Photography for BCX in September 2015 by Jeremy Glyn.

Afrovation Group answers the call to nurture a small, yet capable army of women in ICT

The Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services, Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams has – in the recent past – said that South Africa needs a “capable army” that includes women that can contribute to and benefit from the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR). She added that government has realised that in order to derive an effective economic spin-off from #4IR, there is a need to build and continuously nurture these capable soldiers. This army, she believes, will not be capable enough unless there are women in it.

The Afrovation Group has answered this call by establishing and nurturing a small, yet capable army of women as its way of contributing to the development of women in the ICT sector. This 100% black-owned information and communication technology (ICT) company that is experienced in providing technology solutions, through cloud services, telecommunications infrastructure, data enrichment and verification – has a total of 35 employees of which 50% of them are females who hold junior, skilled, middle and senior management positions. The company prides itself on being an entrepreneurially cultured organisation with a willingness to deliver value first, with recognition for operational efficiency. Its team of innovative thinkers includes black-African, Indian and Coloured women that have assisted the group in defining a lasting value proposition and ensuring consistent delivery on the promise of high-quality service across the entire client base.

Matumane Tshabalala, the Managing Director of ZatoCento (Pty) Ltd – a 100% Black Woman Owned (BWO) company that is hosted at Afrovation says: “Most companies start their journey with a dream, a vison and the will to succeed; all they need is that first customer – the support and the space to bounce off ideas with like-minded people. Afrovation however provides a constructive environment, where advice is freely given to assist in growing my company.

“Where possible, they give me an opportunity to showcase my capability – so that when other customers demand credentials – as a start-up – I am able to present a credible portfolio. They take interest in both my personal and business success and growth; and they do this through constant ‘pep talks’ (reminders) and words of wisdom. In my humble opinion – they are the epitome’ of “paying it forward”.

Afrovation has, at its own cost provided ZatoCento with space to conduct its business at its premises in Rosebank and the formal partnership between the two companies was put in place in February 2019. ZantoCento focuses on Digital Transformation Consultancy & Delivery to enable its customers with increased, insightful knowledge of their environments – using the power of (the Internet of Things) IOT, Data Analytics, Communication optimisation and tooling.

Tshabalala adds: “As a hosted partner, Afrovation has provided my company with an enabling environment and I now work on projects that add value to the suite of Afrovation services. Our business partnership has recently been taken to another level where Afrovation has now also become one of our customers.”

A seasoned ICT professional who hails from Maseru in Lesotho, Tshabalala has vast experience having held senior positions at ICT giants such as Business Connexion (BCX) and EMC. Her amazing resume does not end there though – she speaks six languages that include Sesotho, isiZulu, English, Afrikaans, German and French.

Maxwell Ramutla, the Group CEO of Afrovation says: “As a partner – there are a few customer opportunities that require Tshabalala’s capability to bolster the Afrovation service offerings, such as software development and IoT (Internet of Things) driven solutions. She is more than capable to provide these expertise and this means that we do not need to invest upfront on a skill set that can be provided through her company. This is a huge benefit for us because we now have flexible resource management; in-house and on demand.”

The company has been in the technology business for 13 years, but the Afrovation Group also has subsidiaries that include Afrovation Property, Transport, Transmission, Veri5 (Verification), Investments, Afrovation Foundation and Incubation. When some of the women in the company were asked if they thought that the Afrovation Group as a whole was doing its part in the development of women in ICT, this is what they had to say: Kedidimetse ‘Didi’ Sebopela, a 27-year old young lady from Mapobane, Pretoria who is now an Account Manager at Afrovation Technology after starting off as an intern in 2017.

Sebopela says: “My four-year experience at Afrovation has been a roller coaster ride, I’ve had to learn to swim in very deep waters and have over the years been forced out of my comfort zone. This has helped me to grow as a person and in my career path. I am now very confident with myself and my work, I do everything to the best of my abilities, but at the same time have allowed myself to be guided by the amazing team that I work with.

Her current responsibilities include working very closely with the company’s IT-Technical Support team in understanding technological requirements and plans of Afrovation’s clients, provide after sales support through monthly and or quarterly reports as well as regular status meetings for retention purposes.

“In all honesty, to be a young professional who is still employed during these tough economic times faced by so many companies globally – is truly a blessing. Afrovation has not just provided me with an employment opportunity, but also a chance to be part of a diverse family with a great culture,” Sebopela adds.

On the importance of work-life balance for female professionals – Tshabalala said that in her spare time she consciously spends time with her family – her kids and husband – she also diarises sports and school events. Also, when she can she ‘brisk walks’ or jogs, she sometimes cooks, reads books – stressing the fact that she still prefers hard covers and on occasion – she makes time to watch movies with her family and or friends.

In her concluding words on the issues around the development of women at Afrovation in particular – Tshabalala said: “I can honestly say that I feel like I am recognised and have been made to feel like I belong to the greater ecosystem. I also do my best not to embarrass them; but add my value to ensure that the partnership is mutually beneficial. Afrovation provides an enabling environment to present my company to our key target market – but not only that – they also provide me with ICT advice on how to position my company’s service offering based on their experience

“At Afrovation, they believe that it is important for us to learn from the mistakes that they made in the past, without being intrusive in how they conduct their own business. As a fairly new and small start-up, they provide me with the best advice based on their own hindsight. They have also introduced me to their customers and other partners – in an effort to create and enable prospective synergies for new business opportunities. They applaud my successes and encourage our mutual collaboration in bolstering responses to bids – they provide me with the necessary support where bigger balance sheets are required to partake in certain business opportunities.”

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