With 400 000 new job seekers entering the South African market every year, we’re hard pressed as a country to bring down our unemployment figures – currently sitting at 27%, but closer to 37% if you include those who’ve given up searching.
Mopping up 400 000 people a year is an impossible task for the formal economy; growing entrepreneurial thinking is an absolute must if today’s learners are to stand a chance of economic survival.
When we talk entrepreneurship, we’re not talking ‘buying and re-selling’ – the go-to model for South African micro businesses. We’re talking about the ability to manufacture something new out of raw products, or the provision of unique, excellent services. True entrepreneurship means no longer being dependent on the ideas and resources of others.
Ntobeko Mogadime, Shell South Africa’s Social Investment Advisor, has good reason to believe that Shell’s LiveWIRE programme goes a long way to fulfilling the huge need for real entrepreneurial training in South Africa.
‘Shell LiveWIRE means a lot to me,’ says Ntobeko. ‘I’ve seen how Shell LiveWIRE has educated, supported, and created jobs in almost every sector. I am personally vested in ensuring the programme is a success and that the businesses we mentor are sustainable.’
Shell LiveWIRE started thirty-seven years ago in the UK and was brought to South Africa in 1995. In 2014 the programme was revamped, expanded and re-launched as Shell LiveWIRE 2, under Ntobeko’s guiding hand. While initially it focussed on entrepreneurship education, it now has a strong business incubation side in addition to its educational component.
Candidates for the programme go through a rigorous acceptance procedure, but once in, are mentored every step of the way. Globally, the focus is on energy solutions, supply chain integration and economic diversification. Small businesses mentored by the programme have blossomed from small, brilliant ideas into flourishing businesses, some employing hundreds of people.
Top Shell LiveWIRE alumni go on to mentor others, inspiring them with what is possible through hard work and excellent training.
‘Look at what’s been done in other countries: In Brazil, a small solar power company is bringing electricity to low-income families; in the UK, Bio-bean fuels London busses using coffee waste; also in the UK, another small company developed kinetic tiles that capture the energy left by footsteps and convert it into electricity. Right here in Gauteng, a LiveWIRE graduate who runs a wellness programme that had struggled for five or six years has now been integrated into Shell’s own supply chain and is flourishing.
‘Nothing compares to the satisfaction of seeing once-struggling entrepreneurs breaking through to the next level, running successful businesses and mentoring others. It’s one of the reasons I love this job.’
Three key strategies
Overall, Shell’s approach to social investment is to support programmes that align with both the country’s needs and with Shell’s own core business. LiveWIRE forms one component of a three-pronged approach; youth enterprise development, maths and science education and road safety.
Rally to Numeracy is a maths and science programme that ‘educates the educator’ in STEM subjects – science, technology, engineering and maths. It currently operates in five provinces. Shell has also adopted schools in Ekhurhuleni, providing broad support to maths and science learners and bursaries for top performers – in addition to its national bursary programme.
Ntobeko chairs the Global Road Safety Partnership, combining her financial acumen with a passion for responsible road behaviour. The programme partners with many road safety NGOs in South Africa and across Africa and is beginning to see attitudes on the road changing – although in South Africa we still have a long way to go.
We asked Ntobeko to share some of the highlights and lowlights of her career at Shell – and to fill us in a little on Ntobeko Mogadime, the total person.
What has been her greatest highlight?
‘I’ve been able to follow my passion as a Social Investment Manager. That is key for me, as originally I joined Shell as an accountant. I got involved in the employee volunteering programme, became aware of Shell’s whole social investment side, and loved it. I then pursued a social entrepreneurship qualification at GIBS, was offered a temporary assignment as Social Investment Manager, and ended up moving into the role permanently through my performance.’
‘My greatest struggle has also been my greatest learning curve and what built me as a confident leader. So it was a lowlight and highlight in one.
‘In 2011 I took on role that seemed to have no relation to my career aspirations or strengths at the time – Sales Support Manager. I had zero experience in sales and yet had to restructure the department and cut the staff compliment by half. It was one of hardest years of my career. It really tested my resilience, but my self-awareness and confidence grew tremendously, and the role helped pave the way for where I am today.’
What are the qualifications needed in a field like Ntobeko’s?
‘I started out in accounting, I have an Honours Degree in Accounting obtained from UKZN. As my interests developed, I added a Social Entrepreneurship
Certificate from GIBS. An MBA is what I have my sights on next, so that, should I choose to, I can set up some kind of social development enterprise of my own.’
And now for the lowdown on Ntobeko Mogadime, the whole person:
Favourite meal: Has to be jege (steamed bread) and beans.
Favourite restaurant: Kream at Mall of Africa. Their mouth-watering pork ribs are to die for.
Family: I had a brother, who tragically passed away in a car accident in 2004, leaving his daughter Balungile Phakathi. She is my darling, and recently started her degree at UKZN. I’m married to Ian Mogadime and we have two wonderful children, Ramodikwe and Kwanda.
Favourite movie: Coming to America. To this day I have the DVD and have watched it so many times I know it word for word.
Favourite colour: Purple. All shades! It was even the theme colour for our wedding.
Favourite way to relax: Cutting the noise from social media, curling up on the sofa at home and watching a movie. It’s those quiet weekends of doing nothing that I look forward to the most.
Other interests: If I am not at home, I’m in the pool at the gym with my kids. We love water like fish.
If money were no object: I’d spend my time playing sports. I run daily and enter races – 10km, 21km or 42km. The high I get from running is priceless. I’ve played netball, basketball and soccer (outdoor and indoor) and they all bring me joy. If I could, I’d attend every Orlando Pirates game, no matter where, no matter when!
If you weren’t doing what you do now you’d be: Running my own social enterprise, doing good while applying business principals and contributing to education in our country.
Role model and favourite quote: Madiba. He said, ‘Education is the most important tool to change the world’. It is true. I have used education to empower myself to where I am in my career. If every child in our country had access to quality education, we’d be a lot further ahead at ending the scourge of poverty and inequality that still plagues our society.’