James Urdang, CEO & Founder - Education Africa

James Urdang can easily be described as a Social Entrepreneur and humanitarian of note. He has dedicated more than 29 years of his life to a cause that is very close to his heart - helping to bring about real, positive and meaningful change to the lives of disadvantaged Africans.

James’ journey began in 1989 when he set out to establish Education Africa and, over the years, he has conceptualised many projects and secured the funding not only for their establishment, but also for their on-going sustainability. He has become known as someone who thinks outside the box; someone who is not interested in re-inventing the wheel. Rather, he believes in bringing project partners on board so that their expertise can be harnessed for the ultimate benefit of the community. His tireless energy and ability to make things happen have resulted in a number of dynamic projects which have, without a doubt, made a huge impact on the communities throughout South Africa in which they are implemented. Just in the past ten years alone the reach of Education Africa’s projects has impacted tens-of-thousands of learners directly and well over a million learners indirectly through educator training and support.   

However, it hasn’t always been smooth sailing for James or for Education Africa.

During James’ early years at school he was diagnosed with severe dyslexia and was consequently required to attend a special needs school. He eventually did enter mainstream schooling, so he has first-hand, personal experience of what it means and takes to overcome educational challenges. On reflection, this has been to his benefit as he knows that education does not come easily and it has enabled him to develop unique educational programmes supported by world class training methods and educational materials.

After school James worked in the family business, and in the late 1980’s, when South Africa was going through its turbulent times of change, James saw the desperate need to bring communities together through social cohesion. In the early days of Education Africa, James met Walter Sisulu and they instantly formed a connection. Their common desire to provide educational opportunities for disadvantaged communities resulted in Walter Sisulu mentoring James from 1991 until his passing.

James was honoured to have been asked to speak at the funeral of the late Chris Hani at a time when South Africa was very much on edge as the country laid the foundations for the birth of democracy. He was also entrusted by the ANC with the task of developing a historic video calling for the lifting of sanctions in October 1993 which was pre-recorded by Nelson Mandela prior to its release in November 1993 and only after Nelson Mandela at the United Nations asked for the lifting of sanctions save for oil and arms. James also got the leaders of the PAC (Pan African Congress), DP (Democratic Party), Inkatha Freedom Party and COSATU (Congress of South African Trade Unions) to contribute to the video. James was the custodian of this video and earned the trust of many high-ranking ANC officials by ensuring it’s safe-keeping.

It was at around this time that Education Africa received an award by the Hostel Peace Initiative which recognised persons and groups who, against all odds, committed themselves to peace and bringing about a new South Africa.

When Nelson Mandela (who was also mentored by Walter Sisulu) became South Africa’s first democratically elected President, James was the first person in the non-profit sector to lead President Nelson Mandela and had the honour of presenting him the Golden Doves of Peace Award at an event with the National Peace Secretariat. President Mandela attended a number of Education Africa events during his term of office, and personally struck the first 5oz proof gold medallion to commemorate his inauguration. It was President Mandela’s wish that proceeds from the sale of these medallions would go to Education Africa, thus providing the organisation with some much-needed funding.

The biggest challenge for James has always been the sustainability of Education Africa and his dream is to create an endowment fund so that Education Africa can be self-sustainable for generations to come. This will also enable James and the organisation to grow their Africa footprint – a plan which was conceptualised following a strategic planning session facilitated by Deloitte. The aim is to educate, equip and empower more and more African communities beyond South Africa’s borders through a Social Franchising initiative of some of Education Africa’s key projects.

James is committed to a lifetime of Making real change Happen through providing educational opportunities to enable Poverty alleviation through Education. He has had the opportunity of interacting and working with many celebrities, government and community leaders, and top business people. Those who work with James are extremely motivated by his will to succeed and his willingness to make personal sacrifices to do just that, for the betterment of others.

He is a true example of an Africanist who strongly believes that it’s Africa’s time.

In July 2018, James was named as one of the winners of the 2018 Klaus J. Jacobs Awards honouring social innovation and change-making in the field of child and youth development.

James’ story is that of an ordinary South African who has achieved in delivering educational opportunities to millions of disadvantaged South Africans. What makes this even more remarkable is that he was able to turn his own educational challenges into something positive and inspirational.  

For more please visit

www.jamesurdang.net

Dr Chris Bradshaw, Associate Professor, Corporate Development - De Montfort University

Chris has worked in industry for over 20 years in a range of positions related to management, learning and development, quality management, human resources and equality and diversity. His experience includes work in the public sector with The Post Office group, local authorities, the NHS and in the private sector with Abbey Life, Gala Bingo and in hospitality.

