Meet 5 young South African global leaders

Written by Editor


By Fiona Wakelin


Every year a selection of outstanding young leaders (young meaning under 40) from around the globe is chosen by The Forum of Young Global Leaders ®. This year representatives from 42 countries were selected to “responsibly improve the state of the world” – and 5 young South Africans made the cut. But first, who is this community?

The Young Global Leaders ® Community is an accelerator for a dynamic community of exceptional people with the vision, courage, and influence to drive positive change in the world.

Our growing membership of more than 1,400 members and alumni of 120 nationalities includes civic and business innovators, entrepreneurs, technology pioneers, educators, activists, artists, journalists, and more.

Aligned with the World Economic Forum’s mission, we seek to drive public-private co-operation in the global public interest. We are united by the belief that today’s pressing problems present an opportunity to build a better future across sectors and boundaries.

- The Forum of Young Global Leaders

With all the challenges facing the Blue Planet – the latest UN report on climate change warned that it is “now or never” to reverse human-induced global warming from carbon emissions – as well as the growth of socioeconomic and geopolitical tensions exacerbated by 3 years of COVID (which in itself seems like a never-ending story) to know that we have dynamic, courageous leaders and influencers working together to ameliorate what at times seems like a tar pit, is news we sorely need.

It is no less heartening that 5 young South Africans are among the 109 chosen from among the world’s best to share their insights, drive, energy and vision. Please meet:

Esha Mansingh

Executive Vice President: Corporate Affairs and IR at Imperial, Esha Mansingh is responsible for ESG and sustainability, investor relations, corporate affairs, internal and stakeholder communications, brand positioning, and media liaison at Imperial. As the Chairman of Imperial’s Global Women’s forum, she drives many women-led empowerment initiatives across Africa, CSI projects and leads the sponsorship of the iconic Imperial Wanderers Stadium.

Esha also serves as the co-chairman of the World Economic Forum’s New Champions South Africa Board, on the boards of Unjani Clinics NPC and the Imperial and Motus Community Trust, is the chairman of the Integrated Reporting and ESG sub-committee of CFO Forum SA, and a founding member of the Investor Relations Society South Africa.

In addition, testament to her far-reaching work in women empowerment and social impact, Esha is a multi-global award winner having been recognised among the 100 Most Successful Women in Business in the World 2021 by GTC, a Top 50 Power of Women 2021 by Mail & Guardian, Positive Role Model for Listed Companies in Southern Africa by Accenture Gender Mainstreaming Awards 2021 and ‘Most Influential Women in Africa 2022’ by a European business magazine.

To be recognised by WEF as a YGL 2022 is an honour. My personal purpose is to continue to make an impact on our committees and countries in need. Through YGL, I want to grow and leverage partnerships and networks with other like-minded leaders with common vision and purpose to drive social impact and women empowerment initiatives particularly on the African continent. Also high on my agenda, particularly coming from a leading logistics business in Africa, is how we lead and drive the climate change transition journey. We need leaders and voices to represent Africa on these international platforms and to also attract investment onto the continent for this climate transition journey. I’m hoping to play a part in these discussions through YGL.

- Esha Mansingh

Mmaki Jantjies

Mmaki Jantjies is Group Head of Innovation and Transformation at Telkom and an adjunct associate professor. Passionate about digital inclusion, she has led initiatives and studies focusing on system design and adoption of mobile application’s use to improve education and healthcare in South Africa. She was the 2017 and 2018 South African delegate representative to the W20 in the G20, contributing to engagement on policies that look at the impact of digital inclusion of women. 

Working with UN Women and the Mozilla Foundation, she founded a non-profit organisation, Peo ya Phetogo, which runs various STEM programmes to ensure that young South Africans take up technology as a business or career; the organisation went on to start further programmes which develop teachers’ skills in technology and digital literacy.

Mmaki has been recognised for her contribution to the South African technology sector with local and international awards.

I was humbled by the announcement to form part of the young global leaders program. It is an exciting platform to be part of a cohort of young leaders who are passionate about creating a sustainable future. The collaborative opportunities provide a platform to bring an African view to the world, on creating a sustainable impact of technology across sectors.

- Mmaki Jantjies

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Zuriel Naiker

Zuriel Naiker is Managing Director – Industry (Middle East and Africa) Sales (Africa) – at Marsh.

“Our leadership role extends beyond taking a stance in conversation and policy development. We must personify a sustainable, inclusive future. By harnessing the power of a diverse collective, we create, build and sustain momentum for future generations. Our actions can create a force for good and help to solve the complex problems our world now faces. I have modelled this in a corporate environment by building diverse, high-performance teams, and these experiences have helped when addressing larger-scale problems like climate change, sustainability, diversity and poverty alleviation — issues that affect us all, ” – Zuriel Naiker.

Marsh McLennan is a global professional services firm with two operating segments, Risk and Insurance Services and Consulting, comprising four major businesses, each a global leader in its field.  The organisation services clients in 130 countries, is one of the Fortune 250 companies and has annual revenues of $17-billion. Marsh McLennan”s 76 000 colleagues around the world are united in purpose and action for the benefit of clients, shareholders and society. 


Sumayya Vally

In 2021 Sumayya Vally, founder of the inter-disciplinary architecture studio Counterspace, was on the Time100 Next list of people “poised to make history”. In the same year she was the youngest architect to design the Serpentine Pavilion. 

“Materially, the Pavilion takes into consideration construction’s role not only socially, but also its wider impact on the environment. I’ve approached it very much with the same ethos as designing something in Jo’burg – looking out for the inspirations in the fabric of the city and the lives of people in it. Like previous projects, the methodology for the pavilion is shaped through the lens of a fundamental interest in territory, identity, belonging and trying to understand architecture beyond that which is built.

“I spent a big part of my childhood walking from my grandfather’s stores on Ntemi Piliso Street in Jo’burg, to the Johannesburg Library. Walking in the city is a very sensory experience; I’ve learned that architecture is complicit in separating, othering, excluding – but it can also be a force for the opposite.

“Everything we look at is about what we want to bring out in a place. It’s like all the stories of a place are there and we are selecting what to foreground. We’ve tried to achieve this in many of our public art projects, which are about place-making and bringing together an image or a landmark for a place that stems from the context we’re working in.”

Sumayya has continued her work with the Serpentine by initiating and developing a fellowship programme Support Structures for Support Structures.

“Dreaming is everything”.

Lesley Ndlovu

CEO of African Risk Capacity, Lesley is an executive with extensive international experience in insurance and investment management. 

ARC Ltd is a specialist insurance company that provides parametric insurance coverage to African countries against extreme weather events and natural disasters. Lesley spent close to a decade in various senior management roles in insurance and asset management with the AXA Group in London, Paris and Singapore, including as CEO of a Lloyd’s of London insurance syndicate, Head of Corporate Development for AXA Global Asset Management and Chief Investment Officer for AXA Singapore. 

Prior to joining the AXA Group, he was Vice President: Investments at AXIS Capital in Bermuda, as part of an institutional investment team managing US$15-billion in a global multi-asset investment portfolio. 

He began his professional career with Deloitte, where he had various assignments in corporate finance, auditing and tax advisory. 

He currently serves as a Non-Executive Director for various financial services companies around the world. 

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