Big Business can improve the Lives of SA Women

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South Africa’s growing poverty challenge affects black women and children more than any other group. Corporations are realising that they need to offer effective and sustainable solutions to address a problem that threatens to shrink an already stagnating economy. Velaphi Ratshefola, managing director at Coca Cola Beverages South Africa (CCBSA) shares the work he has done to earn him recognition at the 16th annual Standard Bank Top Women Awards, under the Top Gender Empowered: Male Driving Gender Empowerment category.

According to Statistics South Africa, over half of the country was living in poverty by 2015, with women and children being the hardest hit. Over 30.4 million South Africans lived in poverty in 2015, compared to 27.3 million in 2011. Half of all these people were women, while 67% of children under 17 lived in poverty.

With unemployment having jumped from 27.6% in the first quarter of 2019 to 29% in the second quarter, its highest level since 2003, poverty affects more people than ever.

The responsibility of uplifting the most vulnerable can’t be left only to Government. It is up to every organisation in the public and private sector to mobilise efforts to improving the lives of women, who are the ones often left to care for the young.

While there are no “institutional” barriers that hinder women’s progression in the workplace in South Africa, we cannot ignore the fact that there are still many obstacles blocking women from climbing up the ranks in business.

It’s no secret that a massive gender gap in the workplace persists and there continues to be underrepresentation of women in key positions, leaving most women feeling disenfranchised and disempowered. This is in part due to outdated organisational cultures, a lack of serious commitment towards diversifying our workforce and ensuring gender representation.

One of the biggest opportunities that corporations have today is in breaking down these barriers, which are often the remnants of a persistent legacy of apartheid and patriarchy.  Key players in the economy should strive to empower their people, particularly young women, to realise their full potential and achieve their career aspirations.

Companies need to not only understand the challenges faced by our country broadly and women in particular, but also work actively towards addressing these challenges in a meaningful way.

The first and easiest step is creating a conducive environment where women can truly thrive and realise their career aspirations. They need to be supported and encouraged to be the best they can be, in both their professional and private lives.

In celebration of Women’s Month last year, we launched ‘Women@CCBSA’, a women-led network at CCBSA. Through this network, women in the company connect with each other and access resources and tools, case studies and practical guides to advance their careers and have meaningful work-life balance.

These resources are geared at empowering more women within the company to achieve their full potential in the workplace, in the home as well as in the broader community.

Through this initiative, we created a virtual village-like network where women can uplift each other and their communities to develop the next generation of strong female leaders. We wanted to create a safe space for them to talk, share their experiences and learn.

I’m particularly proud of this initiative because it has exposed more female employees to better training opportunities, while giving them a chance to engage with and learn from one other female leaders and role models, who can be mentors in the workplace.

The programme also demonstrates how women can display their skills and climb the corporate ladder without losing the integrity of their leadership style or work ethic.

But looking inwards wasn’t enough and we had to seek change in the communities we operate in. We launched a R100 million supplier development fund for small black emerging suppliers including women and youth, to build their businesses. This fund will assist young, upcoming black entrepreneurs in the Coca-Cola value chain to build their businesses and access more opportunities to take their businesses to the next level.

In the last year, we went further by spending R2.35 billion supporting 567 black-owned suppliers, 265 of whom were black female owned suppliers. And it’s working – we have not only assisted in the creation of a more inclusive economy, but we have also helped to create a more stable environment where businesses can flourish, and more young women can be empowered.

It was encouraging that 57% of the employees of these beneficiaries are rural black women. This is important, not only because rural women are the most in need of help, but because women are the ones who invest in their families and communities. This, in turn, creates a beneficial ripple effect because empowered women are catalysts for socio-economic transformation.

Another integral component to our efforts has been CCBSA’s Youth Empowerment Programme, which identifies youth who display a strong entrepreneurial inclination and gives them the opportunity to create sustainable, growing businesses.

These initial steps are important, but they are only the beginning. We can never assume to have found the answer to the enormous challenges that our country faces, but we have started to create what will hopefully be a different and positive legacy for our communities and country at large. We need to continue seeking new ways of developing people’s especially women’s ability to self-actualise in whatever field they choose and for them to create livelihoods and hopefully, wealth, and chart a new way forward for future generations.

