South African businessman Iqbal Survé is one of the most influential Africans in media. An entrepreneur, investor and philanthropist, he is founder and former CEO of Sekunjalo Group, a black economic empowerment company. Survé, 42, has wide-reaching interests across sub-Saharan Africa, as well as internationally. He recently took a step back from Sekunjalo to pursue other interests. Here are 12 things you didn’t know about media mogul Iqbal Survé.
1. Survé trained as a medical doctor
Survé was born and educated in Cape Town, South Africa, where he trained at the University of Cape Town. He received his postgraduate degree in sports science, and later earned a fellowship from the American College of Sports Medicine. Before moving into the business world, he worked as a practicing medical doctor and sports medicine specialist.
2. He used to be known as the “Struggle Doctor”
During apartheid and immediately following the shift to majority rule in South Africa, Survé became known for providing medical services to those injured in the struggle against the apartheid government. He also became the go-to doctor for many prominent South Africans after their release from prison on Robben Island, earning him the name, “Struggle Doctor.”
3. He received an award from Amnesty International in 1989
For his work with apartheid victims, Survé was honored by international human rights group Amnesty International in 1989 at UNESCO in Paris. The award was given for “medical and ethical work with victims of detention and torture.”
4. Survé founded Sekunjalo to invest in black-owned businesses
In 1996, Survé founded Sekunjalo Investments as a private equity firm that specializes in acquisitions and buyouts. Its model invests only in black-owned companies where it can gain a controlling interest. The operating philosophy of Sekunjalo states that its goal is the “upliftment of previously marginalized groups by creating employment, emphasizing development and transferring of skills.” By 1999, the company was listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, making then-36-year-old Survé the youngest CEO of a listed diversified conglomerate, according to Harvard Business School.
5. He co-founded the 1st African syndicated news service
The South African Press Association (SAPA) will be liquidated by the end of March 2015. Survé co-founded the African News Agency to fill a void in the South African and African media industries. Said to be Africa’s first-ever syndicated news service, the African News Agency will focus on creating a news “by Africans, for Africans, and for a global audience.” ANA plans to invite media partners in the South African and African media market that were formerly part of SAPA.
6. Survé is committed to inter-media house collaboration
As two major media houses withdrew and SAPA began to disintegrate in 2014, Survé recognized the need for further cooperation between media houses. He said, “At a time when competition and hostility amongst media houses is at its most intense, we at Sekunjalo Investment Holdings have been completely open about our intention to incorporate SAPA into the ANA syndication service and to invest considerable resources into establishing a quality African news agency. We remain committed to doing so, in the interest of the broader South African and African media industry.”
7. Survé made enemies among journalists after acquiring the Independent Newspapers group
In January 2014, Survé angered many journalists when he made changes to the executive team at his newly acquired Independent Newspapers group, including letting Cape Times editor Alide Dasnois go. Dasnois is suing Survé in Labour Court. Amid the changes, Survé was accused of limiting editorial independence.
8. Survé is chairman of numerous NGOs
In his influential position, Survé has been asked to take leadership positions for a variety of NGOs, particularly those that focus on social entrepreneurship, education, arts, sports, and music. He is also involved with his alma mater. He serves on the advisory board of the University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business and is governor of the UCT Foundation.
9. His story is taught as a case study at Harvard Business School
Survé’s life story, and particularly his rapid rise to success in the business world, is often used as a case study for graduate students at Harvard Business School. His story is “an example of someone who has shown outstanding moral leadership in the face of numerous challenges.”
10. He stepped down as executive chairman of Sekunjalo in November 2014
In early November 2014, Survé resigned his post as executive chairman of Sekunjalo Investments, though he still owns 55 percent of the company. He denied any conflict or controversy despite rumors of being ousted in a boardroom battle. “I have been the CEO and chairman of Sekunjalo for 14 years. That’s quite long enough,” he said. “There’s an excellent management team in place and the new chairman and deputy chairman have been around for years. After such a long time, I need to give the management team the opportunity to get out of my shadow. That’s why I’m stepping away completely…The company is doing really well which makes it easier to step away. Any suggestion of boardroom tension is absolute nonsense.”
11. He is a member of the Clinton Global Initiative board
For his business expertise, former U.S. President Bill Clinton appointed Survé to the board of the Clinton Global Initiative. Survé also serves as a fellow for the Africa Leadership Initiative and the HRH The Prince of Wales Business and Environment Program. He’s a member of the World Economic Forum, chairman of the Saudi-South Africa Business Council, and a council member of the South Africa-U.S. Business Council Forum.
12. Survé received numerous awards for business excellence
In addition to his position on many prestigious boards across a variety of institutions, Survé has been honored for business excellence and performance. He is widely considered one of the most influential business leaders in Africa, and was named by one magazine as one who will “shape the future of the African continent.”