Press release

26 Mar 2021 Johannesburg, ZA

Unstoppable Entrepreneurs Revealed!

EY World Entrepreneur Award™ Southern Africa: Winner Announcement

Related topics Entrepreneurship

JOHANNESBURG, FRIDAY 26 MARCH 2021 – Southern Africa’s leading entrepreneurs from Altron, Spear Riet and Lionshare Holdings took centre stage in the EY World Entrepreneur Award™ Southern Africa on 26 March 2021.

COVID-19 had the world coming to a standstill in the early parts of the year 2020. And yet, we have among us some steely entrepreneurs with steadfast determination, who charged through the unprecedented change to steer their ship in the right direction. Through their deep intrinsic motivation, transformative thinking and steady zeal to scale their business, they embraced the unchartered waters and achieved exceptional results.
EY Africa CEO Ajen Sita says, “It’s no secret that entrepreneurs can change the world and help reframe the future and like many of us over the past year, they have faced, a steep learning curve amidst the global pandemic.”

Congratulations to this year’s Unstoppable entrepreneurs – the winners are Mteto Nyati, Altron Group Chief Executive in the ‘Influence’ category; Abu Varachhia, Spear Riet Chairman and Founder in the ‘Inspire’ category and Ike Chalumbira, CEO, Lionshare Holdings in the ‘Ignite’ category.

Mteto Nyati, as the ‘Influence’ winner will join finalists from over 45 countries to compete for the title of 2021 EY World Entrepreneur Of The Year™ on 10 June this year.  

About the Winners

Entrepreneurs are a group of exceptional people who contribute to the creation of the products and services that keep our worldwide economy moving forward. Since its inception, Entrepreneur Of The Year™ has grown dramatically and now includes programmes in more than 145 cities and more than 45 countries worldwide including across the African continent. 

‘Inspire’ category Chair and judge, Christi Maherry, Co-founder of Vault3ch says, "The high caliber of the finalists made the judging process exceptionally difficult. It took extensive deliberation amongst us, to finally and unanimously agree on a winner. Every year I find that my own entrepreneurial fire is re-ignited by the finalists, who are without exception, brave, engaging and inspirational. Our continent is a better place with these unstoppable entrepreneurs."

Assessment criteria include more than just numbers. Based on a balanced scorecard, awards are given to entrepreneurs who have demonstrated excellence and extraordinary success in such areas as innovation, financial performance, risk and personal commitment to their businesses and communities. Winners are founders and leaders of high-growth companies. They are also transformational executives who may not have started their company but have been essential to its success. 

‘Influencer’ category Chair and judge, Peter Mountford, Group CEO, Super Group, says, “The finalists in the Influencer category were incredibly compelling and any one of these nominees would do credit to South Africa in the International Awards process.  More importantly their life stories were all colourful and diverse but left a strong positive impression of their commitment to their people, environments and most critically their own ethical value systems.”

Author and businessman, Mteto Nyati, is the Group Chief Executive of Altron has enabled dramatic transformation of Altron, a South Africa-based ICT company, into a world-class information and communications technology organisation. For his contributions, he was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award for Excellence in Management in 2020 and Business Leader of the Year in 2019. 

Chairman and Founder of Spear Reit, Abu Varachhia, through his thirst for success, high levels of integrity, work ethic and professionalism, built the largest privately-held professional services organisation. Spear REIT Limited invests in income-generating assets across all sectors and leads investment in the property industry.

Ike Chalumbira, CEO and Founder of Lionshare Holdings is a focused, highly principled and value-adding leader. Ike’s determination grew Lionshare into a diversified investment private equity organisation. He envisions driving five to ten years of Africa-centric forward-looking investments.

Azim Omar, EY Private Leader – EY Africa and Programme Leader says: “I always find it inspiring to hear how people can, rather than cannot. These entrepreneurs demonstrate extraordinary business acumen, leadership excellence and the desire to uplift and serve. Working with these Entrepreneurs, who have not let anything get in their way to achieve the impossible, has been astonishing.” 

About the judging panel

The EY World Entrepreneur Award™ is judged by an independent judging panel made up of EY World Entrepreneur Award™ alumni, entrepreneurs, and key influencers from the business community.

Sipho Nkosi (Chair), Talent10; Peter Mountford (Chair), Super Group, Divine Ndhlukula, Securico; Margaret Hirsch, Hirsch Group; Simphiwe Mehlomakulu (Chair), Reatile; Craig Irvine, Irvine's Africa; Debbie Merdjan, Camelot Group, Christi Maherry (Chair), Co-founder Vault3ch; Matsi Modise, Furaha Afrika Holdings; and Gerinda Engelbrecht, SAICA Brand.

Looking ahead

The EY World Entrepreneur Award™ Southern Africa will, for its 2021 ‘call for nominations’, look to the Awards alumni and judges, as well as the public and private enterprise, to actively nominate female owned and led businesses in order to broaden its nomination base for the Awards Southern Africa to the global EY entrepreneur awards programme in which the minimum entry point is 5-million USD.

The World Entrepreneur Awards is the Southern Africa arm of the global programme that EY runs in over 45 countries, aiming to radically scale growing businesses across the world. Winners are provided with access to the consulting, strategy and assurance solutions required to do just this.

Currently, there are two primary streams for the Awards programme – the public nomination process and EY’s own, annual Entrepreneurial Winning Women’s (EWW) leadership programme. EWW serves as an incubator of women-owned and led businesses, and its alumni have moved from the programme into the World Entrepreneur Award Emerging (Ignite) category over the past few years. Christi Maherry, who is a judge to this year’s awards is one such alumni, as is Lynnette Magasa, CEO and Founder, Boniswa Corporate Solutions who is a category nominee for this year’s awards. Candice Roberts, also an EWW alumni won her Emerging category in 2018.


Editor’s Notes: The Class of 2020 - Finalists

1.       ‘Influence’

  • Imraan Soomra, CEO, Oceana Group Limited
  • Mteto Nyati, Group Chief Executive, Altron (Winner)
  • Pierre Spies, CEO, Alviva Holdings Limited

2.       ‘Inspire’ 

  • Andre Zietsman, CEO and Founder of Bitumen World (Pvt) Ltd
  • Antonio Iozzo, CEO and Founder, Insurance Underwriting Managers (Pty) Ltd (IUM)
  • Stuart Knight, CEO, Halsted Builders Express
  • Abu Varachhia, Chairman and Founder, Spear Reit Limited (Winner)

3.       ‘Ignite’

  • Ike Chalumbira, CEO and Founder, Lionshare Holdings (Winner)
  • Lester Jones, Group CEO, AMP Group
  • Lynnette Magasa, CEO and Founder, Boniswa Corporate Solutions
  • Nick Bell, CEO, Decision Inc

Andre Zietsman, CEO and Founder of Bitumen World (Pvt) Ltd: Andre Zietsman has been involved in the construction industry for over 25 years. From a workshop manager in the 90’s, Andre moved into bulk bitumen transport followed by cross-border passenger transport and after that, armoured cash-in-transit transport. The sky was the limit for Andre when in 2012 he embarked on his biggest project yet when he opened the doors to Bitumen World (Pvt) Ltd. Although blacktop surfacing was the company’s specialty, Andre’s vision was far greater and over the years he has developed the company into one of the country’s leading civil engineering contractors. This, coupled with a drive to obtain various ISO certifications, has developed Bitumen World into a world-class organisation. 

Bitumen World is a civil engineering contractor organisation specialising in road construction and infrastructural development in Zimbabwe. The organisation has grown from an initial workforce of just 10 to more than 80 employees and a workforce of more than 500. The plant base has increased from seven items in 2012 to more than 300 by 2020. Although a relatively new company Bitumen World has earned an enviable reputation in the market for producing quality work, completed safely, on time and within budget.

With the guiding principles of teamwork, innovation, professionalism, efficiency and customer focus,  Andre’s vision has become a true reality.

Antonio Iozzo, CEO and Founder, Insurance Underwriting Managers (Pty) Ltd (IUM): Antonio Iozzo’s rise from humble beginnings to the heights of commercial success has earned him recognition by his peers, competitors, industry leaders and the media. As an independent thinker, instinctual business leader and sound strategist, his journey to success has been underpinned by his resolute commitment to provide protection and reduce risk for those times when life happens. He has a strong value system which is rooted in his profound sense of community.

IUM is the largest independently owned underwriting manager in Africa, offering brokers and their clients cost-effective insurance solutions, including assets all risks, commercial, personal and lifestyle and specialist marine liability cover. IUM provides innovative insurance solutions that result in tangible benefits to clients, brokers, suppliers and employees, while upholding good corporate governance. IUM’s solid financial backing, years of experience and advanced integrated software systems puts it at the forefront of this competitive industry, providing cover to multinational corporations and individuals alike.

Antonio sets extremely high standards for himself and as a result, has an impeccable reputation, both privately and professionally. As the CEO and Founder of IUM, he leads by example, actively working to inspire his staff to give their very best.

Mr Stuart Knight, CEO, Halsted Builders Express: Born and bred in Zimbabwe, Stuart Knight’s definition of success is how many people succeed because he has lived. This philosophy is a driving force that sees him approach each day to help people realise their potential and succeed for their families. Stuart trained as an article clerk at PWC before he started as a management trainee at Halsted's 25 years ago. The company was then a supplier to the construction and industry and a wholesaler with four stores around the country and 250 employees.

Halsted Builders Express is a retail hardware and building materials supplier in Zimbabwe. They business has nine stores across the country serving around 80,000 customers a month with 20,000 product lines. The business aims to be a ‘one-stop-shop’ for all building materials handling any size order. We are about our values of enthusiasm, excellence, courage, reliability, integrity and loyalty. Halsted is the first organisation in Zimbabwe in its industry to have a fully functional online offering and will be working towards offering deliveries on the platform too. Halsted has a distribution centre in Harare and are using 1st world technology to support its critical supply chain and logistics operations. Under Stuart’s leadership, Halsted has expanded to nine stores with 800 employees as well as a supply chain facility in country.

Stuart’s vision is to bring excellence to their industry and service the makes the organisation top of mind in any home-owner’s mind. He aims want to ‘wow’ customers with great service and product knowledge that ensures customers spend wisely.

Imraan Soomra, CEO, Oceana Group Limited: Imraan Soomra believes that we all have a responsibility to address the socio-economic, religious, gender and race-based imbalances in our society. He actively seeks out others committed to this cause, from staying active in community events growing up, including heading up an anti-drug campaign to running a business that positively impacts lives globally. He served on the FIFA 2010 Soccer World Cup Bid Committee, unsalaried for the first three months, where he was instrumental in securing this global event for South Africa. Since joining Oceana, he has successfully driven structural change and continues to drive positive cultural shifts.

Global fishing company, The Oceana Group, is Africa’s largest diversified black-owned and controlled fishing group and home to the iconic Lucky Star brand. The group employs over 5,000 people and operates 55 vessels. Incorporated in 1918 and listed on the Johannesburg (JSE) and Namibian (NSX) stock exchanges. The company is ranked as one of the top 20 seafood companies in the world by market capitalisation. Its primary operations involve harvesting, processing and marketing a range of seafood products including canned fish, fishmeal, fish oil, horse mackerel, hake, lobster and squid.

Before taking over as CEO of Oceana, Imraan served as the CFO and was instrumental in managing the game-changing R4.6 billion acquisition of the US-based Daybrook Fisheries, helping it become the world's sixth-biggest fishing company and Africa's largest. He was awarded the CFO South Africa's Transformation and Empowerment Award in 2015 for his role as a change agent at Oceana - which positioned the group for growth in a tough global business environment.  In 2020, Imraan was the youngest executive of arguably the most diverse fishing business, to make the global ‘Seafood's 100 Most Powerful Executives’.

Mr Pierre Spies, CEO, Alviva Holdings Limited: Pierre Spies’ determination to succeed stems from his relentless pursuit to ‘make a difference’. Despite suffering from dyslexia, which affected his ability to read and write growing up, he successfully completed a BCom Accounting degree, which allowed him to pursue a career as an accountant, chief operating officer, CEO and eventually Group CEO.  Pierre led the move away from traditional methods of technology distribution by digitising business processes in order to cater for technology delivery through digital platforms. At the same time, he recognised the need to diversify into IP based technology and services.

