Twelve years ago when Pumza Ndlotyeni launched her electrical engineering company she was the only employee. Now she heads a team of eighty staff and is looking to expand her Joburg-based black-woman owned company across southern Africa.
Pumza’s success was saluted at the UK-Africa Summit where the UK’s Africa Trade Commissioner Emma Wade-Smith hosted a Start-Up Africa Night for female entrepreneurs.
Pumza was pitching for further investment along with another ten female business owners whose enterprises ranged from civil engineering in Mozambique and health services in Nigeria to flavoured teas from Kenya and recycled plastic garments from Egypt.
Last year I had the pleasure of mentoring Pumza on a visit to Johannesburg. It was very inspiring to hear her story of how a previously disadvantaged African woman set about becoming an engineer and forging her Gebane Engineering Services company (www.gebane.co.za )which now provides massive foundations for power sub-stations and works with major state enterprises like South Africa’s power provide Eskom.
Pumza also works with the Cherie Blair Foundation (www.cherieblairfoundation.org ) who this week announced plans to mentor a further 100,000 women entrepreneurs.
The Start-Up Event was co-sponsored by Melanie Hawken the CEO of the Lionesses Of Africa (www.lionessesofafrica.com) which announced that is now has a million women signed up to take part in its mentoring programmes.
If the UK is seeking to boost its trade with Africa then building partnerships with some of these amazing women is a good place to start.