South Africa's Trade and Industry Minister Dr Rob Davies in Davos. PHOTO: Lindiz van Zilla/ANA

CAPE TOWN - Three young South African entrepreneurs will battle it out for the top prize for the Young Entrepreneur Award at the fifth South African Premier Business Awards 2018. 

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The awards ceremony will be hosted by the Department of Trade and Industry (the dti) in partnership with Brand South Africa and proudly South African at the Sandton Convention Centre on Tuesday, 30 January 2018.

The theme of the awards is Rewarding Business Excellence. The spotlight will shine on the all-female trio of finalists, Ncebakazi Mhlaba (28) from the Eastern Cape, Leboneng Mathebula (28) from Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal’s Phumzile Manana (26).  

Mhlaba, who established a construction company Sikuphiwe Trading in 2013, says for her to be chosen as one of the country’s top three young entrepreneurs in a national competition is a great source of encouragement.

“The national exposure that we are already receiving as a result of this nomination will boost our company profile significantly. The nomination confirms that the future is bright and I should continue growing from strength to strength despite the challenges that I have to contend with as a woman trying to make her mark in the male-dominated and highly competitive environment. I hope it will also open doors for more opportunities for our company so that we can grow and contribute in creating jobs for other young people,” says Mhlaba who is based in Port Elizabeth.  

Mathebula’s Johannesburg-based company Gridbow Engineers and Technical Services, which she established in 2009, specialises in electrical infrastructure projects.

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“It is really inspiring for someone to recognise your work. Just making it to the top three is a big achievement for me and all our employees. It is a confirmation that we are on the right track and we should continue with what we are doing,” says Mathebula who already has four different awards under her belt.

Her company is also doing work outside South Africa. It has already successfully completed projects in Benin and Zimbabwe for a client based in the United Arab Emirates. It is currently in the process of starting another project in Zambia.

Mathebula believes that expanding her client base beyond South Africa by exporting services and skills to other countries will enable her to contribute meaningfully in creating employment for other young people in South Africa. 

Currently she employees more than 40 people per year in various projects. 

Manana, who established a food-manufacturing company, Mpilo-ende Fortified Foods in 2012, believes that the judges could have been impressed by the noticeable strides she has made as a young woman in a male-dominated agro-processing industry.

“I was humbled and honoured for being nominated for such a prestigious award, when I consider the competitiveness of other young people, especially women, nominated in this category. I am happy that other young women entrepreneurs and those who aspire to be entrepreneurs will be motivated by our nomination. It will be a sisterly competition and I believe all three of us are already winners just by receiving this kind of national recognition and exposure. We will all be inspired to continue working and contributing to changing the lives of other young people for the better by creating more employment opportunities for them,” Manana added.

According to the Minister of Trade and Industry, the awards were established in 2013 with the aim of recognising South African enterprises that invest inhuman and technical resources in various programmes that remain domestically and internationally competitive and create employment opportunities for South Africans.  

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