Youth need true role models

2011-11-12 09:17

Entrepreneur Dr Anna Mokgokong believes that young entrepreneurs need good mentors who are examples that show success does not come cheap or easy.

“It is a pity that young people view socialites like Kenny Kunene and Khanyi Mbau as their role models,” she says.

“These types of people make it appear as if it is easy to achieve things in life,” she says.

“We need to come with a different angle and drive the message that it is not easy to achieve things. ­People need to realise that our economy will be transformed only if we work hard and dirty our hands,” she says.

“Our kids should study hard, pass matric and proceed to university to obtain degrees.

Without education there is no foundation. What, for instance, will you do if you get R1 billion but have no ­educational background and don’t understand the money market?”

She should know.

Mokgokong cut her teeth in ­business when she opened a shop selling handbags while she was still studying medicine.

After completing her studies in 1984, she practised as a medical doctor in Brits, North West, for 10 years. Her entrepreneurial spirit was further unleashed when she started a pharmaceutical wholesaler in Swaziland in the late 1980s.

In 1995, she, together with Joe Madungandaba in South Africa started Community Investment Holdings, a diversified investment company that has interests in financial services, ­mining, healthcare, construction, technology, transport, and power and energy, which now has an ­estimated net-asset value of R1 billion, discounting the mining business.

Mokgokong is the current chairperson of Medscheme and Johannesburg Stock Exchange-listed Rebosis Property Fund – the first black-owned company of its kind to list on the JSE.

Mokgokong has just been appointed brand ambassador of the United Kingdom Trade and Investment’s (UKTI’s) entrepreneurs programme, which is run by UKTI and the Micro Enterprise Development Organisation.

UKTI is the UK’s equivalent of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).

The entrepreneur’s programme, set against the backdrop of doubling ­bilateral trade by 2015, started in South Africa in June this year but was formally launched last week.

The programme connects business leaders with the aim of deepening links between the UK and South Africa’s future generations. This is where the value and significance of Mokgokong’s networks and profile come into play.

She says being the ambassador of the UKTI is a privilege because it helps highlight the plight of small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs) and struggling entrepreneurs.

The UKTI has a programme that admits and empowers 50 entrepreneurs at a time. It identifies the challenges faced by the entrepreneurs and their businesses, and then comes up with necessary interventions, which include providing seed capital.

She says: “If, for example, an ­entrepreneur has one machine and can increase productivity tenfold if he or she can acquire an additional machine, the programme would help them get the machine.

“Entrepreneurs are also mentored, and helped to create business networks and markets. Some of the local entrepreneurs who have gone through this programme export their goods and services to companies in the UK.

“There is one female entrepreneur in Phokeng who runs an ­organic vegetable farm. She already has a market in London.”
Since her appointment, Mokgokong has introduced the UKTI to the DTI.

“I don’t want a structure like the UKTI to operate on its own. It must partner with existing SMME-funding structures like Khula Enterprise and the Small Enterprise Development Agency.”

Mokgokong – who is considering retiring – will launch her legacy programme early next year.

“Dr Anna needs to start taking it easy, retire and give younger businesspeople a chance and mentor them.

“Dr Anna must be a role model and a guest speaker and share her wisdom at business events,” she says about herself in the third person, as if she is speaking about someone else.

“I no longer want to chase after business contracts and compete with youngsters. If mentorship is not taken seriously, young people will idolise the wrong people.”

The legacy project, called Leading Businesswomen of Africa, seeks to showcase successful businesswomen on the continent.

She says: “We will have a different venue each year and countries will bid to host the event. I will also deal with regional women’s organisations as a network. Anybody can nominate any female entrepreneur for the awards.”

Her daughter and son, aged 27 and 19 respectively, had to pay the price of having a mother who is a leader. “They appreciate the sacrifices I had to make as a mother. I was not the kind of mother who took them to or fetched them from school, or even attended sports activities,” she says.

But Mokgokong says she has achieved her success thanks to family members who have helped her run her household.
On government’s proposed National Health Insurance (NHI) scheme, she says: “Private healthcare companies have resources and government does not. Private companies would profit from the NHI if they work together with the government.”

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