Meet the USB facilitators for the upcoming SU-USB Homecoming
Dr Nthabiseng Moleko and D’Niel Strauss, both successful USB alumni, will serve as facilitators for Stellenbosch University’s #MatiesHomecoming Business Talk with well-known South African businessperson Bonang Mohale at the Century City Conference Centre on 1 March 2019. Moleko lectures Statistics and Economics and she is also a Commissioner on the Commission for Gender Equality. Strauss is one of the youngest businesspersons in the private equity and venture capital industries.
Meet Dr Nthabiseng Moleko
When Dr Nthabiseng Moleko is not lecturing Statistics and Economics as part of the MBA programme at the University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB), she’s advocating for women’s rights as a commissioner on the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE).
Moleko’s passion for the economic development of women and youth, in particular those living in rural areas, is one of the reasons that she started studying and later lecturing at USB and quit her job in asset management at Futuregrowth in 2006.
“I realised while studying at UCT that our current economic development model has gaps. We did not discuss nor get taught development finance nor were we taught development economics, even models and theories that would be most applicable and suitable in an African or emerging market context,” explains Moleko.
Today Moleko lectures MBA students at USB’s Tygervalley campus, the first black South African full-time faculty member to lecture such a programme. In April 2019, she will receive a PhD in Development Finance from USB. Her PhD research focused on pension funds, savings, capital market development, the Public Investment Corporation and growth, but most importantly on understanding how financial development in Africa can be better used to aid economic development.
“Many of the MBA students I teach today have never been taught Statistics (or even Economics) by a black South African, and this is the kind of change that we need at business schools and particularly at Stellenbosch University.”
“It’s important to showcase black excellence and change the narrative about black excellence, but also to talk about how black individuals have overcome challenges and to share information amongst each other about how these individuals got to where they are now.”
For this reason, says Moleko, she is excited to be facilitating the talk with Mohale, the CEO of Business Leadership South Africa who has headed up some major multinational as well as South African companies.
“Discussion platforms like this are very useful for individuals and is important for linking people to others like them who have similar challenges or who you can bounce ideas off.”
In October 2017 she was appointed Commissioner and serves in various sub-committees within the institution, allowing Moleko to focus on women’s empowerment in South Africa and influence and direct the strategic direction of the CGE in this regard.
“I’ve been there just over a year and we have a lot of work to do still. South Africa needs an institution like this. Gender based violence is at crisis levels, and this institution is adequately positioned with sufficient powers to ensure that the issues of incidence are reduced and improved.”
“I am passionate about the economic empowerment of women and the youth, especially those living in rural areas, because there is not enough of an emphasis on the informal economy and including those individuals excluded from our formal economy. The understanding I have of financial markets and financial development certainly puts me in good stead to work for the inclusion of the marginalised into the mainstream economy through the CGE as well,” says Moleko.
For Moleko, improving the financial and economic literacy of women, especially underprivileged women, goes far beyond increasing an individual’s earning ability.
“It is clear that there are linkages between violence against women and the economic subjugation and lack of economic empowerment of women. Women who are better off economically are usually able to more easily extract themselves from abusive situations. I am not saying that it is only the poor who are abused and victimised, because that is not true. I am however saying that economic empowerment can be very powerful for women, because it enables them greater power to removed themselves from violent, abusive and erosive situations where their bodies are simply used against their will
At the end of the day, says Moleko, she really just wants to be an effective change agent for all South Africans.
Asked about what #MatiesHomecoming and being a Matie means to her, Moleko says: “It means that there is hope for Africa and for South Africa. Stellenbosch University was the grandchild of apartheid and it is becoming the grandchild of the change that South Africa needs to see now. It has the institutional memory and the capacity from a research, teaching, innovation and social impact perspective to change South Africa. Stellenbosch University is not all hunky dory, it is not completely transformed, but it is a repository of financial and human resources that if pointed in the right direction will help rebuild South Africa.”
You can follow Nthabiseng at @AfrinomicsNtha on Twitter.
Meet D’Niel Strauss
He may be one of the youngest businesspersons in the private equity and venture capital industries, but Daniel Strauss did not get there by chance. He did it with hard work, facing many obstacles along the way and making a couple of 360s on his career path too.
“I grew up in a small town called Keimoes and when you are from a small town you either become a lawyer, a doctor, an accountant or an engineer. I chose to study engineering because I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I mean, I didn’t even have a mathematics teacher in matric. We would work through the exercises in our textbook and teach ourselves,” explains Strauss of his decision to study Industrial Engineering at Stellenbosch University.
“To be honest, I walked to my residence after class many Friday afternoons and I’d be crying, that’s how much I hated Engineering. It was only in my third year, once we started focusing on industrial engineering that I really started enjoying the programme.”
In 2006, after completing his degree, Strauss moved back to Keimoes. He had made his father a promise – he would at least consider trying his hand at farming, which was his father’s occupation.
“I went home and became a farmer’s assistant.”
Not only did he become bored, says Strauss, he soon realised that he wasn’t any good at farming anyway. So he started a business in the Northern Cape, all the time continuing to work as a farming assistant to his father. After a year he decided to move back to Cape Town.
“I was eager to learn about big business, so I decided to apply for an MBA.”
However, his MBA application was rejected – he just did not have the experience of many of his counterparts who had been accepted for the programme. Undeterred, Strauss decided to visit the MBA programme coordinator to argue his case. He offered to pay for the entry exams and took them, even though he was told that he would not be accepted due to a lack of experience. When the results came in, he was in the top 1% for sections of the test results.
“So I kept harassing the programme coordinator until he let me enroll.”
Ironically, when he finished his MBA in 2008, the world economy was in a deep recession. It was described by the International Monetary Fund as the most severe recession since the Great Depression in the 1930s.
“In the midst of this, I had gotten a job as a project manager for a property developer. It’s the most depressing industry to be in during a recession,” he says.
Exacerbating the economic downturn in South Africa was the Eskom electricity crisis. Property developers were unable to start building projects, as Eskom was just unable to cope with more households being added to the grid.
“I decided to resign at the end of the probation period,” says Strauss of this job.
Next he took on a position as a management consultant, working with corporates like Exxaro, MTN and Harmony Gold. It was during this time that Strauss started hearing about the field of venture capital and private equity and decided to look for a job in the field.
“I applied to 26 companies and I went to numerous interviews and I couldn’t find a job. It took me about six months to a year, but I finally found a job as a private equity analyst.”
“I also had a wonderful mentor during that time, a Chinese Malaysian businessman who took me under his wing and showed me how the world of investments worked.”
In 2012, he took the leap and started his first venture capital business, which was later restructured to form part of Stocks & Strauss (Pty) Ltd, an investment holding company that he currently runs with businessperson Wayne Stocks. The initial venture capital business was eventually sold in 2016.
“Up to that point, almost everything I tried did not amount to much. Looking back now, I learnt one important thing – you have to have perseverance.”
Today, Strauss volunteers his time to help others in the business world develop their talent by teaching Corporate Finance and Strategic Management within the MBA programme at USB as a guest lecturer.
“I am proud of USB and of the quality of graduates that qualify from this institution. It’s why I donate my time to teaching students who are completing their MBA. I also want to teach them the things I did not know when I was starting out,” he says.
“It might sound cliched, but I want them to know that everything is possible. If you have the knowledge and mindsets that the Johann Rupert, Patrice Motsepe and Warren Buffets of the world have, you will also realise just how much is possible.”
In his discussion with Mohale, he says, he would like to hear “what is next for him in his career as a business leader in South Africa”.