Dr Snowy Khoza, Chief Executive Officer of the Bigen Africa Group, is a recognised activist and champion of, in particular, women empowerment. Her contributions to business and government have been publically recognised through several national and international awards, including the Top Performing Business Leader Award in South Africa during the 13th South African Business Awards in 2015.
Women’s Forum: Why did you choose to speak at the Women’s Forum Mauritius 2016?
Being an activist means taking a proactive approach, raising awareness, leading change and engaging with like-minded people and groups wherever possible. The Women’s Forum provides those with a passion for furthering the cause of women with a platform for all of this. I believe that women’s views, knowledge and wisdom can be channelled into addressing major socio-economic, environmental, technical, financial and institutional challenges. Key to this process is working together to find practical, innovative solutions to improve the quality of life of all.
Women’s Forum: What innovative methods does Bigen Africa use to contribute to the challenge of water and sanitation for all?
Bigen Africa recognises that access to water and sanitation is the core of human existence and the foundation of economic development. My passion for improving the lives of the previously disadvantaged resonates with the vision of the Group, which is to improve the quality of life of all through the development of sustainable infrastructure solutions. With a strong presence in South Africa and a growing African footprint, Bigen Africa helps to improve lives in developing nations through its core capabilities in engineering innovative solutions to developing water resources, financing water and sanitation projects, and implementing these solutions to improve the quality of life and drive economic development. These goals differentiate Bigen as an infrastructure development Group on the continent. The Group’s water provision solutions are linked to economic development and growth, industrialisation, health and food security, and take into account environmental imperatives throughout the process. Examples are water harvesting, water purification, clean sanitation systems and seawater desalination solutions. Bigen Africa not only acts as a catalyst for socio-economic change through infrastructure development, but also has the opportunity to “do good while doing business” in the communities where projects are undertaken. This is achieved through, for example, channelling some of the employment and procurement opportunities to such communities.
Women’s Forum: In your opinion, what more is needed to improve women’s advancement in Africa?
What is required for the women on our beautiful continent is universal access to education as well as empowerment, skills transfer, equal opportunities and support for women to become what they should be – effective contributors to improving the quality of life of all. At Bigen Africa, transformation of the workforce, with a specific emphasis on advancing black women, is a priority and proactively furthered through human resources policies such as targeted recruitment, fast-tracking and career development programmes.
Women’s Forum: As CEO of Bigen Africa, have you ever had to face inequalities because of your gender? If so, what advice would you give to aspiring women leaders?
Yes, I have. I advise female leaders who encounter any form of gender discrimination to draw on the unique inner strengths that we, as women, possess, to remain confident in their own identity and not allow an unwelcome situation to define them. This is the special challenge to women – to be focused, resilient and hard working in meeting their goals without expecting to be treated differently from men. It is also important that women stand together and create mutually supportive structures which would empower those in the higher positions to withstand the pressure, and also help more women move higher up the societal ladder.