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Rakesh Rajbally

Managing Director: South Africa

Rakesh is C-Suite leader with 26 years of experience in General Management, Sales, Marketing, Logistics and Finance within the FMCG space. He currently leads the South African business for Coca-Cola Beverages Africa. He has a strong growth mindset and has successfully led CCBSA’s Commercial business unit. He is a sought after thought leader in developing & implementing revenue growth and route to market strategies in both modern and emerging markets. Under his leadership CCBSA recently completed a R6bn/ $400m investment in an Affordability growth strategy. He has also led CCBSA’s strategic and operational Customer management and recently achieved the #1 ranking across FMCG in the Advantage survey for 2 consecutive years.

Rakesh leads the CCBSA executive team that has been instrumental in successfully leading a large organization across major transformation changes including the merger of six entities to form CCBSA, the Sugar Tax introduction, Talent diversity strategy and other major productivity initiatives. He is a trusted partner and builds trust-based relations with business partners, stakeholders, and authorities.

His purpose statement “We have 2 hands, one to help yourself, one to help others” reflects in the many young leaders he has successfully coached and mentored.

Janett Forbes

Commercial Excellence Director

Janett is a seasoned financial, logistics, and commercial executive who joins us from Vector Logistics previously a division of RCL Foods where she held position of Finance Director.

Prior to this, Janett was part of the Coca-Cola family, having occupied various senior roles of Finance Manager, Category Manager, Revenue Growth Manager and Channel Development Manager within ABI in 2002 and 2016.

Janett is a qualified Chartered Accountant (CA(SA), has a Bachelor of Commerce degree from Rhodes University in Grahamstown and a higher diploma in Accounting from University of Natal in Durban.

Desilan Pillay

Logistics Director

He joined the Coke system as a Unit Manager Designate at ABI Midrand in 2008. Desilan encompasses 20 years of management experience from companies including Afrox (Linde Group), the South African Breweries (ABI soft drinks and SABMiller – now ABInbev), and Unilever.  

He has a wealth of experience and a vast skillset within South Africa and across the African continent – all at executive levels. This includes, but is not limited to, project management, engineering, production (gases), packaging (FMCG), as well as operations management, financial management, sales and distribution, procurement, and planning (demand, supply, and production). Desilan has managed portfolios across end-to-end Supply Chain (Sourcing, Demand, and Supply Planning), Warehouse Management, Production, and Distribution, including Customer Care, After-sales and reverse logistics. He was also accountable for the delivery of service excellence in order fulfilment, cost of goods sold enhancement via strategic sourcing, and the overall cash optimisation (inventory) across the business. His most recent role before re-joining the CCBSA family is as the Chief Operations Officer at Anchor Holdings, one of the largest privately-owned warehousing companies in South Africa.

Desilan is a qualified Mechanical Engineer and has completed a Management Development Programme from UCT. His areas of expertise include building high performance teams and E2E supply chain and commercial acumen.

Desilan has been happily married for the past 16 years and has a 12-year-old daughter and 18-month-old twins – a boy and a girl. In his spare time, he enjoys seeing new sights locally and abroad. He is always planning his next trip to an exciting destination together with his family.

Nozicelo Ngcobo

Public Affairs, Communications & Sustainability Director

Nozicelo started her corporate career in 1994 when she was recruited by Sasol into their Management Trainee Programme of the top 16 academic graduates in South Africa – class of 1993. In addition to Sasol, Nozicelo has since worked for listed companies such as Telkom SA, South African Breweries (SAB) as well as multi-national organisations such as Philip Morris International (PMI). In 2020, Nozicelo joined Coca Cola Beverages South Africa (CCBSA) as Director for PACS.

Nozicelo has a demonstrable track record in successfully developing and managing corporate affairs and regulatory strategies for complex industries such as alcohol, tobacco and recently the beverages industry. Nozicelo has strong professional networks spanning more than 25 years in both public and private sectors. Her strategic insights, value creation, solutions orientation, strong business/political acumen, solid networks and ability to mobilise teams to successfully execute towards a common vision are just some of the many attributes she brings into any organisation.

Nozicelo is an advocate of human rights, animal rights and has a passion for youth/women empowerment.

Michael John Wilson

Finance Director

Michael started his working career at KPMG as a Manager and Trainee Accountant from 2002 until 2006. After completing his articles, his highest position held at KPMG was Audit Manager and Office Administration Manager. In 2006 to 2009, he worked at BASF South Africa (previously known as Engelhard South Africa), where he was appointed as Site Controller – Mobile Emissions Catalysts Division. He also served as a Team Leader for Finance when the company changed its ERP from JD Edwards to SAP. In 2009, Michael joined Coca-Cola Fortune (CCF) as Finance Manager – Business Support.

