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Inspirational Monday: 5 successful South African businesswomen to help wake up the giant within

Women are more likely than men to go into business because of a lack of better opportunities. Picture: File

Women are more likely than men to go into business because of a lack of better opportunities. Picture: File

Published Apr 4, 2022

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Durban - We are surrounded with stories daily of men who are doing well in business. The richest person in the world is a man, Elon Musk. In fact, the 10 richest people in the world according to the Hurun Rich List for 2022 are men.

It’s easy to think women can’t make it in the the hard-knock world of business. Yet they can, and they do.

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If you’re feeling defeated by the hurdles of starting your own business and needing some inspiration, IOL Wealth writer, Xolile Mtembu, went in search of five South African women who are dominating their fields and whom she finds inspiring. Read on and be inspired too.

1. Bridgette Radebe

Bridgette Radebe. Photo Simphiwe Mbokazi/Africa News Agency/ANA

“Every single thing that has ever happened in your life is preparing you for a moment that is yet to come.”

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Radebe come from humble beginnings and started out her career by managing individual shaft mining operations and producing materials for larger mine operations.

She went on to start Mmakau Mining in 1980, a firm which helps produce platinum, gold, and chrome.

She is the president of the South African Mining Development Association.

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Radebe is also a member of the New Africa Mining Fund and also serves on the Sappi Board, among a long list of outstanding achievements.

Born in 1960, she grew up in the height of apartheid where black people were not permitted to hold mining licenses.

However, she was born into entrepreneurial family which opposed these oppressive rules. This inspired her to defy the apartheid government and go after her dreams. Her net worth is estimated at R1 billion.

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Radebe’s brother is billionaire Patrice Motsepe while her husband is the former Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy of South Africa, Jeff Radebe.

2. Wendy Appelbaum

Wendy Appelbaum. Picture: Mark Wessels.

“Whatever you do, best you be passionate about it.”

She is a business leader, philanthropist and is among the richest women in Africa, estimated to be worth about R2.6 billion.

Appelbaum is the chairperson of De Morgenzon Wine Estate, a wine, and agricultural business in Stellenbosch, among other titles she holds.

In 2006, Appelbaum was recognised as one of the leading female entrepreneurs in the world.

Appelbaum studied psychology at Wits University. Her father, Sir Donald Gordon, was a business magnate and founded Liberty Life Association in 1957.

Appelbaum says she learned some amazing skills such as attention to detail, determination, work ethic, and patience from her father. However, he was more of a role model than he was a mentor to her.

She worked with her father at the Liberty Group, and became a director at Liberty Investors.

3. Dr Judy Dlamini

Dr Judy Dlamini. Picture: File

“If you empower yourself, you will respect yourself and you will not stay in relationships that make you feel less. No one has a right to make you feel less about yourself.”

Dr Dlamini is the owner and executive chair of Mbekani Group, a company which houses operational and investment businesses, including the luxury multi-brand chain of Jimmy Choo and Luminance. She is also the current Chancellor of Wits University.

She was also the senior manager for HSBC South Africa. She holds a PhD in business leadership from Unisa, among others. Her net worth is estimated at R124 million.

She served as the chairperson of the board of Aspen Pharmacare Holdings from November 2007 until December 2015.

Dr Dlamini was named one of Africa’s 50 most powerful women by Forbes Magazine in 2020.

4. Wendy Ackerman

Wendy Ackerman. Picture: David Ritchie

“Everything is possible. Impossible just takes a little longer.”

Ackerman is a non-executive director of Pick n Pay Holdings Limited. She was appointed a director in 1981.

She was a key figure in the development of the Pick n Pay brand along with her husband, Raymond Ackerman. Prior to this Ackerman began her career in the 1960s as a teacher at the English Academy in Soweto.

Among her many achievements, in 2021 she was given the Forbes Lifetime Achievement Award at the annual Forbes Best of Africa Awards. Her net worth is estimated at R2.7 billion.

Outside of business Ackerman is also involved in environmental conservation. She was also acknowledged by WWF (SA) as a Diamond Custodian of Table Mountain.

5. Nhlanhla Mjoli-Mncube

Nhlanhla Mjoli-Mncube. Picture: File

“Before Nurcha, there were no bridge-finance loans for black or female contractors in South Africa, the company changed all that.”

Nhlanhla Mjoli-Mncube is a powerhouse with decades of experience in business, and an estimated net worth of R94m.

She is the CEO of Eziko Investments, a non-executive director of Capitec Bank Holdings, and the deputy CEO of Nurcha Finance Company, among others.

She is a past winner of the Businesswoman of the Year Award, Top Woman of the 90s, Finance Woman of the Year, and the Black Businesswoman of the Year Award.

Mjoli-Mncube also served as the economic advisor for former presidents Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma.

IOL Wealth

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