WATCH: How Exxaro is investing in women entrepreneurs

Published Sep 12, 2022


Mining is a historically male-dominated industry, from the executives and engineers to the providers across the supply chain. However, recognising the strengths women bring - through collaboration, communication and leadership - can unlock significant untapped value.

Diversity-driven value creation

It is critical for South Africa to have women employed in senior positions. So many of our families are women headed - and there is extensive evidence to support the social progress that is enabled by women earners in their contribution to households and communities. Beyond this, diversity in human capital is a resource to be leveraged, and one that brings innovation, shared value and inclusive business growth.

Exxaro recognises this need for diversity in the mining industry. In addition to shifting the gender balance within its mining and management teams, the company is also focused on making business opportunities available to aspiring and competent women entrepreneurs within the value chain of the mine. The aim is to help grow these SMEs and in doing so, to stimulate local economic development.

SAINC visited Exxaro’s enterprise and supplier development programme to meet the inspiring women whose businesses are growing with the input, training as well as support of these initiatives, and with the procurement partnership opportunities they provide.

From people and financial management, business administration and understanding contracts, to time management and email etiquette, the programme equips business owners with the tools they need to thrive. Beyond this engagement, Exxaro also provides access to interest-free loans and grants to further enable these businesses to scale, operate and importantly, create employment.

Mining communities generally work on a dependency ratio of 1 to 10. This means that for every business that is grown and sustained, the impact of each person employed by that business is extensively more far-reaching. And when these businesses start to look for opportunities beyond mining in their communities, the potential for positive impact is extensive.

As a purpose-led business, Exxaro took up the challenge to think differently about development and social impact - and how to approach it in a way that has mutual benefit, delivers shared value, and creates the virtuous circle of win-win that is made possible when a business operates on the premise of good for business becoming good for society.

With 60 enterprises currently part of the programme, Exxaro is committed to creating hope and making a difference as it continues to power possibilities.


Ndivhuwo Nkosi is a senior engineer at Exxaro. Her current experience of women in the mining industry is significantly different to what she was used to previously. On joining Exxaro, Nkosi was immediately struck by the number of women working there, from the plant to the boardroom, doing what was historically considered a man’s job. She manages the plant and is passionate about her job. She has become awakened to the power that women bring to leadership in the company - from bold, strategic and wise decision-making to forging collaborations, fostering communications and enabling employees to perform at their peak through development and a strong support.

Entrepreneur Helen Rapetsoa is a director and shareholder of Africa Maintenance Equipment (AME). She is passionate about her business, but also recognises the stress and pressure of being responsible for all the expenses, salaries, bonuses and bills. As part of the enterprise and supplier development programme at Exxaro, Rapetsoa has been able to grow the financial, business and personal skills she needs to manage and grow the company effectively. These skills have enabled her to deliver on AME’s tools and bearing contract with Exxaro, and to resourcefully look towards growing the business well beyond the Exxaro supply chain.

Abigail Thulare is the co-founder of PBSA Logistics and Consultants. The company has five trucks, which transport coal for Exxaro. When the company applied for the tender, it didn’t even own any trucks. With the nurturing support from Exxaro and a zero percent loan to fund its fleet, PBSA now employs 13 people - and Thulare derives great personal satisfaction from being able to create these jobs. She believes that in order for the country’s economy to grow, more small businesses like hers need to “get the ear and support of big business” and the step-up they need to get them going on the road to success.

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