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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Martin Oduor-Otieno, Founder - The Leadership Group Ltd.

Martin Oduor-Otieno is currently an Independent Business Advisor, Executive Coach and Accredited Governance Auditor. He is Founder and CEO of The Leadership Group Limited under which he provides these services. Prior to this he worked with Deloitte East Africa, based in Nairobi, Kenya, where he served as Partner, Financial Services Industry from May 2013 until December 2015.

Between October 2005 and December 2012 he worked at Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB) Group, initially as Deputy CEO before becoming the Chief Executive Officer and member of the various Group and Subsidiary company boards. Prior to this he spent 11 years at Barclays Bank, in various senior positions in Kenya and South Africa. He is well versed with the African business landscape. He has also served as Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance & Planning and The Treasury in the Government of Kenya between 1999 and 2001.

He currently sits as Non Executive Director on the Boards of Standard Bank Group, East African Breweries Limited, British American Tobacco Kenya Limited, GA Life Insurance Co as well as the International Senate of SOS Kinderdof and SOS Children’s Villages Kenya. He has served previously as Chairman of the Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Kenya.
He has been awarded the national recognition, CBS as well as an honorary Doctor of Business Leadership degree by KCA University for his contribution to national development and to sound leadership. He holds a Bachelor of Commerce degree from University of Nairobi, an Executive MBA from ESAMI/Maastritch Business Schools and is an Alumni of the Harvard Business School’s AMP. He is also Fellow of Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Kenya, a member of Institute of Certified Public Secretaries of Kenya and Institute of Directors of Kenya.

Martin has a passion for leadership, governance, mentor-ship and coaching and in 2012, launched his biography titled...."Beyond the Shadows of my Dream" which is available on Amazon.

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.

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.

Bryan Sun, Managing Director, East and South Africa – Nielsen

Bryan Sun currently serves as Managing Director at Nielsen, where he is responsible for leading the South, East, and West Africa businesses. He has extensive experience in the consumer goods industry, gained from working in many diverse, international markets and at a major global retailer.

Prior to his current role, Mr. Sun has served in numerous roles across Africa, most recently as Senior Vice President: Africa Operations, Managing Director: Africa Client Service Commercial Operations, and before that, as Managing Director: Sub-Saharan Africa (excluding Nigeria).  Since joining Nielsen in 2007, Mr. Sun has worked across global markets and brands across Africa, the Middle East, Central Eastern Europe and Greater China, as well as serving as the lead for Nielsen’s regional relationship with Unilever Asia.  Prior to Nielsen, Mr. Sun worked for Carrefour China. 

He holds an MBA from University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business and a BA from Bucknell University. He speaks native English and conversational Chinese

Jean Ewang, Partner - Hogan Lovells

Jean Ewang has advised state entities, multinational companies and employers on all aspects of employment law. This includes obtaining urgent court interdicts, representing employers at disciplinary hearings, conducting investigation proceedings, and advising on executive and senior management restructuring models.


She also has experience conducting due diligence projects and in project managing labour advice for international clients in multiple jurisdictions in Africa. Jean regularly assists clients with issues across Africa and is relied upon by several multinational clients for such support as their business expand across the continent or where additional assistance is required from outside the particular jurisdiction. �

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.

Oscar Onyema, Chief Executive Officer, Nigerian Stock Exchange

Oscar N. Onyema is the Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian Stock Exchange, a position he assumed on 4 April 2011. Prior to this role, he served for over 20 years in United States financial markets and the Nigerian information technology sector. Mr Onyema is the Chairman of Central Securities Clearing System (CSCS) PLC, the clearing house for the Nigerian capital market; he is also a Council member of the Chartered Institute of Stockbrokers of Nigeria (CIS). He is the President of the African Securities Exchanges Association, and a Global Agenda Council member of the World Economic Forum.

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.

Honourable Silas Zimu, Presidential Advisor on Energy, The Presidency, South Africa

Silas Mzingeli Zimu obtained his B. Eng. Honours degree in Electrical and Electronic Engineering in 1991. He also holds an Msc in Engineering Management. Silas has attended some of the highly recognized leadership and management programmes both nationally and internationally.


Mr. Zimu started his career in the electricity industry when he joined Eskom in 1992 where he worked as an engineer in the generation group. Amongst areas that he was involved in is the normalisation of Soweto. He was also appointed as a contract manager for key projects like Alusaf and Matimba-Bulawayo. While still at Eskom, he was later appointed as a Key Customer Relations Manager looking after the mining industry.


He then joined City Power as a General Manager - Planning and Technology and was thereafter promoted to Vice President, Customer Services. Because of the knowledge and passion he has for Engineering Operations, Silas was then appointed as a Vice President of Operations in December 2003 and served on Executive Management Committee, as well as a number of Board committees within the organization. Silas has extensive experience in both business and strategic management. He acted in the CEO position since February 2006, until being appointed Managing Director of City Power.


