Vodacom Group CFO Raisibe Morathi shares what has been keeping her up at night

Digitisation and the Covid-19 pandemic are only some of the challenges Raisibe has faced this last year.

In the latest CFO South Africa Podcast, in partnership with Sage, Vodacom Group CFO Raisibe Morathi explained that challenges come in different forms at different times, and that there is no one solution to manage these challenges.

“You can’t say you are foolproof to challenges, but I try to be,” she says. “The important thing is to keep yourself motivated and to seek the opportunities that come with those challenges.”

Looking at the broad challenges society is facing due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Raisibe says that they are not only health-related, but also have a larger impact on business and the economy: “A lot of C-suite managers have had to go back to the drawing board and look at how to create infrastructure and capacity to respond immediately to all of these challenges, while at the same time focusing on what their businesses need to do going forward.”

As the CFO of the Vodacom Group, Raisibe has found herself going back to the drawing board as well during these challenging times.

Navigating a digital world
“The Covid-19 pandemic has opened my eyes to how important digital transformation is to everyone,” she says. “Many companies and industries are looking at digitising in order to serve their customers better during this new way of working and to reduce the number of manual tasks so they can be more efficient. They’ve also started using big data so that they can have more insights into their organisations.”

She explains that when she joined Vodacom in November 2020, she found it exciting that the telecommunications company was not only applying these principles to their operations, but that they were enabling customers to also digitise. “We have seen that, through very challenging times, many organisations have been able to convert their services offering online, ranging from how they interact with various stakeholders, how they service customers, how manage their supply chains, and more. And Vodacom is an enabler of these new services, because network connectivity remains a key factor in driving digital transformation.”

As more businesses digitise, Vodacom has seen an increase in the demand for data and network connectivity. As a result, Raisibe has had to work overtime to ensure that the business is able to keep up with their customers’ demands. “We’ve had to invest in increasing our capex. In South Africa alone we spent more than R10 billion to strengthen our capacity for network connectivity,” she says.

And Raisibe adds that, as the front of the business becomes digital, the backend also has to keep up. “We are building a finance department that is data driven, which allows us to be able to navigate and understand the pricing points and the margins of the business better. The more you understand the economics of every product that you offer, the more you are able to be innovative and provide valuable insights to the business.”

She explains that quick feedback of the impact of different decisions that you make in the business is important, especially in finance. “The management of the business relies on finance teams to be able to interpret and extract insights from their activities. So we are quite heavily invested in big data and analytics.”

Navigating a pandemic
As Covid-19 forced many people to start working and learning from home, she explains that they have also experienced an increase in data consumption per customer. “For this reason, our investment trajectory still increases strongly, because we recognise that in the new normal, people will consume a lot more data than they used to.”

However, working from home has posed different challenges to the leaderships of organisations, and Raisibe has not been spared. “Team cohesion is something that, as a leader, you need to work a lot harder on during this time. You need to ensure that people remain connected.”

She explains that there has also been an emergence of mental health issues as people struggle to cope with the impact of Covid-19. “As a leader, you need to make sure that you are able to support everyone as they experience these mental health crises.”

Raisibe has also had to grapple with the unfortunate consequences of loadshedding in South Africa, and explains that she had to drive more investments into battery power being enhanced and prolonged.

She adds that another thing she has had to pay attention to during this time is that, with uncertainty, regulatory environments will continue to be challenging. “Regulators also have to adapt to the challenging environments. So when you set your strategy as a business, you need to ensure that you are in tune and not averse to what the context of your business is about. You need to continuously monitor these environments closely and work with all of your stakeholders, including your regulators, to navigate through it.”

“It’s been a tough period, clouded by uncertainties, which still continue to affect people in different ways,” she says. “We are in the business of people, so obviously we have to be concerned when you go through that.”

Raisibe concludes that, despite the challenges that have come with the new normal, it has also presented a lot of new opportunities. “This emergence of a whole lot of new companies, new industries and new skills is creating more opportunities for us to continue to provide connectivity.”