Mariam Kamel is an Angel Investor and Manager at AUC Angels. Mariam Kamel speaks with Business Africa Online (BAO) on her thoughts on this year’s international women’s day theme: #BreakingTheBias. Excerpt.
“With female entrepreneurship on the rise globally, it is no surprise that Africa boasts one of the highest regional proportions of female entrepreneurs. Where 1 in 4 women run their own business. We can visibly see evidence of this in our daily lives. Yet the participation of female entrepreneurs in the tech startup ecosystem remains challenged by limited resources and access to funding. Those that have succeeded in #breakingthebias demonstrate that employing women’s skills and innovation can serve to disrupt markets. Which includes the financial services, healthcare, transportation, e-commerce, agriculture, among other sectors. All in a way that propels positive changes throughout the continent. Year on year, female founders and co-founders challenge the status quo by increasing the investments raised for their startups. Despite the overwhelming obstacles they face around funding.
Though the journey towards equitable access to funding is still young. It is important to recognize the progress being made in #breakingthebias. On the policy level, there is a clear push towards more inclusive and diverse teams as a condition for access to markets or regulatory approvals in some countries. Sending a clear message that inclusion is a core constituent to growth. On the private level, the increase in funds launched with a gender lens investment scope supports the thesis that diverse teams generate greater returns. It is equally important to realize that a critical step to inclusive funding for female-led startups, must also be partly driven by inclusive investment by female investors. Be it in their participation in investment institutions, or in their individual capacities as private investors. While evidence suggests that, over time, the number of female investors in tech startups has increased, they remain enormously underrepresented.”
Neya Kalu, the new Chairman of The Sun Nigeria
Neya Kalu (Image supplied: Her Network)
Neya Kalu is the Chairman and Publisher of The Sun Nigeria, founded and published in Nigeria. A reputable company that publishes relevant news in Nigeria and around the world in over ten categories. She is also the founder and CEO of Basecoat Nigeria.
Educated at the University of Buckingham with a degree in Law and Finance, Neya leads the Board on strategic matters, establishes high governance, and oversees the company’s business.
Before becoming Chairman/Publisher of The Sun Nigeria, Neya, an entrepreneur, built and runs several successful businesses, the most recent being Base Coat, a nail salon chain in Lagos. She is also the Vice-Chairman of Sun Heavens Hotels and Resorts.
With a strong interest in social issues and a desire to empower women, Neya works with the OUK Foundation to contribute to the achievement of the SDGs one through six.
IoDSA CEO Parmi Natesan on Building Great Directors in South Africa
IoDSA CEO, Parmi Natesan
Established in 1960 as a branch of the Institute of Directors in London, the Institute of Directors South Africa (IoDSA) is a non-profit company (NPC) with members and is the only professional body for directors that is recognised by the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) (ID422). IoDSA mission is to influence, develop and advance corporate governance and directorship by pursuing ethical and effective leadership in South Africa. In this exclusive interview with Alaba Ayinuola of Business Africa Online (BAO), Parmi Natesan talks about the IoDSA she leads, its contribution to the south african economy, challenges, gender inclusion and diversity and much more. Excerpts.
Alaba: Το begin, brίefly tell us about the loD South Africa and your strategic role?
Parmi: The Institute of Directors in South Africa is a non-profit company and a SAQA-recognised professional body for directors in South Africa. It is also a promoter of corporate governance, acting as convener and secretariat of the King Committee and having ownership of the King Reports on Governance for South Africa.
Its vision is – Better Directors. Better Boards. Better Business.
Its mission is – To influence, develop and advance corporate governance and directorship by pursuing ethical and effective leadership in South Africa.
We drive corporate governance awareness and improvement through thought leadership, hosting learning events, performing governance advisory services and board performance evaluations. We contribute to enhancing the effectiveness of directorship through training and certifications.
Alaba: What would you say are the major contributions of the institυte to the South African economy?
Parmi: The enhancement of corporate governance and directorship has a knock-on positive effect to the South African economy.
Major recent contributions include:
- We submitted a letter written to the Chair of the Zondo Commission containing good governance recommendations for director competencies and appointment processes.
