Alumni Profile - Noxolo Hlongwane

We talk to Noxolo Hlongwane about private philanthropy and giving in South Africa

Is there a strong tradition of philanthropic giving in South Africa? Has this changed during the challenging global economic climate of the past five years?

As South Africans, we have a very strong culture of giving. The practice of philanthropy is not new but many philanthropists tend to be very modest about their giving with many still preferring to operate under the radar.

The economic slowdown has definitely had a negative impact on philanthropy in South Africa, which was evidenced by the slowdown in the number of high net worth (HNW) individuals that were committing or setting aside parts of their wealth towards social causes, but the situation is improving as we are now seeing more HNW individuals setting up charitable trusts and foundations.

How do you think philanthropic giving will develop in South Africa during the next ten years?

With International Aid shifting away from South Africa, there is immense pressure on local private philanthropy as the social need is so much greater than available resources. Donors are becoming more strategic in their giving and placing greater emphasis on sustainable non-profit organisations and projects.

Earlier in the year Patrice Motsepe who is listed as the 4th wealthiest man in South Africa by Forbes, committed half of the funds generated by his family assets to improve the lifestyles and living conditions of the poor and marginalised South Africans – he was the first South African to publicly do so. We hope this will inspire other HNW individuals to give and grow local philanthropy.

Although there will always be space for traditional philanthropy, I think we will also gravitate towards philanthropy that is more enterprising and applies some business principles to gain efficiencies which enables donors to stretch their Rand a lot further. I think there will be an uptake of new and innovative models of facilitating philanthropy such as venture philanthropy.     

What changes, if any, have you seen in South Africa with regards to people investing money in sustainability initiatives?  What motivates them to do so?

There has been an increasing social consciousness of consumers after the financial crisis that highlighted the infinite inequalities of the day. There is currently a big focus in South Africa on sustainability initiatives where individuals and businesses take care to take into account and coordinate economic, social and environmental aspects of their activities to ensure stable communities and preserving the planet for future generations.

Sustainability and corporate citizenship are key themes that are strongly emphasized in the Report on Governance for South Africa (King III) as fundamental principles for good governance, and focuses on the effects of business on society and environment. Compliance with legislation such as the Broad Based Black Economic Empowerment’s Codes of Good Practice has also played a big role in accelerating the drive by businesses to focus on sustainability.

How did you get into your industry, by choice or by chance?

I’ve always had a passion for development and finding systemic solutions to the many social challenges that face South Africa and hoped to make a difference by influencing policy, hence I pursued Economics in my undergraduate studies and went on to major in Economic Policy and Development at post-graduate level. During my time at university I soon found myself disillusioned with the public sector and so decided to venture into financial services instead.

What has been your most difficult moment professionally?

Acting on the decision to leave an environment where I was well established, had progressed well and had earned a reputation to pursue something different in quest for a more meaningful contribution; and not knowing if it was the right move or if the timing was right.

What influence has your time at Henley had on your career to date?

Being awarded the Alumni Fund Bursary was a great honour and my time at Henley has been a real privilege. The strong focus on personal development at Henley has certainly grown me as an individual, has grown me into a better manager and leader and equipped me with the skills I needed to make a career transition.

Noxolo Hlongwane has been working in the Financial Services sector for over 8 years, having spent the bulk of that time within the Global Markets Operations environment. She is currently working in Wealth Management, facilitating philanthropy for a banking institution, which plays a vital role in addressing some of the social challenges that face society in South Africa.  Noxolo was a recipient of the Alumni Fund Bursary, which enabled her to undertake her MBA at Henley Business School.