In 2015, he was assigned to the CCBA integration team as a Finance work stream member and later that year, Michael was appointed Finance Manager for Marketing, Sales and Distribution. Michael relocated to Windhoek, Namibia in January 2016 as Financial Director for Coca-Cola Beverages Namibia. In October 2017, Michael returned to Port Elizabeth as Group Financial Controller for CCBA, a position he currently holds. He serves on a number of boards and audit committees within the CCBA Group.

In 2000, Michael graduated with a B.Com (Accountancy) Degree from the University of Port Elizabeth and a year later, he completed his B. Com Honours (Accountancy) at the same university. He was admitted as a Chartered Accountant (CA) in 2005. In 2010, he completed his Executive Development Programme at the University of Stellenbosch Business School.

Moses Lubisi

Manufacturing & Technical Director

Moses has over 20 years of extensive experience spanning various industries such as Sugar, Food and Beverages, and Mineral processing, including 15 years within the Coca-Cola system, Moses brings a wealth of knowledge to this role.

His journey within CCBSA has seen him excel in positions ranging from Plant Manager, Regional Manufacturing Manager (Coastal) in CCBSA to Executive Director for Appletiser (Pty) Ltd. Before returning to CCBA within Group Office, Moses served as an Operations Director at Illovo Sugar (Pty) Ltd. His expertise lies in strategy formulation, governance and execution, with a focus on end-to-end value chain orchestration across manufacturing, warehousing, logistics and supply chain management.

Moses has held senior and executive management roles for over six years, overseeing regional and enterprise-level strategies, assets and resource allocation.

Agatha Masemola

Strategy and Performance Director

Agatha joined CCBSA in April 2020 from Absa Corporate and Investment Bank Africa, where she held various roles in the past nine years, including as Managing Principal for Strategy & Business Transformation and Chief of Staff to the Chief Executive of Barclays Africa Corporate Bank. She was a key figure in the build-out and integration of the Corporate Bank across 13 African markets.

Prior to joining Absa, Agatha was a Senior Management Consultant in Strategy and Innovation at Deloitte Consulting, South Africa. At Deloitte, Agatha worked on several executive-sponsored strategy and innovation projects across various sectors, as well as driving new business development. Prior to Deloitte, she worked in Life Sciences R&D for over ten years, both as a full-time researcher with publications in peer reviewed journals, and as a Portfolio Manager & COO for a biotechnology fund management, focusing on investment in early-stage biotech ventures and commercialisation.

Agatha holds a PhD in Medical Biochemistry from the University of Cape Town and has completed post-Doctoral research in South Africa and the USA. She obtained her BSc (Biochemistry and Physiology) and MSc (Biochemistry) from the University of the North. She completed a Management Advancement Programme at Wits Business School to help her transition from laboratory to business.

Agatha loves to travel and enjoys experiencing different cultures and sampling local cuisine.

Hannes Prinsloo

Country Sales Director

Hannes comes with a wealth of experience and strong commercial operations expertise stretching over 30 years within the Bottling system; truly an example of “home grown timber”.

In his most recent role, of General Manager Commercial, he managed the Revenue Growth, Route to Market, Category management, Channel Development and Knowledge and Insights. His previous experiences include that of General Manager Operations, District Manager and National Account Manager.

Among his career achievements, he counts being inducted as a Grand Master in 2021, which is a true testament to his passion for people, strong work ethic, and unwavering commitment to performance. The Masters are seasoned professionals in our core functions (Commercial, Logistics & Manufacturing) who have consistently delivered exceptional results in their 20-plus years of service in the organisation. CCBSA bestows its highest honour these professionals who have shown exemplary commitment, fortitude, passion, loyalty and most importantly, value-adding leadership.

In May 2023, at the annual Coca-Cola Beverages Africa (CCBA) General Management Meeting (GMM) Awards, he was honoured to receive the CEO Award, which honours exceptional leadership that sets a clear example of consistently living our values. In his leisure time, Hannes follows a wide variety of debate platforms and sports.

Mkuseli Dlikilili

Human Resources Director

Prior to Mkuseli’s appointment to CCBSA, Mkuseli was Group Executive: Human Resources at Pioneer Foods, he  worked for leading South African organisations, including Eskom, SAB, Dulux and Portnet.

Mkuseli’s extensive experience in the FMCG environment includes playing a leading role in Pioneer Foods’ successful listing on the JSE and the integration of SA Dried Fruit and Ceres Fruit Juices. Mkuseli is passionate about empowering and developing people to realise their full potential, as well as contributing positively to all the spheres of their lives, and the accentuation of human dignity. He describes himself as an authentic, resilient, reliable, courageous, humble, principled and value-based person, and a committed Human Resources professional.