It is not every day that you have the opportunity to meet one of South Africa’s foremost entrepreneurs and former ANC activists. Dr. Richard Maponya, who at 94 is still in better shape than a lot of us young entrepreneurs, entertained the 2015 ALN Ventures entrepreneurs at his beautiful home on Tuesday, February 17th. Andile Khumalo (@Andile_Khumalo), Managing Director of Power FM, gave a warm presentation on Dr. Maponya’s achievements and accomplishments in South Africa and his widespread support of entrepreneurs over the years.
Dr. Maponya, in his deliberate, steady, and calm voice, spoke fondly about the ups and downs that he has experienced from the apartheid struggle and the limitations that blacks faced in South Africa to the dreams and aspirations that he and others had then about creating opportunities for wealth for themselves and others. One key lesson that he harped on was the entrepreneur’s ability to execute effectively on all tasks; many people have ideas, but few can implement those ideas effectively.
His discussion of his failings as a businessman also came to light when he spoke of the African Bank. He had grand goals for this bank to be the bank for the poor and disenfranchised, and it was to exist primarily to meet the lending needs of this group. At one point in time, there were disenfranchised people in South Africa that were not allowed to have a checkbook. This bank was to change that. However, the inability to find the right people to run the bank and to execute on strategy led to its demise.
The very graceful and poised Lynette Ntuli (@MsNtuli), CEO of Innate Investment Solutions, was a guest facilitator and posed several questions to Dr. Maponya around unemployment, entrepreneurship today versus when he started, and the state of education on the continent today. As an entrepreneur, Dr. Maponya wanted to always prove that he could be creative and that he was driven by his search for opportunities to create wealth for himself. He also stated that young people today are not trained and educated adequately and that more needs to be done around ensuring quality education for our graduates.
The afternoon ended with a discussion of politics, the economy, youth opportunities, all laced with a delicious lunch spread and a relaxing walk of his grounds. Dr. Maponya, who says he refuses the word “retirement”, is an inspiration to all of us in this program and should be to all aspiring entrepreneurs in Africa. He is currently setting up a training institute for the youth and inquiring about real estate deals on the continent.