Chris has taught at colleges and universities since 2002 including programmes covering HRM; management and leadership; equality and diversity; and politics. He also had a spell as an Equality and Diversity manager. Chris has a first degree in Social Sciences, an MBA and a PhD. He teaches primarily on postgraduate courses and also contributes dissertation supervision.

Chris is a Chartered Fellow of the CIPD, has been a CIPD external examiner and has held voluntary positions as Chair of the West of Scotland Branch and Treasurer of CIPD Scotland. His research interests include leadership, employee engagement, equality and diversity and organisational politics.

Tsholofelo Thema

Tsholofelo is a philanthropist but not quite there yet. A refined speaker who shares a passion for youth development particularly in the disadvantaged parts of South Africa is probably the best way to describe her.

Tsholofelo is an Accountant by training but has been pronounced as “too vibrant” for this role by a previous boss. Her choice of study was solely based on her love for numbers and a need to understand the business and Finance made more sense. She has since been harnessing her skills in the business development space as a Key Account Manager for Airchefs, a subsidiary of South African Airways.

Jonathan Wheeler, Chief Executive Officer - TMF Group

Jonathan Is the Regional Director at TMF Group responsible for growing the business throughout the Middle East and Africa and is based in Dubai. He has been at TMF for 10 years and has held various senior positions within the firm including Group M&A Director and Regional Director responsible for Western Europe. Prior to joining TMF, Jonathan was a Principal at Aquiline Capital Partners, a New York-based private equity firm, and previously worked for Ernst & Young and Arthur Andersen in London.

Evans Mutai, Human Resources Director - EABL

Evans is a Business leader keen in Unlocking Company’s full potential through leveraging human resources strategies, policies and products as a distinct competitive strength.

 

With a career spanning over 20 years, Evans has been recognised as a great Business Partner by CEOs and Business leaders especially for his commercial acumen.

Evans started and honed his career at Standard Chartered Bank where he worked for over 10 years rising to the position of Head of Human Resources Retail Banking. Thereafter he moved to Cooperative Bank of Kenya as Chief Manager, Manpower Planning & Development.

Currently, he is the Human Resources Director – Commercial, at Kenya Breweries ltd and leads the strategic agenda on Talent, Organization effectiveness, Capability and Culture.

 

Rachel Muthoga, Deputy Chief Executive Officer - KEPSA

Rachel is an Advocate of the High Court of Kenya. Having studied Law at the University of Nairobi, Rachel was admitted as an advocate of the High Court of Kenya in May 2006. With over 10 years’ experience, Rachel pursued her Masters studies in International Legal Studies at the Washington DC at Georgetown University where she focused on Human Rights. 

She is the immediate former Executive Director at Moving the Goalposts, and has worked in a number of local and international organisations focusing on development and financial inclusion. Rachel was recognised by the Business Daily in 2015 in their Top 40 Under 40 Women Award.

Geoffrey Odundo, Chief Executive Officer - Nairobi Securities Exchange Ltd.

Geoffrey is the Chief Executive Officer of the Nairobi Securities Exchange Limited. He is an accomplished Investment Banker who has been in the financial services sector for the last 24 years, 17 of which have been in the Capital Markets, including roles in asset management, corporate finance and securities trading. Prior to his appointment, he was the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Kingdom Securities Limited. He was instrumental in the setting up of Co-op Trust Investment Services, Co-op Consultancy Services Limited and Kingdom Securities Limited.

Geoffrey has advised on a number of corporate finance mandates in both the public and private sectors, including the asset management industry. He has contributed to the growth of the capital markets in his previous role in the Kenya Association of Investment Banks, the Kenya Bureau of Standards and on the Board of the Nairobi Securities Exchange.

He is currently a Director of the Central Depository and Settlement Corporation Limited (Ltd). He holds a Master’s Degree in Strategic Management from the United States International University (USIU), and a Degree in Mathematics and Economics.

Titilope Olajide, Head, People and Change - KPMG East Africa

Titilope is an experienced consultant with about twelve years’ experience at KPMG. She has multi-sector experience, cutting across areas such as Strategic Human Resources Management, Business Process Improvement, Corporate and BU Strategy Articulation/ Refinement, and Project Management. 

Over the course of her career, she has built deep skills in Strategic HR advisory and has led and participated in several multi-sector HR consulting engagements in the following areas: HR strategy review and articulation, organisation design, career management, talent management, leadership development, internal capability alignment, culture and change management, executive employee performance management implementation, succession planning, HR function optimisation and integration. She leads the People and Change Business in KPMG East Africa.

