Jonathan Muthige, Group Head: Human Capital - Atlas Mara

Mr. Muthige is a seasoned and experienced Human Resources executive with over 6 years’ experience in Banking and more than 15 years senior executive experience in industries covering oil, retail, FMCG and has worked and lived in the UK, Turkey and now Dubai with Atlas Mara. Mr Muthige brings wealth of experience in Human Capital Leadership and business management having done line management roles in the past.

Mr. Jonathan Muthige joined Atlas Mara from the Pick n Pay Group in January 2016, where he was the Group Human Resource s Director with responsibilities across all their operations both in South Africa and Southern Africa. In that role he was responsible for all aspects of the human resources. Most relevant is the fact that to Pick n Pay Mr. Muthige was Head of Operations for rest of Africa in Standard Bank looking all market outside south Africa. Prior to that he was global head of HR looking after operations, IT, Procurement globally for Standard Bank entities.

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.  

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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.

Renchia Strauss, Head of Talent Management - Fly SAA

Renchia is a seasoned HR executive with a wealth of experience in the HR industry and she has moulded strategies and workplaces across various organisations. With nearly three decades of experience in the Human Capital Industry, Renchia kicked off her career as a HR Officer in the FMCG industry gaining exposure in all key HR touch points. During this momentous journey, she climbed to the position of HR Director.  She then moved on to South African Airways, where she has been the Executive Head of Talent and Acquisition management for the last 7 years.

She sees Talent Management as her true calling. As a Talent Professional, she realised that we do not touch employees careers we touch their lives. Working with employees, teams and executives to attain the unattainable is what drives her to go beyond her call of duty in this industry.

She has received numerous tributes by internal and external stakeholders for the successful construction and implementation of best in class Talent Acquisition practices, Leadership and Succession Management programmes and Young Lead programmes.

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.

Simone Vorster, Human Resources - Thomson Reuters

He has a record of aligning business strategy to people strategy, supported by his business acumen, strong analytical ability and experience in different sectors. Having been a key player in board meetings and executive committees, He is able to apply a top-down/bottom-up approach in communication, influence and implementation of strategy. 

Talent management and succession planning in an organisation is important to him as he has successfully groomed numerous direct reports for promotion. His training and, understanding of human aspirations, allows him to support employees to move forward and encourage them to focus on contributing to company results. 

Equally important to him is driving a sustainable CR & I strategy, including mainstreaming in all diversity related realms. His philosophy is that everything he does must have strategic intent/purposeful outcome. Simone believes in driving a systemic/holistic strategy in all things related to people, corporate responsibility and inclusion, and company brand. 

Nanda Scott, Executive Vice President and Group Human Resources - Econet Media

Nanda is the Executive Vice President for Group Human Resources at Kwesé.  Kwesé is a distinctly African entertainment company, disrupting the industry by breaking through the confines of traditional approaches to broadcasting, it is a brand of Econet Media Limited, the media arm of Econet, one of Africa’s leading Telecoms, Media & Technology groups

She leads a team of senior HR enablers responsible for acquiring, developing, mobilising and rewarding the company’s workforce across the continent. She ensures that the Company yields returns on their biggest investment, their people. Nanda is an accomplished, strategic, results and relationship- driven, proactive and highly-commercial senior HR Executive, with a preference for start-up businesses.

Abdullah Verachia, Senior Faculty - GIBS

Abdullah is an attorney who holds qualifications from leading academic institutions. He holds a Bachelor’s in law and a Masters in management. He has also completed executive programmes on strategy, shared value and on Competitiveness, with Professor Michael Porter’s Institute of Strategy and Competitiveness, at Harvard Business School as well as on broadcast technology at Columbia Business School.

Abdullah serves as the CEO of The Strategists where he plays an active role in assisting companies and organisations craft competitive future strategies. He has significant expertise in strategy, competitiveness and sector trends and facilitates a number of high level strategy sessions and breakaways for companies and governments and also speaks globally in this area.

Omar Ben Yedder, Group Publisher, and Managing Director, IC Publications

Omar joined the IC Group in March 2003, working across various departments. Having previously been an Associate Vice President in the Equity Finance team at Merrill Lynch, Omar brought a new and dynamic approach to IC Publications. He helped launch African Banker magazine and also the events department. He holds an Honours degree in Languages and Economics and a chartered management accountant qualification.

