Herbert Theledi – Using Outstanding Entrepreneurial Skills to Benefit Rural Communities

The betterment of underserved communities is close to Theledi’s heart

Herbert Theledi was born in Sabie but spent most of his formative years in the rural community of Bushbuckridge in the Lowveld.

The foundation for his career as an entrepreneur was laid during his early years in this community.

Having a zealous entrepreneur as a father, and wise and skilful entrepreneurs as role models in the community, was an appropriate milieu for the moulding of Theledi’s entrepreneurial skills.

This vibrant environment inspired him to make his now well-known statement: “The future of African people is in business”.

The connection between Theledi’s entrepreneurship and rural communities runs like a golden thread through his business career.

After earning a BCom degree in Accounting and Economics, completing a diploma in teaching, and a short spell at a private company in Johannesburg, Herbert Theledi returned to the rural community of his youth.

It is safe to assume that he put his father’s sound advice, “the future is in your own hands”, into practice when he started off as an entrepreneur, renting a shop from his father.

In his mid-twenties, he excelled as an entrepreneur and progressed from shopkeeper to builder. In the construction industry, Theledi made the most of his entrepreneurial skills by building on his relationships with banks and building societies. This enabled him to build numerous houses for their clients.

Without a doubt, 1993 was a defining year for him. Many opportunities came about because a lot of people decided to emigrate at the dawn of a new dispensation in the country. For an astute entrepreneur like Theledi, there were possibilities galore. As he has described in his own words: “I bought every commercial property I could put my hands on with the help of the banks. Those guys were selling for whatever the owed the banks, so it made sense to buy, improve, and sell.”

In 1994 he took a step further by founding a company, called Nthwese Developments, with the mission of developing “strategic real estate that is commercially viable and economically sustainable.” Theledi is the managing director and now manages a company with an imposing portfolio of malls, shopping centres, residential units, and office blocks.

Theledi’s enthusiasm for the upliftment of rural communities echoes in the declarations on Nthwese’s website. For instance, the company affirms: “We are passionate about building shopping centres in rural areas and outlying towns as we believe this is key to helping improve basic infrastructure and helping communities gaining access to critical services and facilities such as banks, postal offices, groceries, etc.”

Theledi’s outstanding entrepreneurial skills, his proficient leadership, the dedication of an able Nthwese team and the cooperation of partners in the construction industry, allow the company to add value to many rural communities.

By reading what Theledi said at the opening of shopping malls in historically neglected and underserviced communities, it is clear that the betterment of these communities is close to Theledi’s heart.

For example:

The Bambanani Shopping Centre in Diepsloot (In partnership with Sampada Private Equity)

By the opening of the centre in November 2017, the project had already provided 120 full-time jobs for members of the local community.

Theledi was satisfied and grateful when he mentioned some more advantages connected to the project:

  • Enrichment of the community with a “family-friendly shopping experience”.
  • During the development phase of the centre, Nthwese made use of local businesses and employed members of the community.
  • Contributing to improving the quality of life for the community.

He reiterated Nthwese’s commitment to community development and indicated that the Bambanani Shopping Centre epitomises the company’s “mission of long-term job creation and empowerment of disadvantaged communities.”

Thulamahashe Mall in Bushbuckridge (In partnership with Twin City Development)

The opening of Thulamahashe Mall in October 2018 was another milestone in Herbert’s journey to utilize his entrepreneurial expertise to the benefit of rural communities.

He mentioned that the expectation is that the project will create an “economic upswing in the rural community” and that it will bring relief in terms of job creation and sustainability, and added, “During the development, the partners factored in bulk infrastructures, such as sewer, electricity, and roads, and have upgraded some of this infrastructure for the benefit of the community.”

During the project, Nthwese Developments and Twin City ensured as much community participation as possible.

To further boost the community economy, the mall comprises of 8% smaller local retailers.

It is evident that Theledi and Nthwese are operating with a dual focus: generating profits and improving rural communities.

Theledi’s passion and commitment to uplifting communities are clear. “Investing in a retail shopping centre is investing in the communities we serve. We have seen the positive impact our developments have made on the lives of people living in the areas and it is this kind of impact that drives me to continue what I do.”

Indeed, an example to follow, to enhance the quality of life in rural and underserved communities.

Follow Herbert Theledi on LinkedIn

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