Leading With Purpose: Babalwa Ngonyama Mentorship for a New Era

Leading With Purpose: Babalwa Ngonyama  Mentorship for a New Era

Award-winning entrepreneur Babalwa Ngonyama is building a new generation of leaders in South Africa. As the founder and CEO of Sinayo Securities, she has helped many Black women in the financial services sector unlock their dream careers.

Additionally, she has created countless leadership opportunities for Black graduates through the Babalwa Ngonyama Foundation. On top of this, she elevates Black female chartered accountants as the co-founder of the African Women Chartered Accountants (AWCA) organisation.

Ngonyama believes mentorship is key to empowering South Africa’s women and young people. Here’s how her impactful initiatives are shaping the country’s future leaders.

Babalwa Ngonyama's Project Funda

In her November 2023 cover story for The Enterprise World, Ngonyama references a famous line by Sir Isaac Newton: “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” This quote highlights the importance of learning from and building upon the wisdom of those who came before us.

In this spirit, Ngonyama launched Project Funda in 2015. The training programme guides Black university graduates into financial services careers. Through focused mentorship and guidance, the programme accelerates young South Africans’ employment prospects, particularly in research and leadership.

How Project Funda Operates

Project Funda works hand-in-hand with leading organisations in the financial industry, including Sinayo Securities. Programme participants spend two years receiving high-level mentorship at these organisations and learning on the job. As a result, they gain valuable experience, sector-specific knowledge, and industry exposure.

Project Funda builds bespoke programmes around its partner organisations’ employment criteria. Consequently, graduates acquire the skills essential for success at these organisations and similar firms.

At the end of their training, graduates make closing presentations to a panel of executives. Professionals from Project Funda’s partner organisations attend these presentations as panellists.

The Babalwa Ngonyama Foundation

Project Funda receives support from Sinayo Securities and the Babalwa Ngonyama Foundation. Ngonyama established this Foundation in 2021 to help young people flourish in careers that may otherwise be challenging to access. Many benefit from the Foundation’s expanding network of young entrepreneurs and leaders.

Ngonyama built the Foundation with the conviction that people from all backgrounds should have access to leadership opportunities. Her efforts widen access to such opportunities for people who have faced obstacles based on their gender, sex, or ethnicity.

Aside from raising wealth for Project Funda, the Foundation allows Ngonyama to bring together individuals and philanthropists with shared values. She encourages supporters to contribute financially and lend their passion for fostering the development of others to the Foundation.

Developing Tigers

Ngonyama says Project Funda develops “tigers:” strong individuals who can walk alone but know when to call on others for support. Each programme participant cultivates their confidence, resilience, and determination.

Project Funda also offers its “tigers” extensive networking opportunities. Ngonyama invites CEOs and other business leaders to mentor the programme’s young professionals. As a result, graduates build long-lasting, fruitful business relationships.

With support from Ngonyama’s professional network, Project Funda participants also gain the confidence to apply for jobs and excel in interviews.

Ngonyama recognises the large number of young people who need the type of mentorship and support Project Funda provides. She believes in supporting aspiring talent in all industries, not just financial services. As such, she has plans to expand Project Funda in 2024 to include programmes for South African artists and sports people.

Moreover, Ngonyama wants to grow Project Funda into a leadership academy. With this in mind, in 2023, she began creating academy sessions that focus on building resilience.

Project Funda’s Success Stories

To date, more than 80 graduates have joined Project Funda. Many have secured roles in distinguished financial services companies after completing the programme.

These are three Project Funda graduates’ success stories.

1. Lulu Sinkala

Lulu Sinkala’s Project Funda journey began in 2015. The organisation where she was completing her degree was searching for three young women to join the programme. Other students and young professionals from different schools and companies also joined.

Sinkala believes she discovered Project Funda at the right time. She was at a stage in her academic career when she wanted to learn more and gain exposure. She was also deciding whether she wanted to work in the financial services sector.

Project Funda “did not disappoint at all.” Sinkala learnt many skills that later helped her search for jobs, secure interviews that she shone in, and fit into the corporate world. The insights she gained from the programme have enabled her to thrive as a young Black woman and a change-maker in the financial services industry.

Sinkala credits Project Funda with showing her that the only limits that exist are the ones she sets for herself. Now she knows she can dream big and achieve her goals. This shift in perspective was due to the frequent networking and “rubbing of shoulders with giants” that Ngonyama encouraged.

