Unathi Njokweni-Magida, Engen’s Head of Transformation & Stakeholder Engagement, has criticised corporates which don’t embrace black economic empowerment, saying that growth relies on it
Njokweni-Magida has a background in industrial psychology and neurolinguistic programming, which has ensured a methodical, but empathetic approach to her work. She’s led Engen’s transformation portfolio since 2013 and is upbeat about the company’s progressive attitude and successes.
At least 46% of its service stations are black-owned, 10% are owned by women and – most impressively – procurement from black-owned businesses has grown from 4% to 44% since 2011.
Procurement from black female-owned business is also on the rise, having grown from 1% to 31% since 2011.
Engen’s strategy was aimed at championing inclusive and diverse business models that attract “all kinds of talent and wisdom across the race and gender spectrum”.
“Companies that say they can’t find suitable black talent simply aren’t trying hard enough. We’ve just been
through two decades of growing people in this country. If you’re committed to transforming your business, you’ll find the right people who are suitably qualified and experienced. If you’re not looking, you won’t see them,” she declares.
She believes that with an authentic transformation strategy, companies can easily penetrate emerging sectors like townships and rural areas.
“We’ve inherited a very awkward legacy in SA, where the income divide is so wide that in order to create a normal society, every company needs to do its bit. In terms of growth, we have an emerging market which comprises about 88% of the total population – a huge market opportunity! So it’s about growth, opportunity and just doing the right thing,” she adds.
In terms of empowering policies, her advice to other companies is to “fix their internal culture”. “You need to put in good supportive mechanisms, policies and procedures. For instance, we’ve looked at how we put tenders out there. When we score any company, BBEEE compliance and commitment are part and parcel of what we measure.”
Engen also inclusively sets targets for each business unit in terms of employment equity, skills development, preferential procurement and socio-economic development.
“We’re careful to pace it in a way that’s palatable and progressive. Many companies don’t embrace transformation because it’s forced upon them as a compliance tool. You have to make sure you ‘dance’ with it and adapt ideas, so that it’s sustainable.” In addition, the most critical interventions are those that are economically sound and provide sustainability and financial support. Engen’s Convoy Fund is dedicated to black entrepreneurs and provides the necessary boost in terms of equipment and capital expenses.
“If you can grow the first level of strong businesses, you’ll get into the second layer knowing you’ve successfully integrated the first cohort. It’s important that companies don’t just provide growth finance and walk away. When we fund companies, we must make sure we provide business opportunities to those SMEs and support them until they can firmly stand on their own. You get to create an industry with co-dependent small businesses, all supporting each other and growing together.” –