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This is why BBBEE works

Leading physical asset management company Pragma achieves Level 1 B-BBEE rating

Pragma Africa, a subsidiary of the leading physical asset management company, Pragma, has achieved a Level 1 Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) rating.

Says Attie Nieuwoudt, Managing Director: Pragma Africa: “After securing our Level 2 rating in 2014, we decided it could be improved by focussing on initiatives that support the real intent behind BBBEE. We selected champions for each category on the new scorecard, came up with plans and got to work. I’m very proud to say we were successful in each of these categories.”

According to Nieuwoudt, most companies are negative about B-BBEE, but should actually embrace it. “We’ve proven that it makes sense. If your intent is right, you’ll be surprised by what you can achieve. More importantly, you won’t achieve the intent if you follow the shortest route to rectify the wrongs of the past. We now have a diverse group of people which makes us stronger and it’s a huge advantage that we don’t all think the same. Yes, it’s more difficult to manage, but the outcome is ten times better. It’s to the benefit of the company, our shareholders and employees.”

Kolosa Madikizela, Cape Regional Manager, adds: “You can’t actively pursue B-BBEE in isolation of transformation. Pragma went on a journey of transformation, which improved the diversity of our company and continues to entrench the right culture of diversity and inclusiveness.”

As part of their journey, they created Pragma Africa BEE Holdings, which now holds 25.1% of Pragma Africa. Nieuwoudt continues: “The company is (via the Pragma Africa Employees BEE Trust) 40% black women owned (African, Indian and Coloured) and 50.1% black owned. The beneficiaries of the trust are all South African citizens and full time employees of the Pragma Group, irrespective of colour or race. We made our second dividend pay-out this month, which proves that B-BBEE shows on your payslip!”

With regards to the extent in which they can influence the strategic direction of the business through their shareholding, the board of directors approve the strategies that management present. Says Nieuwoudt: “On board level, Kolosa Madikizela was elected to represent Pragma Africa BEE Holdings. Pragma also established the Consultative Forum a number of years ago, which meets quarterly to discuss matters relating to transformation, including employment equity, skills development, B-BBEE, legislative compliance as well as policy and procedure. We’ve always had an independent board, which has been to our advantage.”

Madikizela comments, “Preferential Procurement and Enterprise Development was a very important aspect of our B-BBEE scorecard and was one of the critical sections we had to focus on in order to achieve a Level 1 on the new codes. This section was critical in that it was the most challenging one, due to the scarcity of 51% black owned and 30% black women owned suppliers in our industry, whom we had to work with in order to achieve our maximum points in this section.”

Madikizela continues that they approached it in a very pragmatic manner, with an action plan monitored on a monthly basis. “We communicated our B-BBEE strategy and the implications of the new codes throughout the process. Through our business networks and ensuring that we were doing this for the right intent and not just to tick a box, we were able to identify good new suppliers to work with. Furthermore, we also looked at our existing service providers who we had excellent working relations with and actively assisted them with their B-BBEE status. We saw it as an opportunity to work with and upskill small black owned enterprises to ensure that we deliver on the true intent of B-BBEE, which is to realise the country’s full economic potential while helping to bring the black majority into the economic mainstream. In the end it took dedication, commitment, team work and truly wanting our organisation to be a champion of transformation.”

Skills Development was another important factor in achieving Level 1 status. Nieuwoudt explains: “We create opportunities for University of Technology Engineering students to complete their required six month practical training at our Asset Care Centre offices. We also have a formal student training programme in June and July each year aimed at third and fourth year engineering students. This award winning internship takes place annually and has grown from strength to strength over the past five years. Furthermore, we invite unemployed students and graduates to attend our Academy courses, such as the 3-day training programme in the asset management landscape. We see all these people as brand ambassadors for the company, so it is definitely to our benefit. With regards to our internships and student programme, it gives us the best opportunity to interact with potential employees.” Madikizela adds that most of Pragma’s employees are industrial and mechanical engineers. “We want to support tertiary students in SA and offer four bursaries for Masters students through Pragma Africa. We also work with young women at school level. We still need to get the numbers right and employ more black female engineers to support the real intent of B-BBEE, but engineering is very much a male dominated career at this point in time.”

With regards to Socio-Economic Development, Pragma’s focus has been on creating access to the economy through the educational upliftment of youth and the development and improvement of educational infrastructure. Says Nieuwoudt: “During 2014 and 2015, Pragma was involved in six projects, which mostly entail educational development and the upliftment of educational facilities. We want to get involved where our employees and their families are already personally involved, so we invite them to suggest causes for consideration each year. It’s not simply an allocation of money to an unknown project, we ensure that each cent makes a difference. Most of these projects are ongoing.

Madikizela mentions Sinenjongo High School as an example. “We feel passionate about supporting existing projects and initiatives in our communities. Our work at Sinenjongo High started as part of a project initiated by Attie’s church. Often, children from previously disadvantaged communities are aware only of the career opportunities visible is their immediate communities. At around Grade 8 they start losing hope regarding further studies or finding a job. Apart from donating tangible resources to the school, we invited the kids to our offices to broaden their horizons in terms of career opportunities. I thoroughly enjoy speaking to the kids and when the opportunity arises we participle in a mentorship Initiatives at schools.”

Nieuwoudt reckons that Socio Economic Development has to be part of the company’s culture. “We’re all blessed, so let’s bless others. One shouldn’t just get involved to get points on the scorecard. We support education and upliftment wholeheartedly.”

Nieuwoudt strongly believes that it is their responsibility to get the message out there that B-BBEE makes sense. “We need to explain the benefits, but at the same time not reverse discriminate. We need to do the right thing. It’s to the benefit of all companies and their employees.” Madikizela adds that at Pragma, they are creating the right culture. “Our intent is right. We’re a diverse group and doing what is right touches communities across the spectrum. B-BBEE mustn’t be a grudge thing and must be done holistically.”

Nieuwoudt reckons their commitment to B-BBEE only makes them stronger. “It was amazing to see that the more we became involved, the better Pragma became. We want to always be an employer of choice and it’s part of our culture to match our values. We employ people from different cultures and walks of life and our different strengths make us strong. That’s worth much more than B-BBEE points. Pragma would like to grow and maintain its status as an asset management thought leader that drives clients’ business growth and profitability together with contributions to sustainable service delivery through value added partnerships. We’re a truly African company and have made a massive contribution to the asset management industry both locally and abroad.

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