Zinhle Simamane’s journey to becoming a CA(SA) has had its good and bad days, but today she is enjoying the fruits of her labour. She is thriving in her role as the Chief Financial Officer – International Business at Traxtion, a company in the freight and rail industry. With no previous experience in the rail industry prior to joining Traxtion, she quickly saw the immense prospects that the industry can provide both in South Africa and the rest of Africa.
Being exposed to the Big 4 audit firms during vacation work and winter school in high school, Zinhle Simamane was convinced to become a chartered accountant and was fortunate to also obtain a bursary for her degree, which secured her a training contract at PwC.
‘I enjoyed my time at PwC and was exposed to an array of clients, however I found that audit happens “after the fact” and wanted to understand what happens before the auditors arrive. With this line of thinking, I sourced an opportunity that afforded me the ability to move around a bank in six-monthly slots and understand how different finance disciplines ultimately contribute to its success. In this, I established incredible connections, and was able to move to the area I wanted which involved traveling into African countries and plugging into their finance needs,’ says Zinhle.
Utilising networks is one of the things that helped her along throughout the years, and says it was not as difficult as one may think.
‘It simply takes courage to speak up and ask for what you want, remembering that the worst someone can say is “no”,’ says Zinhle.
As a youngster she experienced life not only in South Africa, but also Kenya and the USA with her parents and three brothers − two older and one younger.
‘The experience of living abroad and moving relatively often made me adaptable, sociable and open to learning. This, plus growing up with only boys, as the only girl, made me resilient and able to stand up for myself. I believe these are important traits to have for one to succeed – the ability to keep going and to be firm in who you are,’ says Zinhle.
Because she liked to learn and believes that growth is critical, Zinhle decided she would obtain a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) qualification.
‘This was important and relevant to me as I wanted to expand outside of the traditional finance roles I had been exposed to, and pivot into the investment space (deal making, capital raising, financial modelling, etc). I believed that having the dual qualifications would allow for a smoother transition and access to the kind of role I was seeking,’ explains Zinhle.
She obtained her CFA designation writing the relevant exams in both South Africa (Levels 1 and 3) and Ghana (Level 2) during her time at Barclays Africa Group (now Absa). Since obtaining the qualifications, she continues to learn using the platforms available to her through SAICA, CFA Institute and other educational avenues.
She currently works at Traxtion, a company in the freight and rail industry, joining in late 2018 as a commercial and financial analyst. Due to her impressive efforts within the company growing the business, securing funding, improving controls and procedures within Finance and establishing key relationships, she was promoted to CFO of International Business in early 2020. This role entails the overseeing of operations across the African continent.
‘With every country and jurisdiction being different and nuanced, I need to have an incredible understanding of both the requirements and regulations of the various regions in which Traxtion operates,’ describes Zinhle.
In South Africa, the result of the announcement to allow private rail operators, like Traxtion, onto the public rail network currently only accessible by SOEs would be a boom in the economy as private rail operators could provide logistics solutions for commodities; in turn increasing output of same commodities in relevant sectors (most notably mining). Goods would have reliable method of rail transport. Additionally, a fresh revenue stream for the Government to be used for the betterment of the country. South Africa owns the 11th largest rail network in the world and the largest on the continent, representing about 80% in Africa. Government permitting private rail operators with access to the rail network for the first time in the history of South Africa is game changing.
‘With no previous experience in the rail industry (prior to joining Traxtion), I have quickly come to understand the immense prospects that the industry can provide both in South Africa and the Rest of Africa,’ says Zinhle.
Providing access to private rail operators has proven to be an effective way of boosting government revenue, as has been seen on the 1 860-km TAZARA rail network in Tanzania and Zambia. Third-party access has also been discussed in other parts of the continent and is the way forward!
Other things Zinhle does for fun involve spending time with her loved ones.
‘I am blessed to be surrounded by wonderful and supportive individuals, family and friends alike, and thoroughly enjoy their company. Anything from picnics to travels to festivals to drinks to movies to trying out restaurants and exploring the nightlife (maybe especially that one). It’s important to not get bogged down with only one thing, be it work or something else, and remember that all (or most) aspects of life are meant to be enjoyed,’ says Zinhle.