Is there a Doctor Tech Billionaire in the house?

Serial entrepreneur, founder of the Sekunjalo Group, and arguably Africa’s most successful and largest investor in technology and innovation—Dr Iqbal Survé shows us how diversification in one’s business investments can reap rewards

When most investors in Africa were focusing on hard-core resources, Survé—who had exited the oil business in September 2013 after about 12 years—started focusing on technology and media technology.

“We have partnered with multinationals across the continent, and hence are present in about 50 of the 54 African countries between these partners. As such, together we have been able to change the way we engage and do business on the continent.”

In the world of investing, three words come to mind: Overwhelming. Intimidating. Scary. For us ‘average Joes’, the questions and challenges seem never-ending, but there are a few select people in the world who seem to have that Midas power—turning whatever they touch into gold.

Sir Richard Branson and Warren Buffet spring to mind, and right here in our own backyard, Dr Iqbal Survé most certainly fits the same bill. A few readers may only know him from some of the controversial mud-slinging matches he has had with other media powerhouses since taking over South Africa’s largest print media group, Independent Media. (This is not surprising, really, considering that media houses generally use their own mediums in print and digital formats to spin their versions of stories/agendas and hope they stick. It is and always will be the nature of that beast.) Wherever those media wars may end up is neither here nor there, as there’s no doubt this Doctor has ticked some incredible boxes with very clever investing in all the right places, especially in technology and innovation—and is busy creating Africa’s own Silicon Valley in Cape Town.

As this is Fast Company SA’s special edition for the 2017 World Economic Forum (WEF) on Africa taking place in May in Durban, and the fact Survé was honoured by the WEF on many occasions—including being the first chair of its “New Champions”, the Global Growth Companies Board (according to WEF chairman Professor Klaus Schwab, the GGC are leaders in innovation and technology), as well as being vice-chairman of the Global Agenda Council on Emerging Multinationals—we thought it would be an apt time to look into some of his incredibly diverse and successful business interests. (At the time of press, Survé was also appointed to the highly prestigious position of chairman of the BRICS Business Council.)

2012-11-01 13.53.57

Our interview takes place in Survé’s plush executive ‘man cave’ of an office in Claremont, which is clearly the mothership for all his varied interests and investments. He says he has always had his private investment office/family office separate from his investments/corporate office. Three personal assistants scurry around him taking notes, making calls and frantically trying to keep up with his brain and requests that seem to be moving at freight-train speed. They look driven to succeed in an environment where the Doctor apparently is always on the go from the early hours of the morning to late into the night. I battle to imagine how any of his worker bees have much of a social life, but they don’t seem too concerned about it.

 Where it all began

Dr Survé is a physician, entrepreneur and an ardent philanthropist, born and educated in Cape Town. He was known as the “Struggle Doctor”, because of his provision of medical care to victims of apartheid brutality, including some of those imprisoned on the infamous Robben Island. He had a personal and/or professional relationship with many former prisoners such as Nelson Mandela, Ahmed Kathrada, Andrew Mlangeni and Govan Mbeki upon their release from the Island.

In 1997, President Mandela made an impassioned plea for black professionals to enter the mainstream economy of South Africa in order to bring about meaningful transformation of the socio-economic landscape, with the aim of redressing the legacy of apartheid. This resulted in Survé leaving his first love, medicine, and founding the Sekunjalo Group—which is today wholly owned by the Survé family. He serves as executive chairman of the group, with its headquarters in Cape Town. Sekunjalo has more than 200 investments across Africa, with an intrinsic market value exceeding $4 billion (R53.9 billion)—an amazing feat considering Surve, who came from humble beginnings, founded the group a mere 19 years ago with an investment of only $20 000. The group is the shareholding/equity partner to a number of multinationals on the continent, including Siemens, Nokia, Saab, BT, Solidago and Coriant, among others; Survé serves as chairman or deputy chair of many of these companies’ boards.

