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South Africa: The new face of Naspers, Phuti Mahanyele-Dabengwa

By Julien Clémençot
Posted on Tuesday, 23 July 2019 18:48

Phuti Mahanyele-Dabengwa is CEO for South Africa of Naspers. (Naspers)

The appointment of 48-year-old Phuti Mahanyele-Dabengwa marks a new chapter for Naspers - one of Africa’s most valuable firms, with a turnover of $19bn.

In a break from its past, the firm appointed its first black CEO to head its operations in South Africa after more than a century.

Mahanyele-Dabengwa will lead the firm’s daily operations in South Africa. She will also run two local entities, Naspers Foundry – a $98m investment fund, financing technology start-ups; and Naspers Labs – a skills development programme targeting unemployed youth.

Sharing disappointments

Even as a child, Mahanyele-Dabengwa says she had a stake in Naspers. Her father gave her shares in the company as a birthday present. She still remembers the feeling of disappointment. “I was expecting a pair of rollerblades and I was very angry,” she said during a South African radio interview in 2016.

From shareholder to CEO, Mahanyele-Dabengwa says she’s ready for the challenges ahead of her. “I am delighted to join Naspers at such a crucial time for the group and for South Africa,” she said in the company’s press release.

In the coming months, she will handle Naspers plan to list its foreign assets on the Amsterdam Stock Exchange in a deal valued at €123bn ($137.2m). Mahanyele-Dabengwa may need to reassure South African authorities who are worried about the group’s assets migrating to a foreign stock exchange. She enjoys close ties with South Africa’s current president, Cyril Ramaphosa, after running his investment firm, Shanduka Group. She also holds a seat on the board of Ramaphosa’s foundation.

PROFILE: Phuti Mahanyele-Dabengwa

Economics graduate: Rutgers University (United States)
MBA: De Montfort University (England)
Won the Global Young Leader Award (2007)
Married to Sifiso Dabengwa, Eskom director, former MTN CEO
Served on several corporate boards, including Vodacom, Gold Fields and Comair

“Her significant experience as an investor and board member in a variety of industries makes Phuthi the ideal partner for this important role at Naspers,” said Bob van Dijk, CEO of Naspers Group.

While Africa’s C-suit features mostly men, Mahanyele-Dabengwa won’t be alone at the top for much longer. The African corporate heavyweight, Bidvest has announced plans to appoint a black female leader, Mpumi Madisa, to head its operations from 2021.

Naspers Background

  • Founded by Afrikaner militants on 12 May 1915
  • Supported the apartheid regime
  • In 2015, the company finally apologised for its role in propping up an illegitimate government in South Africa.

Last year, Naspers announced plans to invest €200m over the next three years in its South African e-commerce platforms OLX and Takealot, and the food delivery service, Mr D Food.

This year, Naspers plans to invest $1bn, mainly abroad.

This article first appeared in Jeune Afrique.

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