Building a robust business empire
Internationally acclaimed entrepreneur was recently honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the South African Premier Business Awards. A medical doctor by training, she has come a long way from her days as a medical officer at Ga-Rankuwa Hospital (now known as Dr George Mukhari Hospital) in the north of Pretoria.
Besides holding a number of d i r e c t or s h i ps in l isted c o mpa n i e s , including AfroCentric Investment Corporation, which focuses mainly on the healthcare sector, pharmaceutical group Adcock Ingram and retail giant Shoprite, Mokgokong also sits on the boards of a number of private companies.
One of t hese i s empowerment company Community Investment Holdings (CIH), which she co-founded with Joe Madungandaba in 1995. She says that while she is a BEE player, she never had a sense of entitlement that as a black woman she should have empowerment transactions handed to her on a silver platter. Instead, she has had to hunt for such opportunities and worked hard to get them.
“CIH i s now i n si x dif ferent sectors: healthcare, logistics, energy, infrastructure development, mining and ICT. Founded 20 years ago [as Community Hospital Management] and rebranded CIH in 2000, it has been a typical black economic empowerment investment holding company that’s gone through the motions of BEE. But now we are at a stage of consolidation and narrowing our interest into fewer, but stronger and more robust investments,” says Mokgokong. This includes Tamasa Investment Holdings, a new venture with a focus on the energy sector. There i s a l ways a c r i t i c i s m t hat people with multiple directorships a re over- committed, Mokgokong says. “But who is actually measuring that and measuring what you do? It’s a perception. People must be allowed to take on the kind of responsibility they believe they can handle. What I like is within the board we’ve got a peer review system that reviews your effectiveness as a board member; no longer do you sit there to have coffee and t hen go away. A l ot more i s expected of board members.”
She t urns down a lot of requests for appointments on boards; t he directorships she takes on must be of strategic value to her personal and business interests, Mokgokong says.
“Why am I on the board of Shoprite, which is the largest retailer in Africa? It’s because I’ve gone there to learn how you actually run a business of that size and nature; what it takes to be so successful.”
This i s i mportant because she never got a formal business education, explains Mokgokong. “My training has been at the university of experience and of life. And I must say I have learnt a lot from the Shoprite board and I take that knowledge and information to the other boards that I either chair or I’m part of.” Last year, businessman Brian Joffe, who also serves as chairman of Adcock Ingram following Bidvest’s substantial investment in the group, appointed Mokgokong as a non-executive director. Although she had not planned such a move, she welcomed her appointment to this role.
“Adcock Ingram was an additional responsibilit y, but since I’m in the healthcare space and I have been there since the 80s, for me it was a walk in the park to move into Adcock. I’m used to that, to me it’s not new,” she says. “I still apply the information and the knowledge I gathered as a medical doctor in business today. When I sit on the board of Adcock, I know how a doctor who prescribes those medicines thinks.”