Doc with Madiba

The group is recognised by the WEF as one of the world’s fastest growing companies and a New Champion/Forum Advisory member; Survé is a regular contributor and participant in the Davos and Summer Davos meetings. Its investment portfolio includes Oil & Gas, Food, Fishing, Aquaculture, Power, Resources, Transport & Mobility, Telecoms, Civil Security & Defence, Media, Technology, Biotechnology, Healthcare & Pharmaceuticals, and Asset Management. The group also pioneers many social impact investment initiatives in sub-Saharan Africa.

Survé Philanthropies, the philanthropic foundation of the Survé family, has seven separate foundations supporting children’s, women’s and human rights; education; music, arts and culture; entrepreneurship; social impact investing; climate change; and healthcare. The Sekunjalo Group distributes 90% of its annual dividends received from its investments to these foundations, with the aim of impacting positively on the future of the people of Africa. Sekunjalo also recently launched a R500-million social impact fund.

Africa’s time is now

The story of Africa’s rising (Afro-positivism and Afro-capitalism) is an important narrative to which the Survé family and Sekunjalo have committed themselves by investing in businesses across the continent. “The group is really a large entity with more than 115 000 people employed directly and through its affiliated companies,” says Survé proudly. “So when we talk about affiliated companies: Say we have a shareholding in Siemens or Saab or Nokia or Pioneer Foods—these are all some of the companies in which the group has invested. The group is the biggest and most successful technology investor on the African continent.”

This is indeed quite a statement, so I delve a little further and ask the Doctor to give us some more information on his business interests in technology. The question is, how did a South African entrepreneur and technology investor based at the southernmost tip of African achieve dollar-billionaire status? And what is it that he has invested in, and what are the sectors—and why?

When most investors in Africa were focusing on hard-core resources, Survé—who had exited the oil business in September 2013 (good timing and good luck at the peak of the oil price) after about 12 years—started focusing on technology and media technology. “Our approach, in fact, was a dual strategy. Firstly, we wanted to partner with multinationals and become shareholders with them on the African continent, including our first multinational partner 19 years ago, the Siemens business unit in sub-Saharan Africa. This led to the second strategy, which was to use the dividends from these multinational investments to fund entrepreneurs and businesses in new technologies,” he explains.

Reda the full article here.

 

Davos – a story of hope

Published 25 January 2017, by Dr Iqbal Survé, Business Report at 09:05am 

I have just returned from Davos, and you may ask why one would leave a beautiful African summer to travel to a Swiss Alpine resort where the temperature plunges below -15°C. I have said before that Europe in winter is only good for skiing.

But WEF in Klosters, Davos, is becoming increasingly important, not only for economic growth, but also for the welfare of people on many levels, from education, health and mindfulness.

WEF took place between January 17- 20. This year’s theme was “Responsive and Responsible Leadership”, and now, more than ever this is what the world needs. Leaders in their fields who are responsible, who bear in mind that their actions affect billions of people.

But there is the “Other Davos” that is very rarely spoken about, the Davos where a handful of people attend invite-only events. There discussions revolve around how technology is harnessed to save lives; highlighting the plight of human trafficking and also providing a glimpse into the horrific conditions that refugees face every day.

It is also a space where the African agenda can be pushed, and while at times it seemed like an insurmountable task, the continent is slowly starting to feel the positive effects of constant lobbying.

Last week I was appointed to the Stewardship Board of the WEF “Shaping the Future of Information and Entertainment System Initiative”. It is here that the African agenda can be pushed even harder to ensure that Africa benefits from the information and technology revolution.

 

 

 

Read the full article here

 

 

Top 8 #WEF2017 issues as SA heads to Davos

Published, 13 January 2017 by Adri Senekal, Business Report at 07:42am

Eight issues are prevalent as we head to Davos for the World Economic Forum (WEF) 2017. The Sekunjalo Group has, for the past years, headed annually to Davos for the powerhouse WEF, led by its chairman, Dr Iqbal Surve.

Each year Davos wrestles with a set of different issues. This year is no different with a number of key themes meant to drive the conversation:  the Fourth Industrial Revolution; Responsive and Responsible Leadership, Global Collaboration; Building Positive Identities, Fixing Market Capitalism and Restoring Economic Growth.

