Initially founded as a British news agency in 1851, today Thomson Reuters is frequently cited by media watchdogs as an “invisible information giant” worth monitoring closely as it delivers unprecedented amounts of data, along with automation and digitisation solutions to financial institutions, governments and corporates around the globe.
I recently sat Shah down for an AfricanTechRoundup.com podcast interview at a recent Women’s Month celebration event hosted by Nedbank, Accenture and Thomson Reuters in Sandton, called Voices of Change. During the conversation, Shah demystified Thomson’s operations by explaining the firm’s business model and unpacking their Africa growth strategy.
She firmly underscored the existence of the “firewall” between Thomson’s news and consulting businesses as she walked me through how she and her team are working to keep Thomson relevant and profitable at a time when very few large data, insights and technology-focused corporations seem content to stay in their lane.
Prior to joining Thomson Reuters in 2001, Shah was a commodities trader for Cargill in South Africa and traded money markets and foreign exchange at CFC Bank in Kenya.
She is a member of the board of the US Chamber of Commerce US-Africa Business Center, the One Young World Africa Local Organising Committee, the Young Presidents Organisation and the African Leadership Network.
Shah also happens to be a steering committee member for 30percent of Southern Africa and is actively involved in the World Economic Forum on Africa’s Partnering Against Corruption Initiative.
A quick scan of her social media profiles reveals that she is also a vocal proponent of gender equality within corporate Africa.
According to Shah, violence against women is not just an unacceptable blight on our society’s image, but also a significant hindrance to the continent’s economic progress.
She claims that each year at least 1percent of gross domestic product is lost due to gender-based violence and that fleshing out a data-solid economic case for combating the issue is key to influencing African corporate boardrooms to tackle the problem with more seriousness, as opposed to approaching it as merely an optional corporate social responsibility focus.
“You need to understand that the people who work for you are impacted by these societal issues and that it’s going to impact your business and the country,” Shah said.
When I put it to her that perhaps part of the problem is that, too often, people don’t recognise that firms like Thomson have a meaningful role to play in contending with societal ills like gender violence and its negative socio-economic impact, she agreed and expressed Thomson’s commitment to shaping the values DNA of corporate Africa.
According to the company’s diversity inclusion index, organisations which are more diverse and inclusive across all fronts - not least in matters of gender and youth participation - consistently outperform their competitors in the marketplace.
“We (Thomson) are not directly involved in fighting gender violence, but we can bring data to bear that allows people to make better decisions, and that’s what we do every day,” Shah stated.
She believes that it’s up to every company to figure out what they can do to leverage their competencies, influence and scale to contribute towards a better society.
When asked if gender violence is perceived as an issue that should be championed primarily by prominent female corporate leaders like herself, Shah stated that she is encouraged by the growing constructive activism of leading male actors within corporate South Africa.
“We have to all fight for change. It’s not only about shareholder profit, but it’s something to do with society. Thomson Reuters’ mission is empowering Africa’s success.”
Andile Masuku is a broadcaster and entrepreneur based in Johannesburg.
He is the executive producer at AfricanTechRoundup.com.
The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.