Nkuli Bogopa. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA
Nkuli Bogopa. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA

The commercial property industry may still largely be male and pale, but Nkuli Bogopa, president of the SA Institute of Black Property Practitioners, is confident that this can be remedied.

She says real estate has been poorly understood. "Few youngsters realise how broad the opportunities are within the sector and how financially rewarding a career in property can be. It’s high time we get that message across."

The efforts of the architect turned property facilities manager to raise the institute’s profile among young black graduates, particularly women, is paying off. In the first 12 months of her two-year tenure as the institute’s president, active membership of it has increased by 66% to 400. She hopes another 600 members will be added to the tally by the time she hands over the baton to her successor in November.

Members are from a broad spectrum of professionals from the commercial and listed property industries.

Bogopa, who is also an incoming director on the board of the property sector charter council, believes government has to help facilitate transformation. She says implementation of the preferential procurement policies the department of public works introduced in 2011 to promote black property ownership stalled following leasing scandals and allegations of unscrupulous tender procedures.

It is urgent for these policies to be reinstated, she says.

Few youngsters realise how broad the opportunities are within the sector and how financially rewarding a career in property can be. It’s high time we get that message across

Though Bogopa trained as an architect at the former Wits Technikon, which is now incorporated into the University of Johannesburg, she moved to property facilities management early on in her career. "I soon realised I wasn’t cut out for being on site, 24/7, in a hard hat and rubber boots."

While completing her architecture internship at Osmond Lange Architects & Planners in Johannesburg in the early 2000s, she was involved in the first phase of mixed-use precinct Melrose Arch. When Investec Properties, which handled the precinct’s letting at the time, offered her the chance to run Melrose Arch’s information centre, she jumped at the opportunity.

"I knew the position involved the marriage of buildings and people, which is what I was looking for."

Bogopa was later appointed as facilities manager for real estate company Colliers, overseeing the rollout of a number of service stations for a petro-chemical business.

Over the past five years, she has been group property manager for mining conglomerate Rio Tinto.

She oversaw the building project of its new African head office in Illovo from site selection to completion.

In this position, she says, "I could wear both my architecture and facilities manager hats."

While working for Rio Tinto, Bogopa was awarded a place in the African Leadership Institute’s flagship development programme, the Desmond Tutu Fellowship, which was launched in conjunction with Oxford University.

"My time as a Tutu fellow made me realise what a large pool of bright, young leaders we have, and this gives me immense hope for the future of SA and the continent as a whole," Bogopa says.

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