Ithala appoints new board

Ithala Development Finance Corporation’s new leadership team and fortified strategy to maximise development opportunities in line with its mandate to promote development in KwaZulu-Natal were unveiled at a networking lunch today.

In explaining the rationale behind the theme, “Next Generation Leadership”, it was highlighted that the new board’s leadership style was driven by fresh thinking; diversity; a strategy that supported socio-economic transformation; change as dictated by an evolving market; and the need to promote financial inclusivity.

“Our organisation actively seeks proactive young leaders with a passion for development and our incumbent leadership comprises a varied and experienced group of people who have been tasked with driving this organisation forward in order to meet the expectations of our shareholder, the Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs,” said Roshan Morar, chairman of the Ithala Group Board.

The new board of directors which took office on 1 June 2017 includes Roshan Morar, chairman of the Ithala Group Board; Siphesihle Mkhize, deputy chairman; Chris Gina; Sihle Ndlovu; Masaccha Khulekelwe Mbonambi; Njabulo Nzuza; Inkosi Sibonelo Nkosinathi Mkhize; and Precious Sibiya.

The agency’s continued commitment to realising its development mandate is evidenced by the active support of enterprises which are owned substantially by historically disadvantaged individuals; the establishment and strengthening of small business development and the promotion of employment creation. Lending practices are targeted at various industry sectors in accordance with the Provincial Spatial Economic Development Strategy.

Ithala’s Business Finance portfolio caters for small and medium industrial and commercial businesses as well as agricultural enterprises, tourism ventures, co-operatives and building contractors.

Over the past three years, Ithala has disbursed R878,600,000 to nearly 700 businesses, resulting in over 8,000 jobs being created. Of these, 28% are women-owned businesses and young people comprise nearly 40% of those on Ithala’s loan book.

Ithala’s various initiatives complement provincial government’s agenda to advance radical economic transformation and the broader National Development Plan to advance youth and women, promote rural and township economies and Black industrialisation.

The Dunlop Container Tyre Fitment Centre programme by Sumitomo Rubber SA points to a successful partnership between local and provincial government bodies and business to accelerate socio-economic transformation.

The programme forms part of the KZN Revitalisation of Township and Rural Economies policy framework and is closely aligned with Ithala’s mandate to develop township and rural economies. KZN’s Small Business Growth Enterprise, a division of Ithala, was established by the Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs to nurture, grow and sustain small business enterprises in KZN.

Ithala actively participates in programmes that are deemed provincial priorities in the Provincial Growth and Development Strategy. These include, among others, the National School Nutrition Programme; Scholar Transportation Programme; Tourism Promotion and Aerotropolis projects which are sponsored and led provincially.

Operation Vula is a programme through which government aims to implement radical economic transformation in KZN. One of its more pronounced pillars is the Radical Agrarian Socio-Economic Transformation programme which encourages participation in the agriculture value chain.

The severity of the prolonged drought in KZN impacted the agricultural sector negatively, resulting in lower output, reduced revenue and ultimately the inability of clients to service their debt obligations.

Ithala undertook to effect temporary payment moratoriums on agri-loans for clients most affected by the drought and who, as a result, were unable to normally maintain their repayments. As the conditions have since improved, the moratorium will be lifted in the latter part of 2017 in order to recover the funds disbursed to clients involved in agriculture.

Over the past year, Ithala has financed a number of empowerment deals totalling more than R65 million which has seen beneficiaries acquiring share equity, a co-operative being established in the transport sector and most recently, a loan facility extended for on-lending to KZN farmers to ease the effects of drought and ensure a sustainable throughput for milling at Gledhow Sugar Company which services close to 3,000 growers.

In the past five years, Ithala has financed over 6,300 hectares of agricultural land to historically disadvantaged individuals, many of whom started out as small cane growers. Over the same period, R1.5 billion was advanced to primary agriculture and agribusiness.

“We congratulate all the new appointees and have every faith that the direction and expertise of the next generation of leadership will ensure Ithala remains profitable and sustainable,” said Themba Mathe, Ithala’s Acting Group Chief Executive.

Stringent cost containment all-round and driving revenue growth through a myriad products and services, as well as improving organisational efficiencies and productivity, were cited among the implementation measures to remain profitable and sustainable.

“The new board will continue to drive these programmes whilst also identifying other avenues to spearhead SMME development. Each board member brings to the Ithala family diverse expertise that will give life to the new strategic focus. The leadership team comprises young intellectuals from various industries and this diversity in experience will move us forward as an organisation,” said Mathe.

Ithala’s Property portfolio of industrial and commercial property assets provide essential infrastructure for manufacturing, retail and other business activities throughout KZN. Ithala owns and manages more than 1.2 million square metres of industrial, retail and commercial property, making it a prominent property portfolio holder in the province.

The agency has several industrial estates under its ownership including Isithebe (Mandeni), Ezakheni (Ladysmith) and Madadeni (Newcastle) Industrial Estates which collectively have created over 40,000 jobs, affording an estimated 300,000 people in regional areas a livelihood.

Phase one of a programme to refurbish Ithala’s retail centres and industrial properties is already underway at Ulundi, Eshowe and Nongoma in northern KZN. Earmarked for completion later this year, the project will collectively afford an estimated 125 local residents a living – Nongoma (52), Ulundi (31) and Eshowe (42).

“In the throes of an economic downturn and a highly competitive financial sector, we will not be complacent in our delivery of products and services to the markets in which we are entrenched,” added Mathe.

“The leadership is conscientious of the competitive forces in the lending, micro-lending and property business sectors – the avenues in which Ithala plays. However, Ithala’s 58-year legacy and brand positioning underpinned by redefining progress places the organisation at an advantage over other markets in the province.”

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