Onke Mkiva (31), the winner of the Top 35-under-35 competition’s Lead category, is co-lead for RMB’s Africa Debt and Trade Solutions business (DTS) and serves on the RMB global DTS Exco.
He leads a team of investment professionals across seven countries and was responsible for setting up the most fit-for-purpose operating model for this lending business following a merger of RMB’s long-term lending, trade and working capital units.
His purpose statement is to help African operators build sustainable businesses and economies. He has developed formidable relationships with clients, internal, and other stakeholders across the continent.
Onke’s commitment to building a solution-driven African society saw him co-creating RMB’s diversity and inclusion agenda alongside other stakeholders. In 2020 he was awarded RMB’s diversity and inclusion award for his contribution in this space.
‘My professional motto is my purpose should always be underpinned by certain core principles. For me, these are being tough on results and patient on progress, authenticity, value-adding, gracious, having humility, and continuously learning. As best as I can, this is what I always bring into the spaces I occupy and the people I interact with,’ he explains.
Onke serves as a mentor to young aspiring CAs(SA) through the FirstRand CA Programme and guides the trainees on work-related technical matters, mastering self, career path and people management, among other things. ‘I also provide unofficial mentorship to many colleagues in the bank broadly. In addition to the ongoing mentorship I do at work, I regularly hold talks with young students on behalf of RMB on my journey in the banks as well as talks on other important aspects such as inclusion, diversity and transformation.’
Onke has invested in and inspired many young people to believe in themselves, improve their professional lives, and beyond. ‘I cannot even claim to be near-perfect, the work I do at Atteridgeville Correctional Centre is exemplary to the men I interact with and many of them have testified of how the small bit of my life they experience is a sign of hope for them to turn their lives around. I am in contact with many of the ex-offenders who have subsequently been released from prison and constantly encourage them to improve their lives.’ He has also contributed significantly to the course of the Association of Black Accountants of Southern Africa.
As a leader, learning never stops and Onke has undertaken executive education programmes from renowned international institutions such as INSEAD and Harvard Business School. He is an MBA candidate at Imperial College Business School, London, where he will be focusing on how African SMEs can leverage technology to reach and create new markets.
‘Helping Africa tap into a fraction of its potential is what inspires me. I’m not sure what drives me more: the under-appreciation of Africa or my belief in our capabilities,’ he explains.
Just having been nominated as one of the 35 finalists of the competition, has been a privilege for Onke. ‘It is an even greater honour to have won the Lead category. The amount of talent in the profession is unbelievable and to connect with some of the finalists who are doing such amazing work is a privilege. To win the Lead category is an outstanding achievement and I feel an even greater responsibility to the profession and the continent at large.’
At one point in the competition process, Onke felt like an imposter. ‘It was because of the sheer talent in the group. All the finalists are amazing people doing great things. After observing the commitment of everyone at SAICA, the judges, and the sponsors to the competition, with everyone working tirelessly and committing 100% to the process, when my name was called, I had no doubt that is where I belong. I felt thrilled, excited, humbled and truly honoured.”
His advice to other young CAs(SA) is to dream big. ‘Have a clear plan but be flexible. And always ask for more than you think you deserve! Seek God or whatever you believe in for the purpose, do everything for impact, and hopefully, you will leave this world slightly better than you found it.’
His dream for the future is bootstrapping Africa to success. ‘Bootstrapping is a business term referring to the use of one’s resources to start up a business. I think Africa has a lot to leverage. I dream of a connected Africa, a self-sufficient Africa, an Africa where rural schools have the same basic facilities as those in urban areas, and most importantly, an Africa where Africans believe in their people.’