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How Transformational Leadership is bettering the lives of South Africans

Written by Staff Writer

June 7, 2021

By Amber April, Senior Account Manager, Irvine Partners

As rising unemployment figures are announced, young people are closely examining leaders in business, to see what they are doing to support those within their business ecosystem, from full and part-time employees to people integral to their supply chain.

Transformational industry leaders make an impact 

There are many opportunities globally for businesses and captains of industry to make an impact right now in the world, with stellar examples of how they’re doing so in South Africa. Starting on our shores is work being done by SweepSouth, SA’s largest on-demand home service company. With over 25 000 domestic workers on their booking platform, CEO Aisha Pandor is keenly aware of the hardships faced by domestic workers, most of whom are supporting young children and teens, and putting them through school. 

“Domestic workers are some of the most vulnerable members of the labour system in South Africa today – low-income workers struggling just to make ends meet and put food on the table for their families,” says Pandor. “To highlight their plight and help advocate for change, we’ve started an annual report called the SweepSouth Report on Pay and Working Conditions for Domestic Work in South Africa, and each year the findings are sobering, painting a grim picture of women leading lives more challenging than most of us could imagine.

“Last year’s report, for instance, showed that 73 percent of the domestic workforce are single mothers, 90 percent are the main breadwinner and 60 percent have four or more dependents. These women are often trapped in a cycle of poverty, so it’s heartbreaking to think that some employers are still exploiting them by demanding long hours of service in exchange for poor wages.

“The report, while stark, has helped us lobby for better minimum wages for domestic wages with the government.

“We know that people really want to help and support this low-income sector of the market, so we have introduced a number of features on our booking platform that allow customers to contribute more to a domestic worker, with 100 percent of that amount going straight to the worker.”

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Dignity of employment emphasised 

Similarly to SweepSouth, a 100% not-for-profit organisation, Relate Bracelets employs some of the most vulnerable people in the country, to afford them the dignity of employment and the opportunity to consistently provide for themselves and their families. They work alongside organisations like Ikamva Labantu that aim to empower disadvantaged communities, especially during these challenging times. The women employed by Relate have been instrumental in creating the bracelets which have captured attention across the world. Through their combined efforts, they’ve managed to raise more than R62,5 million towards social upliftment in South Africa. 

“Many of the women we work with have children and grandchildren who depend on them, so we at Relate Bracelets take our job of providing them with funding very seriously, in exchange for the excellent service they provide”, says Neil Robinson, CEO of Relate Bracelets. 

Loyalty programmes make a difference

Transformational leadership is especially important in programmes that benefit people in need, and community loyalty programme MySchool MyVillage MyPlanet is one that has mastered the way to inspire everyday people to easily make a difference, all by swiping a card. What’s resulted is over R800-million in donations to charitable organisations in South Africa. 

General Manager Pieter Twine says that providing people with the opportunity to give back is what makes the programme a success: “The programme applies key principles of customer loyalty through a community lens. Addressing the core desire of South Africans to give back to those in need, MySchool MyVillage MyPlanet programme is a significant contributor to sustainable upliftment in South Africa. The programme has been recognised locally and abroad for the impact it has made, however none of this would be possible without retail partners and most importantly our 1.2 million supporters that continue swiping their MySchool MyVillage MyPlanet cards to make a difference.” 

Global expertise reaches rural communities  

In the tech space, international company Zoho is bringing their global expertise in reversing talent erosion in rural communities and will be implementing transnational localism in South Africa. Their approach has been truly transformational. 

“Transnational localism is all about the organisation’s growth being rooted in closely working with and serving the local communities around the world, all while staying globally connected through shared knowledge, capabilities, and culture. In line with this vision, when it comes to building human capital with a community-level impact, we believe that it’s important for tech companies to take the jobs right where the majority of the talent is – rural towns and villages,” says Andrew Bourne, Region Manager, Africa, at Zoho Corporation 

Zoho will adopt a hub-and-spoke office model in South Africa with plans to hire locally, forge partnerships, invest in local businesses and support initiatives focused on creating self-reliant regional economies. Zoho also plans to invest in and undertake skill-building initiatives. 

“One of the countermeasures to address rural decline is for tech companies to recognise that talent can operate from anywhere and provide employees the option of working from anywhere,” says Bourne. “By allowing skilled tech workers to work from their rural hometowns, we can help previously struggling communities to become self-sufficient economic clusters and reduce many of the inequalities that have caused so much societal unrest over the past few years.”

Community leadership matters 

It stands to reason that good community leadership will ultimately have a substantial impact on business, but by actively trying to find solutions to some of the problems around us, especially those that have an impact on our youthful population, business leaders can play their part in leading South Africa through the rising waters of an uncertain future.

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