CASE IN POINT // Bigen Africa
By: Lydia Bundred
Building a Legacy
Many dream of leaving their mark on this world, but few attain that dream. Bigen Africa’s Dr Snowy Khoza has invested her life in creating a better tomorrow through various initiatives and projects. Her perseverance and living for more than herself have been essential in building a legacy for the next generation. Through her involvement as CEO, Bigen Africa has taken massive strides in reaching out to, and developing, the African continent.
More often than not, people learn by demonstration, and that is why great leaders often have, or have had, great role models. Growing up, Snowy’s most important role model was her grandmother, who taught her three valuable life lessons. “Her wisdom was unparalleled by any book I have ever read. She taught me mainly three things. Firstly, that ‘the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom’ – meaning there is a greater ‘I am’ up there. As an individual, I cannot be my own. Secondly, that life is a problem-solving
process. In our lifetime, we cannot avoid challenges and problems, but we should not become weary. Thirdly, that every action we take has consequences, which means that we should be wise when making decisions. We have to understand that our actions and choices impact others – hopefully for the good – and that is one of the reasons why I find fulfilment in my role at Bigen Africa.”
Snowy is particularly passionate about increasing female representation in business. She explains: “Bigen Africa values its employees as human collateral and, especially because its core business relies on hard-to-find expertise, emphasises their development and the retaining of scarce skills. Transformation is also prioritised and this includes encouraging women to step into and grow in this field.”
As a leader, one needs to maximise the capabilities of those around you and under your management. An effective team is only as good as the skills of its members. “At Bigen Africa, individuals are developed through formalised empowerment, training, delegation, mentorship, coaching and succession planning. Our policies ensure that identified people are given opportunities to job-shadow, rotate, choose a career path, attend external conferences and workshops, become thought leaders internally, attend communities of practice, share knowledge through publishing articles, and/or be deployed to projects and countries of choice,” explains Snowy.
In 2012 Bigen Africa’s mentorship programme, which is key in transferring valuable knowledge in this field, was awarded Mentoring Company of the Year, and, in 2013, one of its engineers, Kobus Viljoen, won the CESA Mentor of the Year Award.
Snowy’s children have witnessed her struggles and can attest to her strong nature and perseverance. “My children, who include all my God-given children out there, know that, to be a successful person in life, you have to fear God Almighty first and foremost. You also have to work hard, make wise life choices – such as having a clean lifestyle – and help other people along the way as well,” she says. “They, too, will face challenges in life and they need to possess resilience and determination to continue living a fruitful life.”
She is passionate about “the development of those who face the same struggles and obstacles, such as debilitating poverty. An important message that I have for all youngsters in South Africa and on the continent, is that education is the key to improving lives and to a better future. I am especially passionate about furthering the education of young girls and have created a school fund, which aids children and child prisoners in obtaining an education.”
“Since my appointment in 2010 as the first woman to head the company, Bigen Africa has evolved into a thought-leading multinational infrastructure development consultancy with core capabilities in engineering, management consulting and project finance. Its vision is to develop sustainable infrastructure that will improve the quality of life of all. These projects also provide opportunities for putting the company’s creed of ‘doing good while doing business’ into practice, which involves channelling some of the employment and procurement opportunities to the local communities.” This is the legacy, explains the Agape Christian Women’s Network International President.