Anna Mokgokong : South African Millionaire -The Classic Rags to Riches story

From selling sandwiches to belts and curios - Anna Mokgokong has done it all, against all odds. From humble beginnings, Mokgokong today heads a successful multibillion-rand black investment company in Community Investment Holdings (CIH).

Her business success reads like most entrepreneurs' legends - from rags to riches, to rags again before more riches.

Mokgokong fell in love with business when she sold sandwiches during her primary school years. At the Medical University of SA in the 1980s, she subsequently sold belts and handbags to students while she studied for a medical degree.

Her first real venture into the formal business world was through the Hebron Medical Centre in the now North West province.

The medical centre, with her medical training, further intensified her love for the health-care sector - an industry she continues to invest in with CIH.

Mokgokong, and her business partners, established Malesela Investment Holdings (later to be renamed CIH) just after 1994 to take advantage of the investment opportunities that were expected to unfold with the advent of democracy. Today, CIH's turnover exceeds R1,5bn/year - an intimidating figure if one compares it with income from sandwich sales at the beginning of her entrepreneurial life.

In an interview, Mokgokong told Business Times that the private sector had an important role to play in maintaining health-care standards in SA.

"We would like to make health care more accessible by forming alliances with government," she says.

CIH has interests in health care (private medical facilities), manufacturing and distribution, and IT. CIH manages four hospitals and has three private-public partnerships. In these partnerships CIH operates a private health-care facility within a public hospital on a concessional basis.

Mokgokong is credited with creating CIH from scratch.

As CIH executive chair, Mokgokong joins a select group of black women leading successful businesses. But her success should perhaps be rated above that of most black executives because she did not take over her position at a company with successful investment, but rather had to put together deals that have built CIH into the company that it is today.

Her rise to the top is not something out of Harvard University's journal of successful entrepreneurs. CIH's predecessor company, Malesela Investment Holdings, burnt its fingers in some of its previous investments. One such case was when shady activities surfaced in MacMed Health, damaging investor confidence in the health-care company. Macmed nearly collapsed, and its relationship with Malesela turned sour.

Mokgokong was one of the directors that the market, some shareholders and the media pointed fingers at for failing to identify the problems within MacMed.

The saga nearly tarnished her image in business circles, coming right after she was named Businesswoman of The Year in 1999 by the Executive Women's Club. In 2003 she re-branded Malesela to CIH, leaving the ugly past behind.

In 1995, Mokgokong's growing stature in business was recognised by the US's Star Group, when she was voted one of the world's 50 leading entrepreneurs. A staunch believer in private-public collaboration in health care, Mokgokong says such partnerships will help alleviate the crisis in the public health-care sector

More on Anna:

Women are increasingly making their mark in SA's maledominated SA business world. The Businesswoman of the Year Award honours these trailblazing women. 'I have achieved success. I started from humble beginnings, but the life I lead is very skewed towards work. I work long hours, sometimes seven days a week'.
Voted one of the leading women entrepreneurs in the world in 1998 by the Star Group in the US, Mokgokong is one of the most confident women entrepreneurs in SA today - she speaks candidly and laughs easily, but you know she means business.

Her dream is to establish an institute of entrepreneurship for women. Asked whether she considers herself a role model for other women, she says: "Yes and no. On the one hand, I have achieved success. I started from very humble beginnings and I have managed to build a business worth R1-billion, but on the other hand the life I lead is very skewed towards work. It's very pressurised. I work long hours, sometimes seven days a week." A single mother of two, she gets fidgety when she relaxes.

When she does find some leisure time, she enjoys cooking and is passionate about interior decorating. On what makes her successful in a still male-dominated business world, Mokgokong says she has always been ambitious and always expected to be a high achiever. Her aspirations as a young child were not to become a doctor or a business whizz, but a film star. "I've always believed I would become something in my life, and that has driven me. You must believe in yourself - that you're the best. As a Christian, I also have strong spiritual support. Every day I pray that I will be able to use my potential to its fullest.
"Mokgokong says women in business must be positive, think ahead and remain focused. "There are so many distractions that we have to define our vision. That is one of the keys to success."

As executive chairman of black empowerment conglomerate Malesela Investment Holdings, Mokgokong has ensured it has taken the lead in the development of affirmative action and employment equity programmes. Its empowerment initiatives include owner-driver and sub-contractor businesses among workers and suppliers from previously disadvantaged groups.

Malesela Investment Holdings has interests in healthcare, new technology, management services, leisure/tourism, and manufacturing/distribution. The group employs nearly 10 000 people and has about R500-million in capital. Mokgokong's victory comes at a time when perceptions about black economic empowerment have been under a cloud. She admits that achieving credibility as a woman in a senior position in a black economic empowerment vehicle is a challenge.