In this wide-ranging interview with Business Report, Dr Surve outlines the eight top of mind issues that the Sekunjalo Group of Companies takes to Davos this year:

  1. Shoring up foreign direct investment in SA

Foreign direct investment (FDI) is what will make the biggest impact on our economic fortunes and attending WEF gives South African business leaders the opportunity to campaign for this.

In the 10 years that I have been attending WEF, I have relentlessly pursued the story of a country that is worth investing in.

Going to Davos gives us a unique opportunity to tap investors, change the narrative about South Africa and position the country as a good investment opportunity. It is FDI that will lead to job creation, stimulate the economy and build our cities.

 

Read the full article here

 

Connecting people

Published 12 December 2016 by Adri Senekal De Wet, Independent Online at 07:40am

It is almost 140 years since Alexander Graham Bell demonstrated the telephone to Queen Victoria followed by the first installed telephone in Britain.

Telephone exchanges followed, allowing cities to connect. The National Telephone Company was formed, then the General Post Office. In 1896, the National Telephone Company was taken over by the General Post Office. In 1912 it became the primary supplier of telecommunications services. Today it is known as British Telecommunications, or BT.

More than a decade ago, BT’s vision for Africa led the company to partner with a (then) medium size black-owned and managed diversified public company, Sekunjalo Investments. BT rooted their business expansion objectives on partnerships with visionary, trusted and sustainable business partners and networks.

The proof of that successful partnership is clear: BT grew to become a dominant-leading telecommunication provider on the African continent. At the weekend, I spoke to BT’s Africa, Middle East and Asia Pacific President, Kevin Taylor,during his visit to the country. He told me he was extremely excited about Africa and the strategic relationship with Sekunjalo.

Heartbeat

Networks are the heartbeat of any economic growth strategy for any country, company, government, household or individual. Everybody wants to be connected – from the president of a country to a sweeper. Some need the connectivity to implement strategies, others to protect their countries, while some just want to share feelings.

 

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Friday Files – 90 years of excellence at Livingstone High

Published 02 December 2016 by Cape Argus, Independent Media at 11:27pm

Livingstone High School principal Theo Bruinders and his staff live up to the school’s motto of embracing excellence, writes Gasant Abarder.

You may miss it when you’re driving down Imam Haron Road, Claremont, as right now it resembles a construction site. But don’t be fooled by appearances. Inside the modest buildings and grounds lies a centre of excellence for maths and science.

This Friday Files edition is not about a single person, but rather about a passionate principal and a team of dedicated teachers.

As I enter Livingstone High School I am welcomed by principal Theo Bruinders. He is a serious man with a frown etched on his face as he reflects on the 90th anniversary of the school.

Livingstone is proof that you don’t need state-of-the-art facilities to compete with the best – although it’s much needed.

For decades the school has consistently produced matriculants in the top 20 or 30 achievers in the province, has more than 80 bachelor passes and the cream of the crop when it comes to maths and science results.

“Our alumni are all over the world. In fact, they are true to our school song, We roam the wide world over’,” says Bruinders.

Livingstone was founded in an era when high school education for black and coloured children was an afterthought for the government of the day.

 

Read the full article here

 

Support the Indy ‘Don’t Look Away’ campaign

Published 25 November by Zodidi Dano, Cape Argus at 06:59am

Local celebrities and Capetonians have pledged their support for the Don’t Look Away campaign, Independent Media’s official 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children initiative.

Don’t Look Away is in support of the worldwide campaign to highlight gender-based violence from Friday, International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, to December 10, International Human Rights Day.

Singer Chad Saaiman said he fully endorsed the campaign.”We need to spread the word against violence. People need to support the 16 Days of Activism campaign. Speak against it, be open. People need to know there is support for them; they are not alone.”

Radio personality Liezel van der Westhuizen and Ryan O’Connor also pledged their support.

“Today I visited a school in Sir Lowry’s Park where children as young as grade one told their stories of when they were assaulted. A lot still needs to be done in the fight against women and children abuse,” said Van der Westhuizen.

O’Connor said: “It is good media houses focus on the 16 Days of Activism campaign and issues such as violence against women and children.”

