MultiChoice is helping to drive transformation across South Africa’s ICT industry
By Fiona Wakelin & Charndré Emma Kippie
At the beginning of the year, MultiChoice South Africa announced the appointment of Collen Dlamini as their new Executive Head of Corporate Affairs. Collen is, in fact, a lawyer by training, and has previously served as Group Head of Regulatory Affairs for Kagiso Media, as well as a Special Regulations and Consumers Specialist at MTN.
Collen has also taken up the role of Executive Director at Future Managers in the past. Future Managers is a company geared towards utilising digital platforms to supplement traditional platforms in order to enhance teaching and learning for both students and lecturers. Most recently, Collen also founded the Copyright Coalition of South Africa (NPC).
On 15 July this year, MultiChoice SA played a pivotal role in the success of 20th Annual Top Empowerment Summit, coming in as a top sponsor, and qualifying as a finalist at the Top Empowerment Awards in the ‘Enterprise & Supplier Development’ category.
We sat down for an interview with Collen to discuss his appointment and MultiChoice SA’s ESD programmes.
Congratulations on your appointment this year as the Executive Head of Corporate Affairs at MultiChoice SA. Please unpack for us what your key roles and responsibilities are.
As the Executive Head of Corporate Affairs for MultiChoice South Africa, I am responsible for protecting and enhancing the reputation and image of MultiChoice and its product brands in South Africa. I manage and oversee stakeholder relations, corporate communications, internal communications, corporate services, reputation management, CSI, transformation, and the company’s social impact agenda.
Please describe the core services that MultiChoice SA delivers.
MultiChoice Group is a leader in video entertainment and is the parent company of the following brands: DStv, GOtv, SuperSport, M-Net,DStv Media Sales, Showmax and Irdeto.
What have been some of your major milestones?
Our ability to continue developing entrepreneurs in South Africa continues to be something we are extremely proud of.
During this past year with its COVID-related challenges, our Innovation Fund provided much-needed financial support to eight small businesses, which helped them to create 47 new jobs. Due to the exponential growth of online content, the Fund focused on empowering online content creators to scale up to meet the growing demand.
Here are the eight companies that you should take note of:
- The Bubblegum Club: born as a cultural intelligence agency, it has grown into a digital publication and a content production studio.
- Duma Collective: a creative communications agency
- Mzansi Live: a Pan African independent multimedia management company, who developed Mzansi2Cario, a broadcast media marketplace
- Swypa Deliveries uses door-to-door scooters to deliver goods and services for township-based businesses for orders placed through their app
- The Plug: an online publication focusing on all aspects of urban culture
- The Throne: a boutique agency specialising in influencer marketing, social media strategy, talent management and the home of The Throne Magazine
- Whoosh: a payment solutions provider based in Tshwane
- Yellow Bone: a film and television production company, focusing on bringing authentic South African content to international markets
MultiChoice SA has maintained its level 1 B-BBEE status – to what do you attribute this success?
At MultiChoice, we believe in empowerment that makes a real impact in the lives of South Africans and take the first two letters of B-BBEE very seriously.
Broad-based is at the heart of our B-BBEE philosophy and we have made it our mission to implement and participate in inclusive initiatives that broaden empowerment as widely as possible – to as many South Africans as possible.
As part of our transformation initiative, we have developed a robust and integrated way of working that ensures that senior leadership who are responsible for making decisions are aware, involved and educated in the transformation work being done in the organisation.
In 2020, we developed a B-BBEE committee to develop strategies and monitor the progress of our B-BBEE initiatives. This committee is made of B-BBEE pillar champions and sponsors. The pillar owners are responsible and accountable for the execution of the B-BBEE strategies and policies in their respective functions. They are also responsible for the implementation of policies that govern the respective pillars.
This approach has allowed two-way communication so it is not just the committee filtering through information to staff but should any of our staff be part of any CSI projects, we can evaluate if there is potential for wider support and if such a project has impact on the scorecard.
Our B-BBEE committee is one of the catalysts that have helped with coordination, but we must also give credit to the leadership of MultiChoice Group – who see BEE as a business imperative and not just a compliance issue and thus have ensured that all initiatives are driven from the top.
Please describe MultiChoice SA’s ESD programmes.
