By: Anna Majavu
As one of the few CEOs of an SOE with 18 consecutive clean audits, who has also overseen the distribution of R12.35 billion in loans with investment returns of up to 15%, the National Empowerment Fund’s outgoing CEO, Philisiwe Mthethwa, will be a hard act to follow. Mthethwa announced that she will not renew her contract when it expires at the end of 2023. While she has not said what is next for her, the CEO did say she plans on dedicating her last remaining months to finding a “leader of the future so that the NEF may continue to light the path in the quest for inclusive growth and economic justice”.
The NEF is a government fund that aims to support black-owned businesses and transform the economy. Mthethwa is credited with allocating R200-million during the Covid-19 pandemic to these businesses which faced collapse so that they could manufacture personal protective equipment (PPE). She also ran the R1 billion Economic Recovery Fund for businesses affected by the July 2021 unrest, distributing R650-million from the Trade, Industry and Competition Department, R259m from the Solidarity Fund, and R100m of the NEF’s money.
With an MBA in Corporate Finance from the University of Sheffield in the UK, Mthethwa is a former banker who worked at the SA Reserve Bank, Standard Corporate and Merchant Bank, and Banque Nationale de Paris, before being tasked with promoting trade between South Africa and eight European countries. NEF’s Board Audit Committee Chairperson Ndidi Mpye said Mthethwa’s diverse knowledge of banking, capital markets and international investment had helped the NEF achieve clean audits throughout her tenure, which was something of a rarity in South Africa.
Mpye added that Mthethwa was passionate about the development of black industrialists, rural and township enterprises, women-owned businesses and enterprise and supplier development, and had turned the NEF into an “authority” on these sectors. Former deputy president, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka also paid tribute to Mthethwa, saying she had pursued inclusive growth at the NEF with “passion and exceptional merit”.
Mthethwa had been committed to advancing black women professionals and entrepreneurs, said Lucretia Khumalo, a divisional executive at the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC), while Black Business Council CEO Kganki Matabane described her as a pioneer in the field of economic transformation. Mthethwa currently serves as a non-executive director at the IDC.
In 2019 the Association of Black Securities and Investment Professionals awarded Mthethwa the CEO of the Decade for her support of black business and transformation. “It has been a privilege to play a part in providing investor education, business planning support, entrepreneurial training, incubation support, mentorship and funding to black youth, women, SMEs and black industrialists in villages, townships and peri-urban localities,” said the outgoing CEO.