Editorial: celebrating Youth Day the CFO way


Yesterday's Youth Day was a massive moment to reflect, not only for the country, but also for CFOs. First of all, the day remains a reminder where we come from - and how far South Africa still has to go. The Soweto Uprising against Afrikaans as school language - and by extension against the apartheid regime - started on 16 June 1976 and its violent repression took the life of about 176 South Africans. Not something we should forget.

Many people have many different legitimate opinions about the current state of the nation, but I do feel South Africa is still a bruised and wounded country. "Let me be philosophical for a moment," said award winning Oceana CFO Imraan Soomra during the CFO Awards & Conference on 14 May 2015. "This country is great, but a lot of work needs to be done so that this room [of CFOs] is more representative of the demographics of this country." He has got a good point. Non-whites are still severely under-represented among CFOs, although they scooped 4 CFO awards, and the lack of female award winners was a telling - bad - sign too.

On the other hand, the amount of young talent coming through and being appointed as CFOs of leading South Africans is heart-warming - and that is surely something to celebrate on Youth Day. With Soomra, Brett Tromp (Discovery Health), Greg Davis (Standard Bank Africa) and Cobus Grove, half of the 2015 CFO Awards were won by Chief Financial Officers aged 40 years or younger!

Another angle that many CFOs will have taken on Youth Day is that of the youth as consumer. This lead from the Mail & Guardian was very telling yesterday:

By 2020 youth will dominate Africa's $1.3 trillion consumer spending, and continent's millennial generation is not pessimistic about its future.

South Africans have a knack for finding many different ways to celebrate our different public holidays, so it doesn't really matter if you have spent Youth Day remembering the struggle against oppression by a minority, reflecting on the country's way forward or outlining a business strategy to satisfy the booming consumption of young people in Africa. The main thing is that the old cliché - the one that says that the youth is the future - still rings true. That is something all CFOs need to be aware off on Youth Day and during the rest of the year.

  • Next year's CFO Awards will take place on 12 May 2016, once again at the Summer Place in Johannesburg. If you would like to buy a table, join the panel of judges or become a partner you can email Jurrien Morsch. Attendance is free for members. Visit CFOawards.co.za
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