Imraan Mahomed, Partner, Hogan Lovells

Imraan Mahomed is head of our employment law practice having joined the firm in 2006. He advises employers on all aspect of employment and labour related transactional, litigation, regulatory and compliance related matters. His input is sought regularly by the media to offer commentary on current labour law issues. He advises employers across Africa and also deals with alternative dispute resolution processes both in Southern Africa and other African jurisdictions. Imraan has acted as a judge of the Labour Court on more than one occasion.

Imraan has vast experience in dealing with all issues affecting employers both in contentious and noncontentious matters. He provides clients with effective strategies on all employment related matters, both at collective and individual level. He advises and also does training across various industries. 

Tobias Becker, Global Head of Government Relations and Director Africa - ABB Ltd

Mr. Becker joined ABB in 1998. He headed the global Marketing & Sales for the power related businesses, before becoming the Group’s Head of Corporate Strategy. After that, for four years, he operated the Automation business of ABB in North Asia, out of Shanghai. He then took over, again for four years, the global Control Technology business, the strategic heart of ABB’s 4th Industrial Revolution activities. He then was appointed by the CEO of ABB as Program Director Africa in January 2015. Based out of Dubai, Tobias successfully anchored ABB further on the African continent, growing the top-line significantly. Since January 2018 he took over as Global Head Government Relations for the ABB Group, with the mandate to drive and improve all Business to Government aspects for ABB. Tobias is a certified banker and holds a dual master’s degree in Electrical Engineering and Business Administration from Technical University of Darmstadt, Germany.

Precious Murena-Nyika, Human Resources and Communications Director Zimbabwe, Lafarge

A tried & trusted leader with excellent communication and interpersonal skills. Dynamic, agile and resilient. Mastered skills in leading change, developing people, mobilising teams towards a common goal and motivating people to go beyond their known capabilities.

Multi Award winner both locally and Internationally in areas of Sustainability, People Management, Leadership and Business Management.

Paul Vermeij, Vice President, Human Resources Africa - Bosch

Paul Vermeij has a broad range of HR experience in multinational companies. With Bosch, he has been working as Director Human Resources in the Netherlands and the United States. In 2015, he relocated to South Africa to join the Africa Growth Task Force as VP Human Resources Region Africa. Bosch is currently implementing its Africa Growth Plan and Paul is responsible for setting up the HR structure and processes in the African continent. Bosch currently has approx. 2000 employees in 10 countries in Africa.

He has built up a competent HR team across the continent and current focus areas are developing local talent, optimizing HR services and personnel marketing.

Paul holds a degree in Human Resources, completed a Post Graduate training HR Strategy at Groningen University (Netherlands) and an Executive Management Course at Carnegie Mellon, Pittsburgh, USA.

Chris Wilson, Group Human Resources Officer, SAFAL Group

Chris is a top-notch Human Resources generalist, he has worked within Human Resources for over 35 years and has built up a formidable reputation as an Executive HR Practitioner, both within Africa, the Middle East and internationally.

He joined the Safal Group in February 2008 and is currently based in Durban, South Africa. His overarching responsibility is to provide executive leadership and direction in developing, standardising and directing the Group HR processes, strategies, policies and deployment of the best practice programs to drive the Human Capital Management and HR Development agendas. Currently he is also a non-executive Board member on five Safal Group Companies in Eastern and Southern Africa.

Sarah Roe, Co-Founder - Global Career Company and Chairman of Friends of Education Africa UK

Sarah graduated with an MA in Anthropology and African Studies which has been a lifelong interested since she spent time in Africa as a young girl. Her early career was very international working in advertising and publishing within recruitment and education. She helped create employer branding propositions for graduate recruiters such as Procter & Gamble, Barclays, Kingfisher, EY and KPMG. She went on to co-found Global Career Company with Rupert Adcock and has enjoyed the challenge of growing a business whilst also growing a family including 4 young children. Alongside her business career, Sarah has worked closely with Education Africa, a South African based charity working to bring a quality and relevant education to the most underprivileged children in the country, for the last 12 years. Sarah became Chairman of Education Africa UK in 2017.