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Mpho Mookapele earned the top prize at the Saica Top-35-under-35 competition. Picture: SUPPLIED/SAICA
Mpho Mookapele earned the top prize at the Saica Top-35-under-35 competition. Picture: SUPPLIED/SAICA

CFO and acting CEO: Energy and Water Seta Mpho Mookapele is the overall winner of the Top-35-under-35 competition.

Launched by the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (Saica) in 2014, the Top-35-under-35 competition is unique in that it recognises young CAs (SA) achievers who are not only excelling in their professional capacity, but who are also making a meaningful contribution to society.

Mpho Mookapele’s journey from the small village of Dinokana in Zeerust to becoming a chartered accountant and scooping up the top prize at the competition has been a challenging but a rewarding one.

The CFO and acting CEO of the Energy and Water Seta was raised by her older sister until she relocated to Johannesburg to join her parents who were working there. Mookapele says that when she finished high school she took a bold step and approached her father’s employer to fund her first year of studies.

“I believe if I didn’t take the initiative I would be living a different story today,” says Mookapele.

She was not really sure where studying BCom accounting would lead her to,  but in her second year she discovered the chartered accountant route, and she knew her goal was to become a CA (SA).

After graduating Mookapele used her skills and passion to help develop the country and to make a difference in people’s lives.

“One of the greatest challenges in my career was the struggle to pursue my personal dream, especially when mine did not appear as exciting when compared to my peers’ dreams. My desire to serve the public sector was often frowned upon. I often felt alone in the journey, as not many walked a similar path,” says Mookapele.

Her career spans more than 10 years in the finance and regulatory environment in both the private and public sectors. Her career highlight was being promoted to senior manager at Ernst & Young where she led strategic planning and reporting solutions in the public sector. Mookapele has been acting CEO at the energy and water Seta for the past 10 months after being hired as CFO in 2016.

As CFO, she encountered many opportunities to enrich herself at the cost of her moral standards and at the cost of the future of young South Africans, but always chose to do the right thing. As CEO, her executive leadership and accountability to the board has highlighted the importance of strategic leadership governed by ethics.

Principal at Phatisa, Lize Lubbe is the Influence category winner of the
Top-35-Under-35 competition.

Liz Lubbe is the Influence category winner of the Top-35-Under 35 competition. Picture: SUPPLIED/SAICA
Liz Lubbe is the Influence category winner of the Top-35-Under 35 competition. Picture: SUPPLIED/SAICA

Lize Lubbe, the first female principal appointed at Phatisa, began her career being part of prestigious Frontier Market Scouts Program in California, US, as one of 30 global participants. The aim of the programme is to advance high-performing professionals in the field of impact investing. Lubbe thrived on every moment of this experience of meeting and learning from those at the heartbeat of entrepreneurship and impact investing.

“We collaborated with practitioners from the top impact investing funds in the US. As part of this programme, I completed a research fellowship in impact investing and venture capital in Silicon Valley, New York City and Washington DC to research international best practice with the vision to implement it in an African context,” says Lubbe.

After returning to SA, and after an intensive search for a company whose dreams and vision aligned with hers, she joined Phatisa’s Africa Agriculture Fund in 2016, a fund whose mission is leading impact investing into food and agriculture across Africa.

Since joining, Lubbe has played a big role in African Agriculture Fund’s impact of delivering 2.6-million tons of food and food-related products, supporting more than 9,000 permanent jobs and 78,000 small-scale farmers and entrepreneurs in rural communities from investment to date.

In 2017, Lubbe was appointed to serve on the board of a leading Malawi-based agricultural equipment and contracting business. Critical to her portfolio was to lead the development of its regional growth strategy into neighbouring countries, from ideation to fundraising and execution. She also led the successful financial and operational improvement programme in Zambia’s largest poultry business at board level.

Co-founder of Freedom of Movement Léan Boezaart is the Develop category winner of the Top-35-under-35 competition.

Léan Boezaart is the Develop category winner of the Top-35-under-35 competition. Picture: SUPPLIED/SAICA
Léan Boezaart is the Develop category winner of the Top-35-under-35 competition. Picture: SUPPLIED/SAICA

From a single leather bag, Boezaart and his team have ignited the business to a premium SA lifestyle brand that ranges from trendy leather bags and footwear to timepieces. Today it proudly boasts 10 concept stores, with one based in Amsterdam, and sold through online platforms that offer worldwide shipping.

“We want to inspire others along the way to create their future, dare to dream, and live their lives with true freedom of movement: the freedom to dream; the freedom to explore; and the freedom to create,” says Boezaart.

The pro-golfer, who completed his articles after qualifying as a chartered accountant, started the business in 2013 with his civil engineer brother Roal Boezaart.

The pair scratched together all their savings and started a business, Freedom of Movement, in a small room at the University of Stellenbosch.

“Our vision was to create a proudly South African lifestyle brand based on the core principles of quality, longevity, value and worth. For us, leather was the one raw material that epitomised all four of these principles. Leather is known for its quintessential robust and timeless appeal, and nothing tells a story quite like a well-worn leather bag.

“We want to inspire others along the way to create their future, dare to dream, and live their lives with true freedom of movement: the freedom to dream; the freedom to explore; and the freedom to create,” says Boezaart.

Each of the award winners attribute studying to become chartered accountants as being the foundation of their success.

Says Mookapele: “One of the greatest attributes I have gained from the CA (SA) qualification is professionalism, integrity and analytical, critical and creative thinking skills. I realised that being a CA (SA) is not about attaining a qualification but attaining an enabler. It enables one to open doors and confidently sit at the table and have meaningful discussions and apply my mind to bring about solutions. The greatest highlight of my career is being able to see the results of the works of my hands not only benefiting myself but others.”

This article was paid for by the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants.