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18 September 2017

Meet Nhlanhla Dlamini: Thinking Local, Going Global

Nhlanhla Dlamini (33) has lived in eight countries and traveled to 53, but he’s settled in the place he calls home to make a real impact on South Africa by tackling some of her greatest issues. Through Maneli Group, Nhlanhla aims to create sustainable manufacturing jobs and inspire those who come after him to effect lasting change.

On Seizing Opportunity

I started connecting the dots of this sector and this opportunity while I was living abroad. I realized that Americans and Europeans are willing to pay a premium for really good food, and food that comes with a social mission or story. And when I got back to South Africa, I saw a massive opportunity to sell more of our natural produce to the international market while creating jobs and empowering local communities.


“…if we dare to be a little bolder about the impact and legacy we can achieve as a generation, I believe we have the opportunity to make South Africa the truly great nation that it beckons to be.”

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On Making Real Impact

I love the tangible impact of the work I’m doing. As a consultant, a lot of the work I did was pretty ethereal – you would come up with a strategy, give it to a senior management team in the hopes that they’ll implement it; and keep doing that over and over again. And after a few years, you start to become unsure of your specific impact as an individual. Versus now in my two years of setting up Maneli, I can point to a factory, I can point to the 50 jobs I’ve created and the 50 families that I’m helping support, and I can point to the customers and markets that we’re serving.

On Winning As A Team

Entrepreneurship and business is a team sport – you need people around you who compliment your skillset, and build you up where you’ve got weaknesses, and who will keep you excited and passionate about what you’re trying to build. There is no way I would have gotten to where I am right now if I was trying to do this alone, or with a weaker team.

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On Icons of Success

One of my co-investors, Isaac Shongwe (ex-CEO of Barloworld Logistics and the current CEO and founder of Letsema Consulting) is someone I really admire for his ethical core and his views on creating value for people and societies through business. I also admire Adrian Gore – I’ve yet to meet him but have read a lot of interviews about him and he comes across as incredibly sharp and very dynamic. The fact that he’s built a global business in the space of 25 years – and he’s still energized to make it even bigger – is really commendable, and something I hope to still be doing when I’m 55.

On Building A Great Nation

We, as young South Africans right now, are living at probably the most influential and important passage of South African history in terms of really directing this country to being a global power, or languishing into the dust of many other African economies. Within our lifetime, we really can set the tone of whether South Africa is one of the global economic and social powerhouses of the world, or not. And if we continue doing business as usual – making small, incremental changes at our work or in our life – we’re going to fail at that mission. But if we dare to be a little bolder about the impact and legacy we can achieve as a generation, I believe we have the opportunity to make South Africa the truly great nation that it beckons to be.

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