Sasol Mining.
Now almost 15 years old, WIPHOLD represents over 300 000 women investors and over 50% of the stock owners are black. Although it has been bigger, it employs a stable workforce of 60.
Gloria says that one of the secrets of their success has been the fact that they are an operational company and not just a portfolio holding company. ‘For the deals we do we don’t have outside advisors. We have got our own, very powerful investment banking team in house,’ she says.
She says that being able to demonstrate that they are self standing and have the technical expertise and capacity for the deal is important for their credibility, particularly as BEE deals are often subject to criticism.
‘We need to be able to demonstrate that we are not just a bunch of lucky people hanging around to collect our dividend without doing any work. Here we work for our money.
‘It’s an obsession for us. We want to be indispensable in business and the only way to do that is to be knowledgeable and to work hard at it.’
It’s an obsession that has paid off. The impressive turnaround led by Gloria and co-founder Louisa Mojela (the  CEO of WIPHOLD), that bought the company back from the brink to one of the top performing investment companies in South Africa, has earned the two of them numerous accolades. Leading South African weekly business journal the Financial Mail named Gloria among the country’s 20 most influential women in 2004 and in 2006 she and Louisa were finalists in the Ernst & Young World Entrepreneur of the Year. Gloria was also crowned the Businesswomen’s Association Businesswoman of the Year in 2006 and sits on numerous boards – including that of the JSE and the UCT Graduate School of Business.
It all sounds like a lot of hard work, but Gloria is definitely not all work and no play. In fact the ratio seems to be a little the other way around. She believes firmly that nothing can be achieved without hard work, but that it needs to be balanced out with a fair dollop of fun.
‘Our strategy sessions, for example, are about 30% intense working and 70% fun,’ she says, adding that to make sure of the fun they tend to go away somewhere special for these annual sessions. In 2008 it took place in Kenya (in time to watch the annual game migrations) and in 2007 they went to Mauritius.
She also finds time to be a mother (to two boys) and a wife (to husband Gaur Serobe) something she also believes in passionately. Despite her fervent championing of women’s rights, she describes herself as ‘not quite a feminist’ in the sense that she espouses home values.
‘I think marriage and home life play a vital role. Given the loneliness you experience in the boardroom, it is nice to know there is something at home for you,’ she says.
This of course comes at a cost. ‘There is no such thing as balancing home and career,’ she says, ‘It is not balanceable. You have to have a good support network in place.’
For Gloria, that support comes mainly from her mother-in-law, a woman who she says understands the difficulties of being a working woman herself and who is committed to the happiness of her sons. The other key to keeping both spheres of life in harmony, says Gloria, is making sure that there are no surprises for anyone.
‘You must either be in or not in. Your family must know where you are and how they can find you so they know how to support you,’ she says.
She must be doing something right because the stresses and strains don’t appear to be taking their toll. Gloria seems relaxed and ready for anything. Which is just as well because with tough economic times ahead, WIPHOLD is facing a potentially bumpy ride. But  Gloria is happy that they have done all they can to weather the storm. Firstly, their business is diversified. ‘The whole purpose of WIPHOLD now is to be strong in a few sectors and trust that they can’t all fall apart at the same time,’ she says.
Secondly, she is confident that they have the best possible team in place. Hard work and excellence have always been non-negotiables in the company and now this will count for a lot.
‘Excellence is everything here,’ says Gloria. ‘You are only going to win on the back of that. There is no substitute for super, super performance. We have a very bright team in place with enough conservatism to make sure things work.’
It is also a close-knit team, although good people come and go – WIPHOLD does not have the deep pockets necessary to keep some of their top staff from being poached by other financial services companies – there is a loyal core of people working in the business. Gloria reports that the average service for staff is 10 years.
With these fundamentals in place, Gloria is confident that WIPHOLD will continue on its march towards equity in South Africa.
‘It has always been part of WIPHOLD’s ethos to make women our business by finding ways to bring disadvantaged women into the economic mainstream,’ she said, ‘and we think that we are achieving that.’
Indeed, many of the women that bought into WIPHOLD right at the beginning remain shareholders today and have seen their investment grow exponentially over the years. Somehow, it seems likely that with Gloria and Louisa at the helm, they won’t have seen the end of that growth yet.
‘There are short cuts,’ she says. ‘We will never be billionaires because there are so many of us, but we will never be miserable either!’


1. Don’t be afraid to try.
2. Believe in yourself. Without being arrogant it is necessary to believe that you can do it no matter what.  This belief will always have to come from somewhere, in my case, I always talk about my grandfather who was so eager for our success that we grew up thinking we could do anything.
3. Treat every opportunity like it won’t be there tomorrow. Every opportunity I have had in my life I have grabbed with both hands.
4. Have fun. It’s a big part of business, you cannot carry your sadness into your workplace and hope to make it. Celebrate every little achievement – there is nothing wrong with Champaigne really! Find the opportunity to pick out the most positive and best things about your colleagues and celebrate those. It is also important because the younger people in an organisation will look to you the leader for motivation and will need to see the light heartedness in you.
5. Let people know where you stand. Your principles have to be clear at all times.  That’s the only way people get comfortable  working with you. You may lose  business as a result of taking a principled stand, but then it was probably not worth having in the first place.
6. Acknowledge the people who support and mentor you and hang onto them – especially the men. I have only been mentored by men all my life. I have never had the opportunity to be mentored by a woman in my 30-year working career. One of the enablers of my success has always been the fact that the ruling party in general and President Thabo Mbeki in particular has a strong, well-articulated policy on women empowerment. The president has gone out of his way to empower women during his presidency and I honour that.
7. Learn how to be tough! It’s not easy out there and you will be on your own.
8. Look out for and encourage other women – without scaring them you have got to make them believe that they can do it too.
9. Open yourself to criticism, as that is how you will learn.

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