Picture: Monedi Lefakane, chairperson Youth in Property Association (YIPA); Fundi Mazibuko, chairperson SAIBPP Women’s Forum; Brian Sango, sales manager Property Inspect.
The real estate industry is like many industries in South Africa – it is who you know that counts. Black professional networks aim to address the historic lack of access to such networks to new black entrants in the sector.
Transformation is about more than numbers
While a student in 2016 at the University of Cape Town, Monedi Lefakane noticed his property studies class was predominantly made up of white males who came from families with an existing legacy in the property industry. This access to professional networks and industry news made it much easier for his white classmates to get ahead faster with their careers through internships and mentorships.
Also read: Unlocking access to the property sector
This experience taught Lefakane that the challenge to transforming the local real estate scene lies far deeper than just ‘getting the numbers right’. “Networks and relationships are a fundamental pillar to success within business, even more so in the property sector because they ultimately provide you with information. In the property sector information when used correctly becomes power,” explains Lefakane.
When you do not have access to information because you do not have the networks or relationships, it slows the ability for a black professional to succeed. “Given our history as a country, a young black professional practitioner will normally start from zero and have to work for many years in the sector to build up the relationships that perhaps a young white practitioner may have inherited from their parent who has been in the industry for 20 years already,” he says. This is why he recently co-founded the Youth in Property Association (YIPA) with five young property professionals like himself – to provide opportunities for young black (according to YIPA’s website ‘black’ here refers to black, coloured, Indian and Chinese young people) property practitioners and entrepreneurs to interact with one another as well as learn from senior successful individuals. Lefakane is YIPA’s chairman.
Value of professional networks
The need for networking opportunities for black property professionals was soon recognized after the country became a democracy and some have become very influential. The South African Institute for Black Property Practitioners (SAIBPP), formed in 1996, is arguably the most prominent black professional body in the property industry. Their CEO Vuyiswa Mutshekwane was earlier this year elected as chairman of the National Property Practitioners Council (NPPC), the first time in our history that representative bodies from South Africa’s property sector unified in one industry body to represent their interests on a national level.
One of the NPPC’s founding members is the National Property Forum which acts as a networking platform for black professionals in the real estate sector. Executive leadership in the property industry continues to be male dominated. The Women’s Property Network (formed in 2000 with more than 800 members nationwide today) aim to help women achieve success in the commercial property industry. Last Tuesday the SAIBPP launched their Women’s Forum with a webinar. The new forum’s chairperson Fundi Mazibuko says it is important for women to have these networks to tap into if they are in industries dominated by men. Says Mazibuko, “These professional bodies create an environment for mentoring and couching, as we know that when you are starting out in business sometimes you don’t even know how to write a business plan or when you are in corporate, you don’t even know how to present to the board and hence the importance of these bodies. In our case as black women, we share the same challenges and it’s important to come together and discuss solutions. We believe that there is power in hunting as a pack!”
Lefakane agrees and says, “These new forums and associations are really doing great work to create and grow a community amongst black property practitioners but also provide for networking opportunities with white practitioners.”
Mazibuko considers herself a good example of the value that is inherent in the networking opportunities created by these forums and organisations, as that’s how she advanced in her career. “Most of the corporate roles I held were through word of mouth/referrals from people in the industry – most of whom I met at the networking events hosted by SAIBPP. As the saying goes “People do business with people they know, trust and like”
Another who believes in the benefit of belonging to one or more of these professional bodies is Brian Sango, sales manager of Property Inspect. He says being a member of YIPA as well as the SAIBPP was of great professional benefit not only to him but also gave him the opportunity to share his knowledge with other young aspiring property professionals. “Aside from business opportunities such associations facilitate room for knowledge transfer as mentees can easily identify and build relationships with good mentors. Indeed there is power in association and your network is your net worth, so we really hope these associations and forums will continue growing from strength to strength and this certainly calls for more members to support them in their initiatives,” ends Sango.