How I Navigated African Business Terrain

Patrice Tlhopane Motsepe (born 28 January 1962) is a South African mining billionaire businessman of Tswana descent. He is the founder and Executive Chairman of African Rainbow Minerals, which has interests in gold, ferrous metals, base metals, and platinum. He sits on several company boards, including being the non-executive chairman of Harmony Gold, the world’s 12th largest gold mining company, and the deputy chairman of Sanlam. In 2012, Motsepe was named South Africa’s richest man, topping the Sunday Times’ annual Rich List with an estimated fortune of R20.07 billion ($1 billion).

Patrice was born to Kgosi Augustine Motsepe, a chief of the Mmakau branch of the Tswana people, who had previously been a school teacher and who was later a small businessman as the owner of a Spaza shop which was popular with black mine workers. It was from this shop that Motsepe learned basic business principles from his father, as well as first-hand exposure to mining.

He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of Swaziland and a law degree from the University of the Witwatersrand.He specialised in mining and business law.

In 1994, he became the first black partner in the law firm Bowman Gilfillan—the same year that Nelson Mandela was elected as the country’s first black president. While the new government began promoting black empowerment and entrepreneurship; Motsepe founded Future Mining, which provided contract mining services that included the cleaning of gold dust from inside mine shafts for the Vaal Reefs Gold mine, and implemented a system of worker remuneration that combined a low base salary with a profit-sharing bonus.

In 1997, with gold prices at a low, he purchased marginal gold mines from AngloGold under favourable finance terms. AngloGold sold Motsepe six gold mine shafts for $7,7million allowing him to repay the debt out of the future earnings of the company now known as African Rainbow Minerals.

This was repeated in a string of deals and Motsepe set up a firm to begin buying the operating mines that would become the source of his wealth. In 1999 he teamed up with two of his associates to form Greene and Partners Investments.

In 2002 when it was listed on the JSE Security Exchange, African Rainbow Minerals joined with Harmony Gold Mining Ltd. and the company’s name changed to ARMgold. Motsepe is also the founder of African Rainbow Minerals Platinum (Proprietary) Limited and ARM Consortium Limited, which later equally split ownership with Anglo American Platinum Corp Ltd. From 2005, Motsepe was Chairman of Teal Exploration and Mining Incorporated. Motsepe is also chairman of Ubuntu-Botho Investments, Non-Executive chairman of Harmony Gold Mining Co Ltd. and deputy Chairman of Sanlam Ltd. Motsepe has been president of South Africa’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Key Lessons For Entrepreneurs

  1. Seek for mentorship. Patrice picked up business early from his father. He learned basic business principles from his father’s Spaza shop.
  2. Partnership should be considered. Patrice became a partner at Gilfilan law firm in 1994. Again in 1999 he teamed up with two of his associates to form Greene and Partners Investments. You can always do a partnership with potential people or companies.
  3. Your past cannot define your future. Patrice was born from a poor background and despite growing up from a poor background, he managed to succeed. No matter where you come from, there is no limit to the height you can achieve.
  4. Just do it. Everyday a thousand business dreams die in our continent because the dreamers lack the courage to take the first step in great faith. Patrice is courageous to take the first step in great faith and didn’t allow his dream to die.
  5. He understands and knows the power of branding. Build your company into a brand and jealously guide it.

Patrice Motsepe, Founder, African Rainbow Minerals, South Africa

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