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Setlogane Manchidi – head of CSI, Investec

‘Our business is dependent on the long-term sustainability of the communities within which we operate’.

MORGAN BARNARD: Welcome to the Moneyweb podcast, today I’m speaking to Setlogane Manchidi, head of CSI at Investec. As a starting point I would like to look at the role that CSI plays within businesses, how important is it for companies to invest in CSI initiatives and why?

SETLOGANE MANCHIDI: It is important for companies to invest in CSI initiatives more for a perspective that says we live within society and we should understand that the long-term sustainability of our businesses is dependent on the long-term sustainability of the communities within which we operate. We cannot run successful businesses unless the communities within which we operate are both sustainable and successful.

MORGAN BARNARD: Can you give us some idea of how much money Investec puts back into the community each year and how it is spent?

SETLOGANE MANCHIDI: At a general level we spend about R50m as a group, Investec CSI, giving back to communities. The major focus really is on education, our view and understanding is we ought to create a meaningful difference in people’s lives and we felt that anything that enables people to become active economic participants in our society would be key. So our focus on education and partly also on entrepreneurship is aimed at facilitating that active participation of individuals in the economy. The most important thing is to understand that we have a 90/10 spilt, percentage-wise, of our budget, where 90% of our budget is solidly focused on education related initiatives, including those that are entrepreneurship-focused. The 10% that we’ve got is more for ad-hoc philanthropic initiatives that we run, some of which include the Soccer League, associated with Field Band, as well as to facilitate to a large degree the involvement of staff in our own community projects and it’s important that we understand the power to leverage. Leveraging means we can inject money, yes, into initiatives but we’ve got a whole host of other resources, so whilst we have financial resources, we’ve got human resources, all of whom can be leveraged off to bring about a meaningful difference in people’s lives.

MORGAN BARNARD: You are currently sponsoring a programme to improve maths and science skills in South Africa, can you tell us a little bit about this initiative?

SETLOGANE MANCHIDI: It’s a programme that actually celebrates ten years of existence…

MORGAN BARNARD: Okay, wow.

SETLOGANE MANCHIDI: …this year in particular. So the programme known as Promaths is an initiative that we started in partnership with Kutlwanong Maths Science and Technology Centre, which is an NGO, largely aimed at helping youngsters from township schools, rural schools, increase their pass rate but not only just their pass rate but the quality of their pass rate. So youngsters that we take from these schools come and attend extra maths lessons, as well as science lessons over weekends. They start with us from Grade 10 and it gets steeper and steeper for them because when you’re in Grade 10 you attend once a week, when you’re in Grade 11 you attend twice a week, when you’re in Grade 12 you attend three times a week, so you attend on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. It’s amazing in a sense that we’re asking youngsters at a very early age to give up their weekends already for three years just to start preparing. But I think of the level of desperation in the sense that what is the real challenge in the public school education system is that many times youngsters are not taught by adequately qualified teachers, many times they haven’t got the [right] kind of textbooks, many times the classes are too big and many times we don’t spend enough time on the content, on the subject matter to get youngsters up to speed. So what we do in this initiative actually turns every bit of those challenges on their head and we say fine, we are going to create smaller classes, we are going to get adequately qualified teachers, we are going to give you textbooks, we are going to give you calculators, we are going to make sure you’re fully supported to have a better chance. This is amazing, youngsters who join our programme sometimes start as low as 15% in mathematics and when they matriculate they are as high as 100% in mathematics or science.

MORGAN BARNARD: Wow.

SETLOGANE MANCHIDI: And that’s the point, the point is that potential lies in every single child, what we have to admit is that many times it’s not that the youngsters have failed but the system has failed these youngsters and that’s the key thing that we need to be thinking about going forward.

MORGAN BARNARD: Ja because maths and science skills are lacking in South Africa but this is a long-term investment in these skills, when can we expect to see a payoff in the industry?

SETLOGANE MANCHIDI: Maybe I’m a very optimistic individual but let’s put it this way, that it’s ten years on, we have got alumni, many of whom are part of our alumni chapters, at universities, they are studying degrees that are, my goodness, some of them I can’t even pronounce but these are degrees that they wouldn’t have ordinarily been able to pursue had they not produced the kind of maths and science results that this programme has enabled them to but also would not have been able to pursue if they had not produced the kind of results so as to secure admission at university, but not only just admission but in many instances secure scholarships and bursaries to pursue such. So it’s very important for us to start saying yes, it’s a long-term view but it’s a decade later and a decade later for those who were part of the ceremony on Friday wouldn’t have noticed that we had videos of alumni, some of whom are working people already, some of whom are in their fourth year, some of whom are pursuing degrees that require them to be much longer at university, so they’re in medicine and all other places. But yes, it’s starting to pay off and I have no doubt that from now onwards we will reap the rewards of what we’ve invested over the past. When I talk about reap rewards, I’m not talking directly by Investec but I’m saying I think society will start to realise the benefit and contribution that Investec in partnership with Kutlwanong…have made.

MORGAN BARNARD: On a more critical question though is you are investing in these skills but what are the chances of these students finding employment in this country?

SETLOGANE MANCHIDI: Obviously the economy is facing its own challenges at this point in time but I think we cannot deny the level of skill shortages, particularly in the areas that require maths and science. That as much as there is a high unemployment rate, the unemployment rate happens because we haven’t got the kind of skill set that is required to fill the many other positions. If you look at government in terms of its own admission where it needs to fill in posts, largely it’s accountants, it’s significant people who require maths and science. If you look at all industries they’ll tell you, we are in finance and we scramble for people, particularly people of colour, it is not easy fill. So these guys no doubt have a higher chance of finding a job than somebody else who is going to pursue more of a less in demand, which typically there are too many of them because they aren’t people who are well versed in maths or matriculated with maths and science passes a while ago. So no, I’m fairly optimistic, yes the economy it is where it is but we have gaps even with the economy the way that it is.

MORGAN BARNARD: Do you have any success stories that we can refer to?

SETLOGANE MANCHIDI: We have a number of success stories and I suppose some of them are, if I take Isaiah Mhlanga for example, who is our very, very first matriculant on the programme, he matriculated in 2005 when the programme started. He subsequently got a bursary from Investec at the time, he then went and studied BCom Econometrics at UJ, he proceeded to do his honours, he has done his masters, his first job was at the IMF, he then went and joined National Treasury and today he’s one of the senior economists at Barclays Africa. It’s a wonderful story to tell, this is somebody who I remember years ago, visiting his home, a four-roomed house in Soweto and being pointed to a tea tray to say this is the study desk he used to have. I think of Mpho Nontlakanipo Msibi who’s one of our CA programme trainees at Investec, also a similar kind of story, mother was a domestic worker who had twins and both of whom ended up on the Promaths programme, both of whom chose to study further at various universities. The one got a bursary at Investec, the other went and did aeronautical engineering and, therefore, got a bursary elsewhere but in the end the domestic worker mother has got two well-educated youngsters as a result of a programme that’s given them the opportunity that it has. So the list is endless, I can tell you all these wonderful stories that I have heard over the ten years that seem to suggest that the progamme is having some form of impact. Yes, I think let’s admit, let’s accept that in the broader scheme of things there are too many more people who are in need and a programme such as Promaths can never be enough, in fact we’ve got so many centres, Investec alone is supporting about eight centres across the country. But even then it’s not because there are just so many youngsters in need. However, the pockets, these very pockets produce some amazing results and I have no doubt that we are going to start seeing some of these people come back and make some form of contribution one way or the other, both in the economy and society.

MORGAN BARNARD: That was Setlogane Manchidi, head of CSI at Investec. 

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