for tomorrow

NMMU News

06/10/2015

HE’S not sure whether he’s an “optimistic realist” or a “realistic optimist”– but, either way, he believes wholeheartedly in this country’s future.

“I’ve never been more optimistic about South Africa,” said Alan Knott-Craig junior, one of South Africa’s most prominent young business leaders. “We are a blend of first world infrastructure and third world problems. These can be turned into opportunities to make money and make a difference in people’s lives.”

The former CEO of Mxit and iBurst – whose most recent business ventures include Project Isizwe, a non-profit company which aims to see free public Wi-Fi within walking distance of every citizen in Africa – will be in the Bay on Wednesday (7 October) to inspire future business leaders to chase their own dreams of success.

He will head up a discussion titled “insights into being a successful entrepreneur and business leader in an ever-changing environment” at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University’s Prof Les Simpson Legacy Lecture.

The lecture, hosted annually by NMMU’s School of Accounting, serves to honour the memory and legacy of the late Prof Simpson, who taught Management Accounting at the university for 26 years, during which time he encouraged and inspired scores of future chartered accountants, many of whom went on to achieve remarkable business success.

“The purpose of the lecture is to bring in top business leaders to help students realize that what they are learning is not irrelevant theory, but applies to the real business world. It opens their eyes, motivates them and gives greater meaning to their course content,” said Johnathan Dillon, Division Head of Management Accounting and Finance at NMMU. Last year’s inaugural lecture included a discussion by three successful and influential businessmen: Royden Vice, Ian Scott and Marq Roberts.

The legacy lecture was sparked and is anonymously funded by a former student of Simpson, who chairs a successful multi-national company in the United States.

The man said he owed his success to the advice and input Simpson had in his life – particularly the fact that Simpson encouraged him to pursue further studies in management accounting through the Chartered Institute for Management Accountants (CIMA), the world’s leading global body for management accountants, in addition to becoming a chartered accountant. He attributes much of his success to the strategic leadership and management skills gained from CIMA’s professional qualification.

CIMA recently recognised NMMU as a “Tier 1” university – CIMA’s highest level of accreditation. What this means is that students who complete their accounting studies through NMMU are automatically exempt from several of CIMA’s exams, as the content is similar, allowing them to fast-track their progress towards obtaining CIMA’s professional qualification. “Ultimately, we’re hoping to align the annual lecture to new CIMA-aligned programmes that are being developed at NMMU,” said Dillon.

Knott-Craig, himself a chartered accountant who studied at NMMU, said most of his energy of late had gone into Project Isizwe, which essentially helps municipalities deploy free Wi-Fi for poor communities. Through Isizwe, the whole of Tshwane will have free wifi by 2017. And if all goes according to plan, Nelson Mandela Bay will follow suit by 2018.

“We recently launched a new for-profit business, Hero Telecoms, offering wireless broadband to households and small business. I also dabble in apps that make a positive impact on the world.” One of these is Namola, an app which has been developed to help police respond more quickly to crimes. “If you see a crime taking place, you report it on Namola and your location is shared with the three nearest cops.” Piloted in Tshwane earlier this year, police response time was 11 seconds.

·         For more information, contact Joné Pienaar, on 041 504 2180 or jone.pienaar@nmmu.ac.za. 

BRAIN FOR BUSINESS … Project Isizwe CEO Alan Knott-Craig junior – who since 2003 has co-founded and/or funded 17 companies in the technology, media and telecommunications sector in Africa – is the speaker at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University’s Prof Les Simpson Legacy Lecture.