Philip Sakwa, Group Head of HR – CSquared

Philip has 10 years’ experience in a hi-tech environment, after this time he thought that he had mastered the art of dealing with millennials, but he states that he has come to a realisation that every day is a learning curve in this world. With a career spanning over almost 20 years, working in media, transport, local government (UK), banking and hi-tech (East Africa), hi-tech (Sub Saharan Africa). Philip is a change driver having successfully steered various changes that includes mergers and acquisitions, right sizing and organisational structure alignment and currently transitioning a Google-incubated company to become a fully independent pan-African hi-tech player. With a post graduate degree in HR, Philip also has a passion in mentoring younger professionals in focusing their careers. He is also a counsellor in his spare time focusing on teen in venerable environments.

 

Martin Mugambi, Group Executive Director, Commercial Bank of Africa

Martin is a classically trained and goal-oriented professional banker of Kenyan background with 20 years of international and African corporate finance and investment banking experience and, leadership in preeminent global financial services organizations. Martin is currently the Group Executive Director at Commercial Bank of Africa (CBA) Group, a position he was appointed to in November 2016. Prior to CBA, Martin worked for Citibank N.A. for 15 years in various capacities, including as the CEO & Managing Director for Citibank Zambia Limited for 2 years, as well as the MD & Head of Corporate Finance in Citi’s Sub-Saharan Africa business based in South Africa. Martin has a MBA in Finance as well as a Bachelor’s of Science (BSc.) in Business Administration from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in the United States.

 

Irene Kamau, Group Head of HR - Commercial Bank of Africa

Irene is the Group Head of Human Re-sources for Commercial Bank of Africa. She is a Senior HR practitioner and a Certified Executive Coach with over fifteen years’ HR Leadership experience spent broadly delivering business transformation through people in local and blue-chip company environments. She has worked in the banking and oil industry, with such companies as Barclays Bank, Diamond Trust Bank, Caltex/ Chevron Texaco and currently Commercial Bank of Africa, in various roles covering East and West Africa.

Sammy Chepkwony, HR Director, East Africa - Aga Khan University Hospital

Sammy Chepkwony has extensive, diversified and hands-on experience in all areas of Human Resources Management and Organizational Development. He has reviewed and improved the effectiveness of numerous private and public organizations, established and restructured complete Human Resources functions for several large organizations across East Africa while working for PricewaterhouseCoopers.
 
Currently a Director at PeopleCentric, Sammy has been HR Director for organisations such as Kenya Airways PLC, Tata Chemicals Magadi Ltd, James Finlay Kenya Ltd, Magadi Soda Company and Coca-Cola Bottling Company of Nairobi (Nairobi Bottlers Ltd).
 
A graduate of the University of Nairobi (both undergraduate and postgraduate), he is a Fellow of the Institute of Human Resources Management and a Member of the Institute of Directors. He has attended numerous courses locally and overseas on leadership, human resources and business management. He has also been a speaker in various conferences and seminars.
 

Rose Mwaura, Marketing & Business Development Manager - Federation of Kenya Employers

Rose Mwaura is an intelligent mature Business Management Professional with a wealth of experience in sales and marketing, as well as total management of business operations. She holds 15+ years of working expertise in both the fast-moving consumer goods and the service industries.

 She is currently pursuing her PhD in Leadership and Management with Management University of Africa (MUA). Rose holds an MBA, Strategic Management and a Bachelor of Commerce from Daystar University, having majored in Administration & Management and minor in Marketing. She is a holder of a Postgraduate Diploma in Business Management from the Kenya Institute of Management (KIM) and an Executive Diploma in Industrial Relations from United States International University- Africa in collaborations with FKE among other trainings.

Rose is an all-round expert who balances both qualitative and quantitative skills in an impactful delivery. She excels at program management, lobbying and advocacy, public relations, budget planning and adherence, people development, resource mobilization, corporate communication, skills-based training and mentoring.

Rose is passionate about influencing the world professionally and socially through imparting new skills and knowledge in management training programs and networking forums. She is involved in National TVETA curriculum development and her contribution being in the area of value life skills and soft skills. She is also a Board member at Daystar University Alumni Association and very instrumental in chapter and Projects development.  She is motivated by formulating and implementing of marketing, business and communication strategies which are geared towards the achievement of corporate goals and culture of customer service excellence.

For the last five years, she has been involved in developing and implementing membership management programs, business development initiatives, corporate communication strategies, marketing strategies, resource mobilisation, building both local and international partnership portfolio, public relations events and activities, and training employers on customer service excellence best practices while    formulating and successfully implementing programs that enhance customer service excellence delivery.

She spends her free time building her knowledge on various fields through reading books of interest and networking with youths while mentoring them on employability skills.