ShapeShifter

Meet Santie Botha, Curro Chair and one of Africa’s wealthiest businesswomen

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Santie Botha is out of this world.

She is the Chairperson of Curro and Famous Brands and serves on the boards of Telkom and Tiger Brands. Botha first rose to prominence when, at the age of 34, she became Absa’s youngest ever board member. She joined MTN as Chief Marketing Officer in 2003 and oversaw the network become the Fifa World Cup’s first and only global sponsor from Africa. She recently became South Africa’s youngest ever university chancellor when, at 48, she headed up the Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan University in Port Elizabeth.

She’s also one of the richest women in Africa.

Choosing business over tennis

“When I was at school and university my life revolved around sport; tennis in particular,” says Botha.

Botha had ambitions to become the best women’s tennis player in South Africa, but chose to take a job at Unilever instead. “I continued playing tennis for about two years, but then work took over. I made that choice,” says Botha.

Amalgamated Banks of South Africa

In 1996, while working in the UK, Botha decided to resign so she could move back home to South Africa.

“South Africa was a new country and I wanted to be there; living in London for six years was more than enough for me,” says Botha.

Botha got an interview at Absa, a brand she was unfamiliar with, and after numerous interviews and psychometric tests they made her an offer which she accepted.

Turning MTN into Africa's most recognised brand

Botha stayed with Absa for seven years, navigating the tension fraught post-amalgamation period, before joining MTN.

At the end of the World Cup, after seven years at MTN, Botha moved on. “It was the only African brand in the top 100 global brands list,” says Botha. “I think the job was done.”

What Botha makes of Curro’s recent faux pas

“It’s very unfortunate what transpired,” laments Botha. “The board ordered an immediate investigation. We tasked the executive team at head office to go to this particular school and speak to everyone to really get to the bottom of it.

“This is an isolated incident at one particular school out of 42 campuses.”

Botha says they found a solution. “We’ll listen to parents far more than what has been the case up to now at this particular school. If this model works - where parents and teachers will have a say in the allocation of children to classes - it will be rolled out to the rest of the group to ensure that this incident does not happen anywhere else.”

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