Abey Mokgwatsane is CEO of Ogilvy & Mather South Africa (www.ogilvy.co.za; @OgilvySA). Apart from being one of South Africa's Mail & Guardian top 200 young leaders in 2011, he was voted one of the country's top 25 "game-changers" in The Annual 2012. Mokgwatsane also founding of Young Business for South Africa, Think Tank Initiative and Experiential Industry Association of South Africa. Tel +27 (0)11 709 6600, email and follow @Abeyphonogenic on Twitter.
John Buchan once said, "The task of leadership is not to put greatness into people, but to elicit it, for the greatness is there already." These are words to which Abey Mokgwatsane, CEO of Ogilvy & Mather South Africa, subscribes.
A graduate of the AAA School of Advertising, Mokgwatsane set off to change and influence the marketing world.
Abey began his journey as a marketing trainee at the VWV Group (www.vwv.com), the global brand experience agency which specialises in creating experiences that change perceptions and inspire action. Founded in 1981, VWV is a hub of specialist business units focusing on video and film production, event management, Internet and multimedia applications, and corporate and direct theatre.
He went on to join South African Breweries (SAB) as brand manager for the epic Castle Loud Programme, a young adult trans-media property for Castle Lager that went on to win the 2002 super budget Raptor Award for sponsorship excellence.
It wasn't long until he was appointed senior brand manager of Miller Genuine Draft and tasked with launching the brand into the South African market in June 2003. He also received three Managing Directors Award for marketing excellence at SAB.
Fast-forward five years later to 2005: Abey found himself back where he started, but this time as a majority stakeholder (46%) in the VWV Group business with partners Wanda Shuenyane and Jameson Hlongwane. Abey served as group marketing and sales director until December 2005, when he was appointed group CEO.
With Abey at the helm, VWV's bottom-line performance increased 10-fold in five years and also successfully executed the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. The group is best known for its creative track record both here and abroad. It is also the most-awarded experiential agency in Loeries' history.
I was at the Mail & GuardianTop 200 South Africans launch last Tuesday afternoon, 7 June 2011. It was held at Randlords - downtown Jozi. I love that place, it really feels like the top of the world – you get a sense that you are in the heart of Joburg’s hustle and bustle. In my opinion this is the best venue of its kind in South Africa.
I was there because I was fortunate enough to make the list in this year’s business category. I’m an avid reader of M&G so I’m honoured to be on it.
This, however, is not about me; it’s about the incredible people I met that day. I mean, what else could I ask for? Two hundred, young, bright minds in one place.
I set out to meet as many people as I could. It was only a matter of time before I ran out of business cards but I still managed to get in touch with loads of people.
Here are some of the super individuals that I met:
Melita Steele (@Melita_Steele) is the face of Greenpeace in South Africa; quiet and unassuming but you could tell that she was on a mission. She said to me “What could be better than waking up every day to save the world?” What could? Being green is the big fad today but here was someone who leads an organisation that’s been doing it before it was the ‘in thing’ to do.
I also met Jema Grobbelaar (@Jemmasa), a 20-year-old kite surfing champion from Cape Town – well, not really, since she also lives in Wales and Joburg. Jema won the British Championship in 2008, 2009 and 2010. She is an ambassador for women’s rights and looks like a supermodel – wow!
Then I met royalty – two chiefs to be exact: chief Tebogo Motheo Mamogale from the Bakwena Ba Mogopa and chief Moefi Edward Mabalane of Baphiring Ba Mabalane. I may run a business but these guys run nations; while I concern myself with sales and pitches, they worry about sanitation and water.
I met Sithembile Mbete (@sthembete), the force behind the Right2Know campaign which has made a strong stand against the Protection of Information Bill, and then I met Humairah Jassat (@humairhjassat), the founder of Pink Hijab Day – her initiative, where women wear pink hijabs on a specific day to raise money and awareness for breast cancer. She won the 2010 African Leadership Academy Innovation Prize for her amazing work.
I could have stayed in that place forever, there was just so much to learn. So here is my question: with so many incredible young people in that room and countless more out there – why don’t you have faith in Africa?
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Sounds like you had a rather enlightening afternoon. I like the question you pose at the end, "why don't you have faith in Africa?" I believe that as Africans, in our actions we speak volumes, however in our minds we are still very much oppressed and I am not talking about our racial past here but the perception of Africa by the world at large. We are still seen as the "dark continent"and we are constantly looking at 1st world countries for reassurance. If you can meet 200 inspiring young people in one afternoon how many more would you meet in a life time if young African men and women set no boundaries for themselves. So, Yes, I do have faith in Africa.
the question you ask reminds me of a television program which one of our own young and magnificently talented South Africans hosted- Precious in Africa. Precious Kofi toured around Africa exploring and educating us about the wonders of Africa. It was informative and instilled a desire to travel around Africa.
There are various articles written on brand Africa and how to rebrand it. However, the media ignores all that is pure and great about Africa and displays all that is sordid and ill, which I think at times is done with a bit of hyperbole.
It is now up to us to take up the role of citizen journalism; educate and cultivate our African Brand. It is time we celebrate us and our continent.
We must end the concept of second guessing ourselves and brand Africa authentically, without trying to imitate our conterparts but learn from them.
Africa is like a bud, its has so much to offer but its still closed inside it. There is so much beauty , so much potential, so many seeds, so many designs, all of them are still inside it. The process of blooming has been already installed in it but the willingness is lacking. Everything the bud needs is there, when it wants to bloom nothing can stop it. I believe that we have all the tool and if we commit ourselves Africa will never be the same again. True transformation come by the renewal of mind, lets change the way we think, the way we look at things, we are not second to anyone, neither do we have to follow anyone s' pattern. We are the Africans and our future is in our own hand, we write our own history not act someone else s movie. Imagination brings the desire to act, creativity brings action and action brings change. Everyone have the seeds its up to us to sow for the future or to grind and make food. I believe in Africa.