What makes a person influential? There are plenty of individuals who are successful in their chosen path, people who have done extremely well but are not necessarily influential. An influential person is someone who not only has a personal power above the norm to make changes and enact what they feel driven to achieve – but someone who inspires those same urges in others. Someone who is a role model and an example – a yard-stick by which others can measure themselves. In this issue we focus on one such person; Euvin Naidoo, a man who’s career is enmeshed seamlessly with his passion for social enterprise and the sustainable economic development of the African continent.
So, why is it that Naidoo was included in Forbes ‘Top 10 most Powerful and Influential men under 40 in Africa’ list? As Forbes says – ‘a line-up of 10 youthful movers & shakers who wield enormous influence in Africa’s political and business circles, they are presidents of nations, chief executives of some of Africa’s largest corporations, politicians, thinkers, intellectuals and young global leaders.’ – and Naidoo is up there with some of the most talented men making a difference not just in his native South Africa, but in the continent as a whole.
It is because of his expertise, his shrewd ability to convey ideas in a way that excites and inspires, and his obvious dedication to his own success and to promoting a sustainable African growth story.
“LEADERS ARE NOT BORN, THEY ARE CREATED”
Currently a banking executive in Johannesburg, Naidoo is a graduate of the Harvard Business School (HBS) and an alumnus of global international management consulting firm McKinsey & Company. It was at HBS that Naidoo first found his passion for social entrepreneurship and realised that this passion could connect seamlessly with his financial career.
Speaking in a community narrative as part of HBS’s ‘Institutional Memory’ archive, Naidoo explains further the beginnings of his career: “Coming from South Africa, growing up under Apartheid, the prospect of attending an institution like Harvard Business School was the furthest thought in my mind. But, I came from a background in which academic excellence was emphasised throughout my childhood and as such joined the offices of McKinsey & Company early on and soon found myself, like many other young consultants, applying to different business schools.
“When I was at the school I was president of the Social Enterprise Club and I would say that was one of the defining experiences of my time [at HBS].”
It was during Naidoo’s time as president of the SEC at HBS that he experienced a watershed moment in his progression after a chance meeting with the late John Whitehead of Goldman Sachs.
“He said – ‘I have some pieces of advice for you. Don’t ever give up engaging your community when you re-enter the workforce, be it in banking, be it in consulting’,” said Naidoo.
“We all have intensive work schedules and it’s so easy to just play golf on weekends and get drawn into a terrific work regime but he was saying, take the time to engage in volunteering in the non-profit sector and to stay connected to your community – and I really took that advice to heart. It has had a remarkable impact on me both in my personal development and in my satisfaction at work.”
Naidoo emphasises that this is one of the greatest lessons he learned from his time at HBS – to never lose sight of his early passion for social enterprise, and to not look at business, the non-profit and private sectors as categories, but rather as overlapping sectors.
2003 saw Naidoo co-author the HBS case, ‘Nelson Mandela, Turnaround Leader’, with Prof. Rosabeth Moss Kanter. Kanter and Naidoo’s research and collaboration went on to form the material for the South African chapter in the BusinessWeek and New York Times business best-seller, ‘Confidence’ and it was during this work that he learned a passion for excellence and great storytelling – something which as stood him in good stead as today he is regularly called upon to speak publicly in a wide variety of situations.
6 years ago in 2009 the World Economic Forum (WEF) selected Naidoo as a Young global Leader and later that year, he was recruited to the WEF’s Global Agenda Council (GAC) USA. He was further honoured by the WEF at the 2012 World Economic Forum on Africa as one of its five ‘Rising Stars of Africa’.
Rewind to 2007 and Naidoo led a line-up of international innovators and thinkers as the opening speaker at the TED Global Conference on Africa. Advocating his cause further and inspiring others in the process, one of the key points from Naidoo’s TED talk was that “We have to move away from what is called the ‘curse of the commodities’; for Africa to truly be sustainable we have to move away, we have to move beyond.”
2007 also saw Naidoo, as President and CEO of the South African Chamber of Commerce in America (SACCA), lead the launch of the Africa Entrepreneurship Platform. Due to his level of expertise and proficiency in financial services, he has been invited to teach and speak by some of the world’s leading institutions from the World Bank to MIT. In May 2013 he delivered the opening keynote address at the Oxford Union, Oxford University for the annual Pan African Oxford Conference
Also a visiting lecturer at the University of the Witwatersrand’s Business School and the WITS Business School (WBS), Naidoo has forged a formidable career in the financial services sector which he continues to use to give weight to his advocacy of sustainable growth for Africa.
A man whose passion infects others, Naidoo is one of the people using his expertise to inspire others and is a strong voice in the ongoing narrative on how best to nurture the continuing African growth story.