- We issue numerous media releases and broadcast interviews to raise awareness of governance learnings
- We offer discounts on our services to NPOs and SMEs, in an effort to assist them with improving their governance and thus growing and thriving as a business.
Alaba: Since your appointment as the institute CEO, what are your biggest challenges and role in corporate governance?
Parmi: We have a duty to hold our members to account in the public interest. This has meant introduction of a new member code of conduct and disciplinary regulations to govern this. What has been a challenge is that membership of the IoDSA is currently voluntary. An individual does not need to be a member in order to serve as a director. So there is unfortunately no common benchmark or standard for directorship.
Sometimes the IoDSA brand gets tainted by “bad” directors who are found to have acted unethically, as the public does not realise that these directors are not necessarily our members, and thus we have limited mandate to act against them. Another challenge is the way in which corporate governance gets applied in corporations, often in a tick-box compliance fashion. This is form over substance and not conducive to achieving the desired outcomes of good corporate governance. Changing mindsets and behaviour around this is critical and there is no one size fits all solution.
Each organisation needs to consider what makes sense for their business. Instead of wanting to follow a compliance driven approach of ticking boxes, organisations should follow a mindful application approach of putting practices in place that in their judgment ultimately achieve the necessary outcomes of ethical leadership, effective control, good performance and legitimacy. The judgment of the governing body is critical in this approach.
Alaba: What is your view on how leadership is changing, amid broader efforts in society to see greater inclusivίty in terms of race, gender, and socio-economic background, and a move towards making a more positive and sustainable contribution to society?
Parmi: We are advocate for diversity on boards, not only in terms of race, gender and socio-economic background, but also in terms of skills and experience. Diverse groups are able to tackle problems from various angles and this leads to better decision making. We have a specific focus on advocating for more women on boards. With women controlling consumer spending and forming half of the educated workforce, it does not make sense that they are still largely underrepresented in South African boardrooms.
The role of directors is definitely changing as we move towards a more stakeholder focused way of running business. In the past, the primary focus of directors was financial return for their companies. That has changed considerably over the years, where business is now seen as a corporate citizen of the country in which it operates. And it thus needs to be conscious of the impact that it has on society and the environment in which it operates. This is why integrated reporting (as opposed to just financial reporting) is so critical.
In today’s fast-paced world, achieving the right skills as a director is not a target but a journey: business models, socio-economic models, political models – sometimes it seems everything – are changing and old certainties seem to be in the process of continual redefinition. Directors, who play such a critical role in organisations and, indirectly, the fabric of public life, are least able to feel they have achieved the right skills mix.
In general, professionals have a certain credibility and respect in the market, which they need to protect through ongoing learning, adapting and competence.
Alaba: Let’s talk about entrepreneurshίp. What is your view on how female entrepreneurship can be fostered?
Parmi: Entrepreneurship is a critical contributor towards our economy and should thus be fostered.
Alaba: Το what extent can digital connectivity catalyse South Africa’s economic recovery, for example helping foster both flexible working and the levelling-up of rural areas?
Parmi: Digital can open many doors and opportunities for people to participate in economic activity.
Alaba: Before the year ends, what would you ultimately like to achieve?
Parmi: Greater awareness of the power and impact of good corporate governance can make, not only on companies, but also on a country. South Africa as a country desperately needs ethical and effective leaders to steer our country in the right direction to prosper. We have been lobbying for enhancements in director appointment processes in both the private and public sector in South Africa. It would be great to see some traction on this from the policy makers.
Alaba: Lastly, what has been the most significant-ever moment for you professionally – and what advice would you give your younger self?
Parmi: I have received many accolades including:
- Rising Star Award from the Nelson Mandela University.
- Finalist for Businesswoman of the Year at the Top Women Awards.
- Global Woman Achiever at the World Women Leadership Congress.
- Ethical Leadership Award at the SAICA Difference Makers Awards.
However, I think my most significant moment professionally has to be having the privilege and honour to lead the IoDSA. In fact I was the youngest person to be CEO of the IoD SA, and the first ever person of colour. This platform gives me an even louder voice to influence and advocate for ethical and effective leadership in South Africa.
In terms of advice to my younger self, a few things I actually often tell my daughter
- Girls can do anything boys can do – never let our gender hold you back.
- Pick your battles and don’t sweat the small stuff.
