How l Built Mbokodo Building In Africa

Thandeka Nombanjinji Nzama, Chief Executive Officer of Mbokodo Building, South Africa

Born and raised in Soweto, South Africa to a family of entrepreneurs, Thandeka Nombanjinji Nzama is the Chief Executive Officer of Mbokodo Building, a commercial property and property development group with a substantial rental apartment properties including a fuel station.

After following her passion for developing through her many years serving as the Managing Director of Nombanjinji Family Property, Thandeka Nzama founded Nombanjinji Construction & Projects which specialized in general constrction and civil works. As she spearheaded Nombanjinji Construction & Projects, she came to the realization of how the constrction industry was far from being inclusive for females. It was was then that she decided to re-structure and create Mbokodo Building Pty Ltd to address and tackle the major patriarchal challenges women faced on daily basis in the industry and to ensure that they form as an equitable part of the construction industry. Mbokodo Building actively employs, trains and empower females within the construction industry.

She gives Afripreneur Conference an interview on doing business in Africa and how she built her business in South Africa and Africa.

What was your journey like to get to where you are?

I grew up in the South African township of Soweto to a family of entrepreneurs where both my parents were business owners. Entrepreneurship was instilled in us at a very young age.I didn’t enjoy a typical childhood, my siblings and I used to go work in the family businesses instead of playing on weekends or school holidays.I started my career in the motor industry as a sales executive for BMW and that helped mould me to gaining my independence.My late father was diagnosed with cancer and his health took a down turn, that’s when I decided to go join the family commercial property business to assist my dad.In 2011, he unfortunately lost his battle with cancer and that was when I picked up the baton and assumed with running Nombanjinji Family Property.In efforts of broadening my horizons in business,I then also decided to venture into the construction sector.

Can you share a brief about Mbokodo Building, what services does it render to it’s clientele?

Mbokodo Building is a 100% female led and owned CIDB grade 7 cutting edge construction company that specializes in general building and civil engineering works.Our core focus is on minimizing the gender gaps and getting women to form part of an equitable part of the construction industry.We aim to empower and change the narrative of male domination within the built industry.

Have you ever felt you encounter specific obstacles in your career because of your gender?

All the time, patriarchy is a big reality in most industries and particularly in the construction industry, hence I decided to rebrand and re-structure Mbokodo Building with the unapologetic and intentional purpose of focusing on the inclusion and empowerment of the minority group (which is women) within the construction industry.

How has the pandemic and it’s consequences impacted the activity of Mbokodo Building?

We were heavily impacted as we had to halt all business activities, shut all sites and put projects on hold to stay at home and quarantine.Our industry was already facing major challenges in the extremely difficult economic climate we were experiencing pre-COVID19,now the pandemic only made matters worse.The fiscal policies and stimulus package interventions by government were not particularly beneficial to our industry.We partially started resuming work on level 4 of the lockdown but that was not too beneficial as we couldn’t fully optimize our operations.We recently got to be fully operational on level 3 and that has somehow helped us to try and salvage what is left of the sector.

What is the biggest challenge facing African Entrepreneurs today?

It’s definitely the COVID19 pandemic.It’s not only affecting African entrepreneurs but entrepreneurs on a global scale.Businesses and the economy have been been severley threatened and we’ve had to learn new and innovative ways to survive with the new normal.

SEE ALSO: AFRICA ENTREPRENEUR CONFERENCE 2020

What major trends do you see in Africa’s construction sector over the next year post covid-19?

Definitely an introduction of more innovative ways of doing business,I see an even further introduction of remote working options for non-labour professionals within the sector.I think we will see the trend of longer durations of practical completion of construction works due to operating with skeleton staff in line with the adherence to COVID 19 social distancing policies.There could also be an introduction of shift based work where night shift could be a possibilty in certain instances where the environment and scope of work allows.

Can you tell us about your growth strategy over the next year?

We would like to see ourselves increasing our footprint throughout South Africa and gradually outside our borders.

Are you looking to raise fresh capital?

Capital raising is key to every business as it helps one be able to expand and grow optimally as an organization and assists in funding future projects. I however always believe that in every business it’s important to try and retain a positive and healthy cashflow trajectory to avoid falling in the trap of aquiring unnecesary debt.Debt capital comes with a lot of risk and you sometimes find yourself forever working towards paying debt instead of growing as a business. Equity capital is at times favourable as it brings in shareholders who would be directly invested in the growth of the business while assisting with capital injection in efforts of getting you to your desired growth levels.

Are you considering expanding your construction projects into other African countries?

Definitely, it’s a long-term vision to penetrate the SADC countries and gradually move further afield.

How is it like doing business in South Africa and Africa?

In South Africa we are blessed to have a government that supports small businesses.We have a department of small business development in the ministry that supports small businesses, the youth, the disabled and women in South Africa.We are encouraged as a nation to participate in driving the economy through entrepreneurship.

With regards to Africa, it’s quite unfortunate that there aren’t that many synergies between African countries in being able to collaborate in business.There are also a lot of challenges with different policies and operational procedures that different countries have, notwithstanding the fact that our continent has its own challenges as a whole. It is up to entrepreneurs within the continent to align objectives, exploit synergies and comparative advantage in order to contribute towards Africa’s growth acceleration.

Do you think the Coronavirus crisis will have a long-term impact on the construction sector in Africa?

Yes.Definitely, there are no hopes of any vaccines available at the moment and there hasn’t been any breakthrough with regards to the slowing down of the virus.We have to get used to the new ways of operating by adhering to stringent safety & hygienic measures and putting our lives and those of our staff members as priority.

What is your recovery strategy from the Covid-19 pandemic?

As we all know,the Covid19 pandemic means that we all have to live with the new normal and that mainly starts with adhering to aggresive and strict health & safety measures from the office to the site.We also ensured that we made provision to be in a good financial position in order to be able to invest in longer project pipelines.It’s tough times so maintaining a positive cashflow trajectory and harnessing our funds as much as we can will prove to be helpful to the business going forth.

In your opinion, will conferences such as Africa Entrepreneur Conference make a difference for African Entrepreneurs?

Ofcourse, I think that it’s important for different industry leaders and thought leaders to engage and network to share ideas and learn more about how their sectors are impacted in different countries.This sort of platform will also open up opportunities to entrepreneurs from different parts of Africa to explore collaborations and future partnerships.

There are a number of young African Entrepreneurs across the continent that are trying to start business. What advice would you give?

Have a clear vision of what it is that you’re trying to get into.Have a clear understanding that entrepreneurship is not as glamorous as it appears to be.Be willing to endure a lot of hardship,sacrifice,having no funds,enduring long nights and early mornings.

Align yourself with people who have already done well in the field that you want to embark on.Surround yourself with like-minded individuals who will help propel you to greatness and who will also serve as encouragement when the going gets tough.

Patience is key as nothing happens overnight and use and exploit all available public resources that are there to assist and support entrepreneurs. Make use of venture capital funding institutions as they assist in moulding and harnessing your business.

Always separate yourself and your business as separate entities and draw a salary from the business.The business shouldn’t be funding your personal lifestyle. Drawing a salary will assist your business to grow while you also learn to live within your means.It is important for start ups to learn the fundamentals that your profits should always be re-invested within the business in order to encourage for a positive cash flow trajectory.

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