Wendy Luhabe – Keynote Speaker

One of the most Powerful Businesswomen in Africa

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Specialist Subjects

  • Leadership
  • Author
  • Sustainability
  • Culture


  • English


Wendy Luhabe considers herself a social entrepreneur and is regarded as one of South Africa’s prominent, visionary and pioneering women. She spent 10 years in Marketing before venturing on her own. Her first enterprise was in Human Resources (Bridging the Gap). She is most known for her vision in the founding of Women Investment Portfolio Holdings in 1993, an initiative that revolutionized the participation of women in the economic landscape of South Africa . She has been a director since the age of 36 and is chairman of International Marketing Council (IMC), Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) and Vendome SA.

She published her first book” Defining Moments” in 2002 (Experiences of Black Executives in South Africa’s workplace).

In 2002 she was responsible for another first in South Africa, namely the launch of a R120 million private equity fund for women-owned enterprises.

She was, until quite recently, chairperson of Alliance Capital and the Vodacom Group.

Currently she is chairperson of Vendome SA, the Industrial Development Corporation, The Abraaj Group, and the International Marketing Council and also serves on the Board of the Johannesburg Securities Exchange. She also holds a number of influential international appointments: She is an international trustee of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award International Foundation, she is a member of the Helsinki Process on Globalisation and Democracy and is also a member of the Club of Rome.

She holds an honorary doctorate from the University of Fort Hare. She was recognised as a Global Leader for Tomorrow by the World Economic Forum in Switzerland and as an Outstanding Young Person by the Osaka Junior Chamber in Japan. The Unisa Business School recognised her contribution to Leadership in Practice. In 1999 she was honoured as one of the 50 Leading Women Entrepreneurs of the World. Wendy was inaugurated as Chancellor of the University of Johannesburg in September 2006.

She has established the Wendy Luhabe Foundation, which uses the profits from her book, Defining Moments, to educate young disadvantaged black women, particularly from the rural areas.

She is featured regularly in various media (Sunday Times, Financial Mail) as one of South Africa’s most powerful women. Wendy was recently invited by Hilary Clinton to join the International Council of Women Business Leaders, a new initiative by the U S State Department.

Her vision is for Africa to grow up, to take her rightful place in the world, to be responsible, to think of future generations and to change the image of poverty, war, genocide, poor leadership and corruption. Africa must cultivate a culture of social entrepreneurship and dedicate resources to single mindedly pursue this vision. Research has shown that entrepreneurs create employment opportunities, pioneer new industries , leapfrog economies, transform the quality of life and lead to a competitive national mindset. We cannot build our respective countries whilst we depend on aid on the one hand and create welfare states to buy political patronage on the other hand. I am convinced that Africa must let the women lead and we will witness a miracle that will astound the world. Democracy without responsible and accountable leadership is not sufficient to improve the quality of life for those who were previously excluded, exploited and marginalised. Africa must take responsibility for her destiny. It’s in their hands, they can and they must.

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