Watch IoDSA HERE
Lesley Ndlovu, Africa’s Climate and Disaster Risk Insurance Leader
Lesley Ndlovu is an executive with extensive international experience in insurance and investment management. He is currently the CEO of the African Risk Capacity (ARC) Group, a Specialised Agency of the African Union founded in 2012. ARC is a hybrid mutual insurer and the commercial affiliate of the Group founded in 2014. The ARC Group was established to help African governments improve their capacities to better plan, prepare, and respond to natural disasters triggered by extreme weather events, as well as outbreaks and epidemics. Alaba Ayinuola of Business Africa Online caught up with Mr. Lesley Ndlovu to reflect on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, lessons, key highlights of ARC 2021 financial report and the ARC Gender Strategy.
Alaba: To begin, perhaps you could briefly share the African Risk Capacity (ARC) position on the pandemic. The challenges, lessons and how the industry is dealing with the impact?
Lesley: The pandemic was a period of great uncertainty for everyone. For us at ARC, it forced us overnight to become a virtual organisation in a business where face to face interaction with our clients is extremely important. It was also an opportunity for growth because it made our clients, particularly governments, more mindful of risk management and anticipating what could go wrong. As a result, we saw double digit growth in our core insurance segments. We are looking to expand our product offering to include insurance coverage for outbreaks and epidemics.
Alaba: What would you say are the impacts and highlights of the ARC 2021 financial report?
Lesley: 2021 has been a challenging year due to the payment of large insurance claims all across Africa. However, we are an impact oriented insurance company, paying claims means that we are helping out people facing difficulty after an extreme weather event and the funds we provide allows the affected people to bounce back and continue with life. Since the inception of ARC, we have paid close to US$100 million in claims.
Alaba: Could you share with us your set goals for the year and the ARC Gender strategy?
Lesley: Our ambition is to mainstream the gender dimension into our insurance business in terms of both underwriting and claims, as women and girls bear the brunt of the impact of extreme weather. The starting point is to gather the data and measure the impact, we estimate that 54% of the claims we pay benefit women. In West Africa, we have worked with partners to provide insurance coverage for women farmers in the karité (shea butter) sector. We see this area as a tremendous business opportunity because it is a historically underserved segment.
Alaba: How are you making sure the ARC insurance offerings are easily accessible to clients in key sectors like agriculture, health, etc in the continent?
Lesley: At ARC, we focus on 3 core client segments – governments (federal and state), humanitarian agencies and small-medium scale farmers. We are building scale and diversification in our business both across products and geographies by introducing new products and entering new markets. Our mandate is to close the protection gap and increase the number of people protected by insurance. We want insurance to be more available, accessible and affordable. We have launched a number of strategic partnerships, including acquiring a stake in Pula Advisors, a leading parametric insurance aggregator, this move has enabled us to grow our market share in the agricultural sector. At COP 26, we mobilised close to US$100 million to subsidise governments in the payment of insurance premiums over multiple years.
Alaba: You recently met with key strategic partners in Nigeria, making it your third visit to the country. Can you tell us about the key outcomes emerging from the meeting?
Lesley: I had the good fortune of being in Abuja at the end of March, this was an opportunity to renew and strengthen relationships with our key stakeholders in Nigeria. We would closely work with the Ministry of Finance at the federal level as well as local insurance companies. With local insurance companies, we provide technical expertise on the development of products and risk management and reinsurance capacity, our local partners provide us with product distribution and local market insights. The scale of the opportunities is so vast that it can only, the opportunities can only be fully exploited through close collaboration between the various stakeholders.
Alaba: Lastly, Where do you visit next on your ARC mission visit and what is the future of climate risk insurance?
Lesley: Climate insurance is one of the most exciting sectors of the insurance market because it answers a pressing need on the African continent. Currently, there are over 700 million Africans whose livelihoods are vulnerable to extreme weather and insurance has a major role to play in protecting their lives and livelihoods. Agriculture is the mainstay of most African economies and any investments into the sector should be protected through insurance products as a de-risking mechanism. I fully expect the industry to grow at double digit rates for the foreseeable future because the coverage gap is large. Closing the gap is of paramount importance in the era of climate change, where the frequency and severity of natural disasters is increasing.