BACKSTORY: EY Africa CEO Ajen Sita
We question the CEO of EY Africa Ajen Sita
What’s your one top tip for doing a deal?
Make sure that there is a very strong culture fit between your organisation and the target.
What was your first job?
If you exclude being a salesman in a clothing store for most of my school holidays, then I am still in my first professional job! I have been with EY for 26 years, but in a great variety of roles.
How much was your first pay cheque, and how did you spend it?
Bearing in mind it was some time ago, my first pay cheque was about R750 and I spent it on a new suit for work — you do need to look the part!
What is the one thing you wish somebody had told you when you were starting out?
In the early part of your career, take on as many diverse experiences as you can; this will open your mind to new ideas and possibilities for success later in life.
What’s the most interesting thing about you that people don’t know?
I am studying a three-year online philosophy course, which means that I am up every morning at 4.30.
How would you fix Eskom?
As the expression goes, you eat an elephant one bite at a time. Take SA into your confidence: the public needs to truly understand the full scale of the problem. Manage expectations so that we know what we need to do to get on the other side. Flood Eskom with highly skilled people. Rapidly deregulate both the generation and distribution landscape.
Do you think we need SAA?
I believe that tourism is our biggest potential to create jobs and economic growth. If we believe this, then we need a strong national carrier as well as multiple airlines. However, the current operating model of SAA is not sustainable.
What is the one investment you wish you had made, or made earlier?
I would have invested more in learning and taken the time to study philosophy at an earlier age as I think it would have given me a better understanding of how things work, why they work, and to better deal with complexity, which I believe would have made me a better leader.
What is your biggest regret?
Generally, if I regret something that I have said or a decision that I may have made, I’ll go and fix it. Having said that, nobody has it engraved on their tombstone that they wish they had spent more time at work! I do wish that I had spent more time with my children.
What has been your worst purchase?
My first house, and I knew it very quickly! It was old-fashioned, not at all my style, and after only two years I sold it without letting my wife know. She still reminds me today of that!
If you were Cyril Ramaphosa, what would you change, or do, tomorrow?
A few years ago, we had a tagline at EY which went something along the lines of "Ideas. Solutions. Results" — and this comes to mind now. Pivot his administration to a relentless execution of his vision. Have skilled and competent ministers and directors-general. Get business, labour and the government to commit to a true social compact. And radical improvement in education outcomes to get a better-skilled workforce.
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