"SOUTH AFRICA AND ITS PEOPLE NEED A HAND UP, NOT A HAND DOWN."- ZIAAD SULEMAN, FORMER IBM AFRICA CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER AND CURRENT EOH GROUP CHIEF COMMERCIAL OFFICER
The innate desire to succeed and leave behind a positive legacy was the starting point of a longer path – a desire fuelled by the knowledge that there is no fall back. Success and a better tomorrow reside upon the shoulders of the carrier. The steps beyond the initial premise are enabled by a solutionist mindset cemented through the core principles of integrity, humility, a sound work ethic, sacrifice, reflection, good interpersonal relationships and most importantly considered application utilising knowledge and experience.
Reflection is such an important trait as it keeps one grounded whilst reminding one to do good beyond the self. My journey, both professionally and personally, was to remain dynamic without fear of change yet substantive in adding value.
I was born in Vereeniging and raised in Lenasia – an Indian township established because of Apartheid. I was fortunate and privileged to attend some of the best educational institutions because of my parents’ personal sacrifice. I witnessed this sacrifice daily and this constantly reminds me of what was given up for me to navigate through life.
My career journey began as a lawyer, then a consultant in establishing South Africa’s Second Fixed Line Operator, then my fantastic journey at IBM and now EOH. In addition to my professional career, I am energised and compelled to support a broader ecosystem, hence my broad involvement as: Chairperson of the Digital Economy for South Africa at BRICS; Chairperson of the PPGI (Public Private Growth Initiative) 4IR Presidential Initiative; my Exco appointment to the Presidential DWA (Digital Work Accelerator) Programme; non-executive director of Charities Aid Foundation Southern Africa; an Exco member of an NPO initiative called DIG1T and non executive chairman for Qode.
I am a strong proponent of good citizenship and of being an enabler. As I traverse the challenge of modern society, whether it be business, economics, education, politics or otherwise, I have realised that leaders have an intrinsic responsibility to create and then harness a progressive environment for now and the future.
These steps must be premised around inclusivity and scale. It is for this reason that I am energised about my work in the DWA, which converges market opportunity (both local and international) for skills with demand. Based on this, the positive impact on citizens’ lives is tremendous as the skills and work experience yielded, now not only paves the way for them to add value to themselves and their families, but rather broader society and the fiscus.
This capacity base then translates eloquently into the PPGI domain of promoting a greater cohesion of public- private partnerships, which in turn creates both capacity and a valuable skills base for international participation in BRICS and beyond.
The consequence of these initiatives reduces unemployment, gives hope and purpose to our people, reduces the burden on the fiscus and most importantly builds critical digital skills upon which we can create economic stimulus together.
Please join me and other leaders to lift others as we rise.