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April 30, 2008

PwC leader inspires community

PwC leader inspires community

Glory Koko Khumalo comes from a poor rural region of South Africa. She has overcome adversity and is now a partner and director at PricewaterhouseCoopers South Africa, and has just won the award of Manager of the Year from the Black Management Forum. She speaks to Rob Waller about her journey.

South Africa isn’t always a country that inspires. For many years it lived under the cloud of apartheid and currently it is suffering from an AIDS epidemic that claims about 1,000 lives per day. Unemployment stands at 25 percent and 50 percent of the population live under the poverty line.

One woman who has become an inspiration to many of her fellow Africans is PricewaterhouseCoopers South Africa (PwC) partner and director Glory Koko Khumalo.

Last month, Khumalo won the Black Management Forum (BMF) Manager of the Year award. She is the managing partner of the north-eastern region of PwC.

Khumalo was born in a rural community in the Limpopo region, which is to the north of Johannesburg. Her father owned a small trading store. It was here that Khumalo showed her first interest in finance.

“My father told me that when we grew up he had a trading store. He said to me that I used to ask him questions about how he was recording money,” she tells IAB.

An aptitude for figures runs in Khumalo’s family and one of her cousins trained with PwC’s predecessor firm, Coopers & Lybrand. However, what really inspired Khumalo to succeed was a desire to be financially independent.

Self-sufficient “I grew up and was witnessing poverty and was witnessing what women go through in their day-to-day lives – depending on someone else to give them money or handouts. I then took a decision. Whether I’m going to get married or not, it’s not going to be a rich man who will then maintain me. I’m going to be self-sufficient and financially independent. That was a key to me,” Khumalo says.

It was this determination that helped Khumalo attain a commerce degree at the University of Limpopo. Her first job was at the Standard Bank of South Africa in the early 1990s. However, things were still difficult for her. Despite the changes occurring in South Africa in the early 1990s, discrimination was still a problem.

“I was working on a Bachelor of Commerce degree, but some of my seniors or supervisors only had a high school qualification. That did not make sense for me,” Khumalo says.

It was at this point that the BMF came into her life. The BMF was set up in 1976, but it was not launched in the Limpopo region until 1995. Khumalo found the BMF to be an inspiration.

“When [BMF] was launched a person came to share with us what BMF was all about and it really encouraged me. As I say, it was difficult in the private sector as a black girl. We had no sense of belonging, but through BMF we really belonged,” she says.

“I realised there was an organisation like BMF that shared my sentiments of saying it is actually unfair not to be considered for your qualifications because of your colour. So I have been working with them ever since.”

Khumalo joined PwC in 1996 and completed her articles. At the firm she found a company that shared her ideals and desire to help her community. She became a managing partner in 2005. During this time she continued to work for the BMF.

As chairperson for her region, Khumalo is working to help schools in Limpopo with financial management skills. This is so they can better utilise often meagre resources.

The BMF also does a lot of work with local students, which Khumalo enjoys greatly. They give talks and training to help students gain the skills that will help them succeed in the workplace.

Khumalo says her reasons for helping her community are simple. She explained: “When you achieve in life you then look back and say other people have contributed with your own development – what am I doing to contribute to others?”

PwC has also played an important part in Khumalo’s community work. “They encourage us to be involved in the community,” she says, highlighting the firm’s Women in PwC initiative, of which she is a member. This initiative aims to improve the working conditions of women through mentoring and encouraging flexible hours.

Community focus The community work helps PwC build relationships with the local community, which in turn helps business. Khumalo’s work encourages talented young students to pursue an accounting career with the firm.

Khumalo believes it is this combination of success at PwC and community work that helped her win the BMF award. Khumalo says: “To me, I wish I could be given so much time to assist many South Africans. Especially African kids and women that are out there and lost and want to go somewhere in life.”

According to Khumalo: “This is just the beginning of a new journey.”

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