Project Funda also taught Sinkala many practical skills, such as managing stock portfolios and financial modelling using Excel.

Sinkala says the programme served as a springboard for her career. She adds that many young, Black South Africans lack this kind of head start in life. Often, their parents cannot “give [them] an education and exposure” because of a lack of resources.

Today, Sinkala works for Investec, a company she has always dreamt of working at. She thanks Ngonyama and Project Funda for helping her build a “tenacious backbone,” equipping her thoroughly, and showing her how to aim high in her career.

2. Gqama Lusu

Passionate about financial markets, Gqama Lusu joined Sinayo Securities as a junior equity trader in 2015. The equities trading space can be a fast-paced, intimidating environment for newcomers. However, Sinayo Securities provided the necessary support to upskill him through Project Funda.

Lusu says the programme undoubtedly equipped him and others to become confident young traders, analysts, and investment professionals. He took part in three five-day courses that covered topics like equity portfolio management and corporate finance valuations.

Additionally, the programme’s mentorship evenings gave Lusu access to doyens of the financial services industry. These mentors included board members of some of the largest listed companies on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE).

Lusu appreciates that Project Funda combines technical knowledge and skills with access and mentorship. As a result, graduates of the programme have the confidence that will allow them to make presentations in corporate boardrooms.

Sinayo Securities and Project Funda helped Lusu achieve his dream of working on the trading floor of one of South Africa’s top banks. He encourages any young person interested in developing their financial services career to apply to Project Funda. He also thanks Ngonyama for pioneering the programme and making a difference in educating South Africa’s youth.

3. Karabo Matoba

Karabo Matoba joined Project Funda after graduating from university. The programme provided the opportunity he was seeking to kick-start his career in financial markets.

Project Funda gave Matoba a broad foundation in equities as an asset class. The programme covered essential subjects like research and valuation, portfolio management, and hedge funds. He appreciates that the programme took a practical, case study-based approach. This method allowed him to showcase and apply what he learnt through group presentations.

Matoba believes the programme gave him a career advantage by:

  • Broadening his view and understanding of local and global equity markets.
  • Boosting his confidence.
  • Improving his interview skills.
  • Helping him build up his CV.

Matoba secured a job after his first interview with the support of the programme. He says the programme “contributed massively to [his] journey.” He still talks about his experience and recommends the programme to young people.

Mentoring Black Women Accountants

Ngonyama is the co-founding president of the AWCA organisation. This organisation offers mentoring, career opportunities, and bursaries to help Black female chartered accountants advance professionally.

Bursaries are crucial to the AWCA organisation’s work. Ngonyama explains that many young girls in South Africa must work and feed their families. The AWCA organisation sponsors young women’s education so they can attend school and receive the education they need.

Ngonyama has first-hand experience of the difficulties and discrimination many women chartered accountants face. Early in her career, she resolved to bring more women into the financial services space.

Years on, the CEO’s enterprises have created career opportunities for numerous Black women. She has employed and personally trained many individuals and helped others secure positions at companies she knows and recommends.

When Ngonyama became a chartered accountant, many women told themselves that if she could achieve it, they could too. Her remarkable success serves as an ongoing inspiration for Black women and young people in South Africa and beyond.

About Babalwa Ngonyama

Babalwa Ngonyama is making waves in South Africa’s financial space. She’s one of The Star’s 20 Top Women to Watch and one of Enterprise Magazine’s Top Businesswomen of the Year. The Enterprise World named her one of the Most Successful Business Leaders to Watch in 2023.

Ngonyama’s company Sinayo Securities supports South Africans by democratising investments. The company offers game-changing insights to its clients and partners, empowering them to build wealth and make a real impact.

Ngonyama sits on the boards of Clarendon Transport Underwriters and KTH, of which is she also the audit committee chair. In the past, she has supported several other organisations as:

  • The deputy chairperson of Brand South Africa.
  • The lead independent director of Implats Ltd.
  • The non-executive director and chairperson of Clover’s audit committee.
  • The independent director of the Hollard Life and Insurance boards (and chair of their risk committees).
  • A board member of Aspen.
  • A board member of the Barloworld Group.

Ngonyama has received a Black Business Quarterly (BBQ) Business Woman Visionary Award. She is a member of the Forbes and Choiseul Top 100 Africa. She also represents South Africa on the B20 as one of the business leaders.

Read more about Babalwa Ngonyama.