The social change initiative calls on people to paint their index finger with orange nail polish or wear something orange to show support. Orange is the colour identified by the United Nations to symbolise a brighter future without violence.

 

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#CTIJF2017: Get ready for a red hot festival line-up

Published 23 November 2016 at 11:29am by Helen Herimbi, Independent Online

When a human being turns 18 years old, it is seen as a coming of age.

They usually finish their formative school years at that age. They join the struggle that we all now know as adulting. They are even finally able to legally imbibe. When the Cape Town International Jazz Festival (CTIJF) turns 18 next year, the world-renowned fest will have grown in leaps in bounds. Probably at a speed more impressive than a human being.

One of the ways in which that is evident is in the way the festival disregards trends and follows the heart of the music through its line-ups. Billy Domingo, who is the CTIJF’s director, said: “We are undergoing a musical renaissance, when different musical genres and performers are collaborating to create new sounds for new audiences who may come from different walks of life, but who all appreciate what music has to offer.

“The Cape Town International Jazz Festival has led the live musical journey on the African continent for the past 17 years, and now in our 18th, we are continuing to showcase new talent, new sounds, while staging them alongside music masters.

“I couldn’t be happier with this line-up as it’s a reflection of where we have come from, where we are now and where we are going.”

The much-anticipated announcement of the first batch of acts that will grace the various stages at CTIJF took place yesterday in Sandton.

 

Read the full article here

AEEI to list food, fishing unit on JSE

Published 17 Novmeber 2016 at 07:05am by Dineo Faku, Independent Online

JSE-listed African Equity Empowerment Investments (AEEI) was preparing to list its Premier Food and Fishing division on the JSE main board by the first quarter of next year, the company said yesterday.

AEEI chief executive Khalid Abdulla said yesterday: “The division has shown consistent organic growth over the past five years, through achieving annual growth of more than 20 percent year on year. The time for acquisitions has come.”

Premier Food and Fishing will be competing against the sole JSE-listed fishing firm, Oceana – which is valued at R15.57 billion – under the JSE’s food producers index, which includes company peers such as Tiger Brands, as well as Sovereign Food.

Abdulla said the listing signalled an exciting phase for Premier Food and Fishing, which specialises in the harvesting, processing and marketing of fish and fish-related products, from rock lobster to general food products.

“We are excited… to show that we are building stakeholder value, which includes community building,” he said.

AEEI, formerly known as Sekunjalo Investment, is a black-owned investment holding company, whose main objective is to empower previously disadvantaged individuals through creating jobs and maximising shareholder wealth generation by making strategic investments.

Yesterday, AEEI kicked off a market sounding roadshow, which is due to end today.

“AEEI is optimistic about the outcome of the market-sounding roadshow and will be sharing pertinent details of the next phase with the market at the appropriate time,” Abdulla said.

 

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‘Attacks on PIC investment practices unfounded’

Published, 21 October 2016 by Adri Senekal, Business Report at 10:03am

Daniel Matjila, the chief executive of the Public Investment Corporation (PIC), winner of the African Institutional Investment Personality of the year Award in New York last month, questions the objectives of some journalists and politicians regarding the PIC’s investments in unlisted South African firms.

“These attempts aim to undermine the professional decisions of the PIC and our management teams,” he says.

The PIC has a triple bottom line mandate which is growing the value of investments, transforming the South African economy and investing in sustainable green projects.

The PIC tabled details of its unlisted investment portfolio of R47 billion in Parliament this week, and strangely the only investment that was highlighted was the PIC’s investment in Independent Media.

The media landscape is regarded as highly influential, and cannot be divorced from the overall turbulence that the country is facing. The PIC invested substantially in media companies over the years and Independent Media is just but one of the investments.

Multiple investments

Matjila points out that the Independent Media investment is aligned to the PIC’s objectives of transforming the ownership of media houses from foreign to black-owned.

He finds it bizarre, but not surprising, that competing media companies are criticising the PIC’s investment in Independent Media while it is known that the PIC supported transformation of Times Media.

“The PIC’s investments are done with detailed due diligence processes and a clear understanding of the sectors we chose to invest in. Our media investments are no different,” he argues.

 

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