"As a woman you are sometimes not taken seriously, even when you have been made chair of the group. You have to go out of your way to convince them."

Profile in Brief

source: Inspiring Women,

{mosimage}Born in Soweto, Dr. Mokgokong’s parents wanted her to become a doctor. She holds a BSc from the University of Botswana, and a MB ChB from Medical University of South Africa (Medunsa), where she won the Best Family Medicine Student Award. She was Medical Officer at Ga Rankua Hospital from 1984 to 1987, when she left to found Hebron Medical Centre, from scratch, developing it into a primary health care and baby clinic with some 40 000 patients.

She currently holds the position of CE of Community Investment Holdings.

Dr Mokgokong holds the following positions:

Executive Chair of Community Investment Holdings (Pty) Ltd and subsidiaries; a black empowerment investment company with substantial interests in health care, logistics, energy, power and telecommunications, which she and her co-founders built from a zero base in 1995 to a group turnover in excess of R4 billion currently.
Non-Executive Chairperson, Jasco Electronics Ltd; a JSE listed company.
Non-Executive Chairperson of Air Liquide Healthcare.
Non-Executive Chairperson of Tshwane International Convention Centre (R4 billion infrastructure development in Tshwane).
Non-Executive Chairperson of Phambili Hospital Products (Pty) Ltd (R127 million transaction with Pretoria Academic Hospital as agent for Siemens)
She serves on the Boards and subsidiaries of the following companies:

Malasela Taihan Electric Cable (Pty) Ltd (M-Tec)
Community Healthcare Holdings (Pty) Ltd and subsidiaries
Gauteng Enterprise Propeller (SMME initiative for the Gauteng Province)
Community Investment Ventures (Pty) Ltd and subsidiaries (Including Dartcom (Pty) Ltd, a Siemens supplier of the year winner 2005)
Crossroads Holdings (Pty) Ltd
Phambili Hospital Products (Pty) Ltd
Cape Diamonds Plc, a company listed on the Alternative Investment Market (AIM) in London
She served on the Council of UNISA as member and as Chairperson, UNISA being the largest distance learning institution in the Southern Hemisphere. She led UNISA through the merger process. She also served as member of the Council of the University of Pretoria, and she is currently serving as member of the Economic and Management Sciences Advisory Committee of the University.

She has been appointed by President Thabo Mbeki, to serve as a member of the Independent Commission for the Remuneration of Public Office Bearers, with effect from 17 March 2004, this being a five year appointment. She is now the Deputy Chairperson of the Commission. She has also been appointed by the Hon. Minister of Health, Dr Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, to serve on a task team to drive and develop a Health Charter for the Health Industry.

She is the Deputy President of the International Women’s Forum of South Africa. She is a member of the Chairperson’s Forum of South Africa. She has served as a member of the Board of directors of Gauteng Enterprise Propeller.

The Hon. Premier of Mpumalanga has also appointed Dr Mokgokong to serve as member of the Premier’s Economic Advisory Council.

She has been appointed to serve as member of the Advisory Board of the Leading Women Entrepreneurs of the World and honorary chairperson of the organisation for 2007. She was a member of the Board of directors of the South African Entrepreneurs Network (SAWEN).

She has been appointed Chairperson of SEDA which was a cabinet appointment.

Dr Mokgokong is the recipient of the Star Group “Leading Women Entrepreneur of the World”, a forum that honours leading women personalities in the whole world. She is one of 300 in the world and has been nominated the Honourable Chairperson of the Women of the Year forum for the year 2007.

She received awards in the following countries as outstanding businesswomen of the year:

• 1998 – London,UK

• 1999 – Paris, France

• 1999 – Business Woman of the year - South Africa

• 2000 – Monte Carlo, Principalities of Monaco

• 2001 – Venice, Italy

• 2002 – Madrid,Spain

• 2003 – Paris, France

• 2004 – Sydney,Australia.

• 2004 – Mayoral Award: City of Tshwane – outstanding Business Leader in the City

Dr Mokgokong also regularly gives motivational talks to women’s groups on empowerment opportunities for young and upcoming women and says one only needs to look at the amount of women street vendors to see that women tend to be “natural” entrepreneurs.

She wants to tell women: “This is our time . . . There are so many incentives and opportunities for women. Government policy is driving that, and many companies are looking for women providers of services. I believe that if you have that edge to step out into business, this is the time, and I wouldn’t give it another two years. I’d say just step out now, actually go out and find what service you can offer that people are looking for right now.”

Source: Article by Lee-Anne Smith Reports. Pictures: Jeremy Glyn – Business Times Online,

Profile Source: Inspiring Women,