Alviva, listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE), is one of Africa’s largest providers of information and communication technology products and services. The Group comprises specialised operating subsidiaries in three distinct business segments namely ICT distribution, systems integration and ICT solutions, including cybersecurity, application development, artificial intelligence solutions and renewable energy projects; and financial services to business entities in the SMME and commercial sector. Alviva has significant proprietary brands and agency agreements with prominent suppliers. It sources branded products from a well-established vendor network, both locally and internationally. Besides its own brands, Alviva represents Cisco, DellEMC, HP, IBM and Microsoft.

Pierre is an independent thinker and strategic risk taker. These two qualities have ensured his ability to build continued sustainable growth throughout the Group; demonstrated by his drive to acquire the largest competitor in the distribution and cloud distribution sector, pending regulatory approval.

Mr Lester Jones, Group CEO, AMP Group: Lester Jones is self-driven and continuously striving for excellence. His over-arching philosophy in life is a strong purpose driven value system which are health, family, achievement and success. Throughout his life, Lester has been in leadership roles – from high school head boy, to captain of teams and houses, senior management positions through to his role as Group CEO of AMP. Associated Meat Packers’ (AMP) main operating activities are cattle procurement, abattoir, meat cutting and processing, wholesaling and retailing of predominately mass market fresh and frozen meat products. AMP is predominately a beef wholesale and retail business that is vertically integrated in the beef sector spanning the majority of the value chain. The business then sells through its own wholesale or retail divisions. AMP has built and controls its own retail network of 35 stores comprising of Texas Meats and Texas Chicken shops nationwide. AMP Meats e-commerce business ‘ButcherBox’ offers an online meat delivery service.

Lester has the vision and focuses on making ‘big action’ decisions which he drives through to finality.  Whatever the challenges are, Lester has a relentless self-motivation to overcome obstacles. "Fall down seven times and stand up eight" is a motto by which he lives.

Lynnette Magasa, CEO and Founder, Boniswa Corporate Solutions: Lynnette Magasa is one of the most respected and influential women in the South African telecommunication SME space. Lynnette is an entrepreneurial businesswoman who exudes passion for her business and the industry who works with integrity and humility.  Her belief in her entrepreneurship abilities, coupled with her ongoing commitment to education and her determination to succeed, drove her to start her own company – Boniswa Corporate Solutions. 

Founded in 2004, Boniswa has spent over 10 years building its reputation on the foundation of commitment, integrity, and solidarity. Today, Boniswa Group is a turnkey telecommunications provider providing telecommunication services, equipment manufacturing, and tower collocation.  Unprecedented growth in the global demand in these sectors has presented Boniswa with the opportunity to transform itself into a leading regional force. The Group strongly believes in serving the needs of its clients through excellent performance based on ethical practices and a dedicated workforce.

Lynnette’s stewardship has taken the company from a start-up to an internationally recognised organisation with a staff complement of 200.  Lynnette is passionate about motivating other women to believe in themselves, and she is always available to lend a helping hand.

Mr Nick Bell, CEO, Decision Inc.: Nick Bell formed Decision Inc. in 2013 by merging two other businesses along with his original technology company as an exciting venture, started from the proverbial ‘parent’s garage’. Nick is ambitious, with an exceptional work ethic and commitment to the company’s success. His passion for the business, its people and clients has been a cornerstone that has enabled the business to scale quickly.

Decision Inc. is a global digital services and technology business helps clients to become digital and use technology to Innovate and Compete. It operates on three continents with offices in Johannesburg, London, Sydney and Cape Town and develops solutions for clients alongside global partners such as Microsoft, SAP, Workday and Qlik, to name a few. The company helps clients across industries to transform to a Digital Operating Model by connecting their technology platforms, modernizing their operations, and transforming their people to become Digital Workers.
With a strong emphasis on Data Driven Transformation Decision Inc. enables organisations to use their technology assets to compete and win.

His entrepreneurial spirit and love of learning has enabled Decision Inc. to accelerate faster than its peers as it continuously seeks to evolve and to adapt to new market opportunities. These opportunities give rise to Nicks passion to create new work experiences for his staff and equip people across their markets with the tools to thrive in a Digital World.

Notes to Editors

About EY

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Samantha Crous

Digital, Media, PR and Communications Lead

Brand, Marketing and Communications 

+27 (0) 82 493 6335