Empowerment the right way
DESTINY CONNECT/ 30 NOVEMBER 2018 - 19.04 / SHEENA ADAMS
Unathi Njokweni-Magida, Engen’s Head of Transformation & Stakeholder Engagement, has tough words for corporates who don’t embrace black economic empowerment, saying they’re compromising their own growth prospects
Njokweni-Magida has a background in industrial psychology and neurolinguistic programming, which has ensured a methodical, but empathetic approach to her work. She took on Engen’s transformation portfolio in 2013 and the company’s successes in the past few years have been many.
Unathi Njokweni-Magida, Engen’s Head of Transformation & Stakeholder Engagement
At least 46% of its service stations are black-owned, 10% are owned by women and – most impressively – procurement from black-owned businesses has grown from 4% to 44% since 2011.
Procurement from black female-owned business is also on the rise, having grown from 1% to 31% since 2011.
Njokeweni-Magida’s strategy was aimed at championing inclusive and diverse business models that attract “all kinds of talent and wisdom across the race and gender spectrum”.
“Companies that say they can’t find suitable black talent simply aren’t trying hard enough. We’ve just been through two decades of growing people in this country. If you’re committed to transforming your business, you’ll find the right people who are suitably talented and experienced. If you’re not looking, you won’t see them,” she declares.
She believes that an authentic transformation strategy also means companies can easily penetrate emerging sectors like townships and rural areas.
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“We’ve inherited a very awkward legacy in SA, where the income divide is so wide that in order to create a normal society, every company needs to do its bit to sustain itself. In terms of growth, we have an emerging market which comprises about 88% of the total population – a huge market opportunity! So it’s about growth, opportunity and just doing the right thing,” she adds.
In terms of empowering policies, her advice to other companies is to “fix their internal culture”.
“You need to put in really supportive mechanisms, policies and procedures. For instance, we’ve looked at how we put tenders out there. When we score any company, BBEEE is part and parcel of what we measure.”
Engen also inclusively sets targets for each business unit in terms of employment equity, skills development, preferential procurement and socio-economic development.
“We’re careful to pace it in a certain way. Many companies don’t embrace transformation because it’s forced upon them. You have to make sure you ‘dance’ with it and adapt ideas, so that it’s sustainable,” explains Njokweni-Magida.
In addition, the most critical interventions are those that are financially orientated. Engen’s Convoy Fund is dedicated to black entrepreneurs and provides the necessary boost in terms of equipment and finances.
“If you can grow the first level of strong businesses, you’ll get into the second layer knowing you’ve successfully integrated the first cohort. The problem with other companies is that they fund SMEs, but then move back to their usual suppliers. When we fund companies, we make sure we provide business opportunities to those SMEs. It becomes a systemic approach where growth leads to more employees and complementary services. You get to create an industry with co-dependent small businesses, all supporting each other and growing together.”
Disclaimer - The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the BEE CHAMBER