Seipati Asante Mokhuoa is an accomplished business executive and leadership development expert with over 20 years of working experience, 15 of which were in the financial service industry. Currently, she is the Founder and Executive Chairperson of Strategic African Women in Leadership (SAWIL) and is responsible for strategy and innovation at HD Afrika. As a former Senator for South Africa at the World Business Angels Investment Forum (WBAF), she is well-versed in international business and entrepreneurship. Her invaluable insights into gender equality, parity, diversity, and inclusion have inspired many people. Seipati is a sought-after global keynote speaker who has addressed audiences alongside Presidents, Ministers, and high-profile business executives in Africa, Europe, and Asia.
Seipati is a philanthropist who is passionate about the development of the African continent, with a particular focus on women and youth. She is committed to contributing to Africa’s growing startup ecosystem as an Angel investor and ecosystem builder. The youth and women entrepreneurship, according to Seipati, represents a unique and untapped opportunity for the continent.
Take us down memory lane and share influences till date
Growing up in a charming small village, I experienced the quintessential rural life, herding cattle, sweeping floors, and actively participating in farming. Despite the rustic setting, my enthusiasm for learning was evident from a young age. I excelled in academics, consistently achieving top grades. However, it wasn’t just academics that defined my childhood. I was a passionate sports enthusiast, eagerly embracing every extracurricular activity our school offered. My athletic abilities propelled me to become a proud member of our school’s A-team, representing us in various competitions.
The driving force behind my upbringing was my father, a businessman. He emphasized the value of active participation in his ventures, ensuring that we were involved in various aspects of his businesses. This early exposure significantly shaped my character, revealing my A-type personality characterised by ambition and competitiveness. Notably, my competitiveness was always directed towards self-improvement rather than comparing myself to others.
In my formative years, within the nurturing embrace of my close-knit family, I absorbed the values of hard work, resilience, and the paramount importance of education. This supportive environment fuelled my ambition and drive, highlighting the significance of community and collaboration. These foundational experiences were instrumental in my path towards becoming a leader and entrepreneur.
As Founder and Executive Chairperson of Strategic African Women in Leadership (SAWIL), what is SAWIL about, and as the Founder and executive chair, how are you carrying out your responsibilities?
SAWIL serves as a dynamic platform for women leaders, entrepreneurs, and professionals in Africa, offering them access to leadership training, executive coaching, entrepreneurship programmes, masterclasses, board training, mentorship, and valuable networking opportunities. Our primary objective is to redefine leadership across industries, especially within the private sector, by focusing on gender diversity and equality.
We have honed actionable strategies that encourage companies to embrace a transformative approach, prioritising gender equality, diversity, and inclusion in their workforce. Our work seeks to create a more inclusive and thriving environment that benefits not only women in leadership but also fosters the growth and success of businesses throughout Africa.
As the Founder and Executive Chair, I shape the organisation’s strategic vision, provide leadership, and oversee its key initiatives.
Tell us about the SAWIL Trailblazers Awards.
I launched the SAWIL Trailblazers Awards in 2020, and the inspiration behind it was deeply personal. I found myself continuously awed by the remarkable women who were making significant strides in their respective fields. These women weren’t just excelling; they were trailblazers, pioneers who carried the torch for change and progress.
Over the past few years, our initiative has received thousands of nominations, celebrating these women who are truly blazing trails across Africa and in the diaspora. They possess a unique and unwavering commitment to ensuring they aren’t the last of their kind. Their determination is what sets them apart.
But here’s the thing, most of them operate under the radar, without the support of brand managers or publicists. They’re often too focused on their work to speak about their accomplishments, except when doing so on their companies’ behalf. This drove me to create a platform to showcase and celebrate them, to give them the recognition they richly deserve.
On our platform, as part of the selection process, we interview and profile the top 30 finalists. These interviews serve as a wellspring of motivation for aspiring women trailblazers. It’s a chance for these up-and-coming pioneers to learn from the experiences and wisdom of those who have already made their mark.
At SAWIL, we’ve made it our mission to shine a spotlight on these incredible women who are breaking barriers, leading businesses, and blazing trails, all while juggling the immense responsibilities of raising families and running households. Our award winners are nothing short of remarkable. They’ve achieved feats that inspire, they’ve demonstrated leadership that motivates, and they’ve shown the world what women can accomplish in their respective fields.
What is the HD Innovation Hub about?
The HD Innovation Hub, launched under my leadership, aims to be Africa’s largest startup ecosystem, with a focus on supporting impact entrepreneurs who are dedicated to solving socio-economic challenges in their communities, using technology. It’s a dynamic platform that equips startups with essential resources, mentorship, and networking opportunities. Our goal is to fuel innovation and entrepreneurship across the continent, enabling startups to thrive and drive economic growth.
Guided by our core values of immediacy, simplicity, and accessibility, the Hub plays a vital role in uniting visionaries committed to solution-driven innovations that can propel Africa into a globally competitive position, particularly in a post-COVID-19 world.
In what practical ways are you addressing the digital divide across the African continent?
Addressing the digital divide across the African continent has been a deeply personal journey for me, driven by a profound belief in the transformative power of digital access. In practical terms, I have undertaken a multifaceted approach that combines awareness, collaboration, policy advocacy, community engagement, and technological solutions to bridge this divide.
One of the foundational aspects of our advocacy is raising awareness. I have found that a critical starting point is to bring attention to the digital divide’s existence and its far-reaching impact. This involves utilising various platforms, from social media to community meetings, to share compelling statistics, success stories, and real-life examples that vividly illustrate the consequences of digital exclusion.
Participating in public discourse has enabled me to influence the conversation around digital inclusion. Engaging in public speaking engagements, panel discussions, and participation in conferences related to technology and digital inclusion has allowed me to share my knowledge and insights, further impacting the conversation.
Why the particular focus on women and youth?
Women and youths represent an untapped wellspring of potential for Africa’s development. Empowering them not only fosters inclusivity but also accelerates economic growth. It’s a firm belief that investing in women and youth can drive positive change and create a more equitable society.
Sub-Saharan Africa boasts one of the world’s youngest populations, with a staggering 60% under 25, offering immense potential for economic growth, innovation, and entrepreneurship. Women, constituting more than 50 percent of Africa’s population, are still underrepresented in key economic activities, leading to marginalisation. However, we understand that empowering a woman means empowering a nation.
In what ways are you contributing to Africa’s growing startup ecosystem as an angel investor and ecosystem builder?
I actively support startups by providing capital, mentorship, and networking opportunities as an angel investor. Additionally, I play a crucial role in building ecosystems that foster innovation and entrepreneurship, creating an enabling environment for startups to thrive.
Share your experience as a former Senator for South Africa at the World Business Angels Investment Forum (WBAF)
My experience as a former Senator for South Africa at the World Business Angels Investment Forum (WBAF) was invaluable. I had the privilege of engaging with global investors and entrepreneurs and sharing insights and best practices on angel investing. I also championed entrepreneurship and angel investing, advocating for promoting inclusive investment practices.
In this role, I actively participated in policy discussions, networking, mentorship, and strategic planning to support WBAF’s mission.
What role does technology and innovation play in driving economic development and reducing inequality?
Technology and innovation are powerful drivers of economic development and inequality reduction. They can help to create new jobs, boost productivity, and improve access to essential services such as healthcare, education, and financial services.
For example, mobile money has revolutionised financial inclusion in Africa, enabling millions of people to access financial services for the first time. E-commerce platforms are also helping to create new markets and opportunities for entrepreneurs.
Used correctly, technology and innovation can help to address some of the most pressing challenges facing Africa today, such as climate change and food insecurity.
Overall, technology and innovation play a vital role in driving economic development and reducing inequality in Africa. By investing in technology and innovation, African countries can create a more prosperous and equitable future for their citizens.
You are Regional Director for Africa at Board Academy, what is the Academy about?
Board Academy is a global organisation that provides training and development for board members. As the Regional Director for Africa, I am responsible for developing and implementing Board Academy’s strategy in Africa.
Board Academy’s mission is to help boards to be the most effective they can be. In partnership with SAWIL, we offer a range of training programmes, including director development programmes, board chair programmes, and board evaluation programmes. We provide access to resources and tools to help boards improve their performance. We also offer placements and profiling of our alumni.
I am passionate about my work at Board Academy because I believe that good corporate governance is essential for the sustainable growth and development of African businesses. By providing globalised training and development for board members, we are helping to strengthen African boards and improve the overall corporate governance landscape in Africa.
In your experience, what are some emerging trends or developments in leadership development that leaders should be aware of?
The ever-evolving business landscape demands leaders to be adaptable, emotionally intelligent, inclusive, and agile learners.
Adaptability has emerged as a key trend in leadership development, especially in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. The ability to pivot rapidly and effectively in response to unforeseen challenges has become essential for leaders to navigate the uncertainties of the business world and guide their teams through unprecedented disruptions.
Emotional intelligence is another pivotal trend in leadership development. Leaders who can manage their own emotions and foster deeper, empathetic connections with their teams create more productive and harmonious work environments.
Diversity and inclusion are increasingly becoming imperative in leadership, particularly at senior levels. Organisations are prioritising leadership teams that reflect a broader array of backgrounds and viewpoints, as this has been shown to correlate with superior performance.
Agility and continuous learning are essential for leaders in today’s fast-paced and ever-changing business landscape. Leaders must be able to quickly adapt to technological advancements, shifts in consumer behaviour, and global events.
What are the key qualities and skills that define effective leaders in today’s business environment?
In the rapidly evolving and globally connected business landscape, the qualities and skills that define effective leaders take on added dimensions. Beyond emotional intelligence, adaptability, visionary thinking, and the capacity to empower and inspire their teams, the ability to function effectively in this new, interconnected “global village” is of paramount importance. Leaders should equip themselves with a global education, staying attuned to international trends and developments. They should remain abreast of what’s happening not only within their immediate sphere of influence but also beyond, recognising that the interconnected world demands a broader perspective and a keen awareness of the global business dynamics.
How can there be more women on boards? What needs to be done?
To enhance the presence of women on boards, a proactive approach is required. This includes actively promoting diversity through mentorship, sponsorship, and implementing unbiased recruitment processes. Training and networks are also pivotal.
I’ve recently embarked on an initiative, shared through various platforms like X (formerly, Twitter), where I disseminate invaluable lessons about board leadership, insights on how to secure board positions, and the array of opportunities available. This initiative aims to demystify board leadership, making it more accessible and attainable, particularly for younger professionals and women who may perceive these roles as daunting. The objective is to inspire and encourage their pursuit of board positions.
What are your personal and professional challenges?
As an empath, I face a unique set of challenges. There are times when I feel emotionally drained, especially when I’m unable to help as many people as I would like, particularly in the context of rising unemployment in our country. This emotional burden can be particularly demanding as I strive to balance these emotional demands with safeguarding my mental health and overall well-being.
Moreover, the transition back to the traditional office environment after the COVID-19 pandemic has presented a unique set of challenges. Working from home during the pandemic provided a remarkable level of flexibility, and in that remote work setup, time and distance weren’t barriers. As a result, I may have taken on more responsibilities than I should have. Returning to the office, particularly when some of my associates prefer the physical office over remote work, can be both challenging and tiring. I firmly believe that, in an ideal world, we should be advocating to maintain the gift of remote work that the COVID-19 pandemic has given us. Many of us were able to achieve more with less in a remote work environment, and it’s a valuable resource we shouldn’t easily relinquish.
What is next for you?
In the near future, I’m dedicated to shedding unnecessary commitments, particularly those that do not align with my sense of purpose and fulfilment. This space will be dedicated to more meaningful and purposeful work, as well as sharing my wealth of experience and knowledge through writing and speaking engagements. I’m also excited to share that SAWIL will be celebrating its 10th anniversary next year, and that will be my central focus for the next 12 months. This milestone presents a significant opportunity to expand the impact of SAWIL.
In conclusion, I am deeply committed to the development of Africa, particularly through the empowerment of women and youths. I believe that by harnessing innovation, promoting diversity, and fostering leadership, we can create a brighter future for the continent. Thank you for the opportunity to share my journey and vision with your readers.