Mr. Zimu has held the position of CEO of Suzlon Wind Energy South Africa (Pty) Ltd since October 2011 and shared the vision for a greater tomorrow. He is currently serving as a Special Energy Advisor to the RSA President, appointed in June 2015.

Cebile Zulu, Human Resources Director, Southern and Central East Africa, Mondelez International

An international HR professional with over 16 years’ experience in the management of human resources and the development of talent.


She is currently the HR Director, South Africa and Central East Africa for Mondelez International, driving the talent and transformation agendas.

Cebile has recently worked in Amsterdam, Netherlands in a leadership, talent and capability development role within the Africa, Middle East and Eastern Europe region for a large multinational.


Her past experience has spanned across both multinational and South African companies in the manufacturing sector, including HR Executive and Senior HR Management roles for corporates such as Heineken, Masonite (Africa) Ltd, Tongaat-Hulett Sugar and Sara Lee HBC.  She has also has worked on numerous business consulting and stakeholder management projects within municipalities, SOEs and government institutions within the SADEC Region.


Cebile is also a leadership and talent coach for early career professionals and women.


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

Matthew McDonnell, Senior Consultant, Willis Towers Watson

Matthew is a Senior Consultant in Towers Watson’s Organisational Surveys and Insights Practice, based in London. He has been with the firm for 15 years, and has designed and implemented employee engagement and culture research projects across a range of major global organisations across retail, FMCG, Finance, Media, Mining sectors.  He has in depth experience helping them identify and prioritise actions to improve their business performance through their people.

He has also worked on several survey engagements across Africa presenting results and working with local management teams in a variety of markets to understand some of the organisational challenges they have and implement action plans following employee survey results

Matthew is a chartered Occupational Psychologist. 

Victor Williams, Head of Corporate & Investment Banking, Rest of Africa, STANDARD BANK

Victor Williams has been the Head, Corporate and Investment Banking, Rest of Africa at Standard Bank, since May 2015.  With the objective of building the leading Corporate and Investment Banking business in Africa, his responsibilities include strategy, business execution and financial performance for Standard Bank’s business with corporate, sovereign and portfolio investor clients in nineteen countries across sub-Saharan Africa (outside South Africa).

Victor has approximately twenty years of experience in financial markets, in Africa and in the United States, with extensive expertise in Executive Management, Mergers and Acquisitions and Corporate Finance.

In prior roles with Standard Bank, Victor was Executive Director and Head, Corporate and Investment Banking - Nigeria and Regional Head, Corporate and Investment Banking - East Africa.  He joined Standard Bank in 2011, having previously worked as an investment banker, specializing in mergers and acquisition, in the United States with Goldman Sachs and Wells Fargo Securities.

Victor holds an MBA from Harvard Business School and bachelor degrees in economics (honors) and applied mathematics from Brown University.



Steven Teasdale, Group Head of Organisational Development, Change & Transformation - Discovery Group

Steven is currently leading the organisational development and transformation portfolio for the Discovery Group, where he is accountable for, amongst others, organisational design, workplace design, employee engagement, culture and transformation. Before joining Discovery, he occupied a number of executive roles at Tiger Brands, Eskom Holdings, covering the lead roles for areas such as Organisational Effectiveness, Leadership Strategy, Executive Talent Management and Group Learning Strategy & Enablement.  Over his career he has worked internationally for organisations such as Deloitte, Mercer, Hymans Robertson LLP and Aon in management consultancy and strategy roles.  Steve is deeply passionate about supporting organisations to become highly effective systems in the new world of work and firmly believes the role of leadership is the fundamental component to effectively executing organisational strategy.


Crispin Marriott, Client Relationship Director - Willis Towers Watson

Crispin has been consulting in the Human Capital arena for over 25 years. He is a recognised global expert on Employee Engagement. Crispin has delivered and managed some of the world’s largest and most complex global cultural assessment and Engagement survey systems. He has personally delivered such survey systems for clients in over 40 countries worldwide.

Crispin has a particular interest in the effective design and interpretation of survey data in a cross-cultural context.  Notably, Crispin was responsible for creating the first ever national Norms of employee opinion in South Africa and other African countries where he has conducted employee research since 1991.



Benthe Legg, Africa Regional HR Director - Maersk Line

Benthe is the Africa regional HR director of Maersk  Line. She has vast experience in HR and her experience encompasses all aspects of Human Resource Management, HR Business Partnering with a regional outlook , day-to-day support to the Cluster Tops, Cluster HR Managers as well as global and region specific initiatives.

Education-wise, Benthe has excelled. She gained her Bachelor of Science (cum laude)  in Mathematics, Statistics and Psychology and has attended several executive education courses  including the Executive Leadership Development Programme, Wits Business School, HR Strategy in the Business, IMD,Human Resources Learning Programme (HRLP), The RBL Group.

Her professional interests include psychology and counselling. She has also worked in and headed up major change initiatives in Compensation and Benefits, Talent Development, Learning and Industrial Relations besides working as HR Business Partner in various roles at Shell.

In her free time, Benthe enjoys hiking, baking and  reading.