We have an ESD system through the MultiChoice Enterprise Development Trust, recently branded as the Multichoice Innovation Fund, which focuses on funding innovation SMEs that operate in the broadcasting, innovation, technology, and the ICT sectors.
We also provide mentorship and the skills necessary to acquire assets and supply MultiChoice with various high-quality productions.
Our ESD programmes have helped to drive transformation in South Africa in the ICT industry by prioritising black, black women and youth owned initiatives. To be eligible to be a beneficiary of the MultiChoice Enterprise Development Trust, companies need to be in the ICT sector, be minimum 51% black-owned with a turnover that does not exceed R50m per annum.
Since inception, the fund has disbursed R252m in loans, grants and business development expenses to assist beneficiaries in acquiring skills and assets.
Our ESD programmes are truly effective as over the years they have been able to create jobs, impact the South African economy, are sustainable and ensure that our communities are viable. Since 2012, our beneficiaries have grown more than expected, where some have generated more than R100M per annum.
Our ESD programmes are:
- Enterprise development through the Innovation Fund which uplifts small black entrants into the market. This year, we funded nine companies who now have diversified portfolios and additional revenue streams.
- Our preferential procurement programme ensures continuous support of BEE compliant suppliers that are in our database.
- Supplier development through the Innovation Fund. We have helped small service providers grow and remain sustainable. We have funded 21 companies including Duma Collective, who is now MultiChoice’s digital and PR agency.
- One of Multichoice Group’s strategic pillars focuses intently on Employee Development, where operational excellence is maintained through developing talent, skills, and diversity. The Group leadership continues to pledge in both investment and focus into the growth of internal staff and our positive impact upon the communities we serve.
What are some of the company’s CSI initiatives?
Our purpose is to enrich lives. We are committed to contributing to the economic and social development of our country. Our CSI initiatives focus on creating employment opportunities, developing up-and-coming filmmakers and sports stars through training and skills transfers, and supporting budding entrepreneurs and SMMEs.
The following are some of our CSI projects:
- Let’s Play
- DStv Diski Challenge
- MultiChoice Talent Factory
- Recently launched DStv Netball Challenge
- Regional TV stations support
We partnered with the Youth Employment Service (YES) to assist with the recruitment and training of 300 learners. Seventy-five TVET college students will receive internships across a diversified portfolio that includes HR, Finance, Marketing, Law and IT, while the remaining 225 places are prioritised for learnerships in the ICT space for matriculants and others with qualifications but who are not working.
How has the pandemic impacted the company?
For FY21, The MultiChoice Group increased its 90-day active subscriber base by 1.4 million to reach 20.9 million households, split between 8.9 million in South Africa and 11.9 million in the Rest of Africa (RoA). This represents an accelerated 7% growth year-on-year (YoY).
The increase was driven by heightened consumer demand for video entertainment products, continued penetration of the mass market, and an easing of electricity shortages in southern Africa. We started the year confronted with severe disruptions to our programming schedules, bleak macroeconomic forecasts for many of our markets, and sharply weaker currencies. In the face of these challenges, our teams rallied together – this helped us deliver on all our key performance metrics.
Last year, we also made means to support our suppliers and beneficiaries through various initiatives.
- The MultiChoice Group implemented several measures to safeguard the incomes of cast, crew, and creatives as well as the sustainability of production houses during the coronavirus pandemic. We set aside R80 million to ensure that productions were able to pay full salaries, and this went a long way in creating income stability for them and their families.
- Through the MultiChoice Talent Factory, we launched an online learning portal that supported over 40 000 members of the industry to gain access to courses and online masterclasses, so they could continue to hone their craft while adhering to the public health measures of social distancing and isolation.
- The company also committed to guarantee the incomes of freelancers in SuperSport productions, who were unable to work due to the suspension of sport and the national lockdown. This extended to ensuring the income of freelancers in the broadcast technology environment.
On a more personal note, what is your “why”?
Working every day to make a positive impact in the lives of other people makes life meaningful and purposeful. I find joy and fulfilment when I lift as I rise, when I help others turn their tragedies into triumphs and hopeless situations into achievements.
What exciting plans do you have for the coming year?
- In May we launched the DSTV Schools Netball Challenge, a nationwide competition that will shine a spotlight on young female athletes between the ages of 16 and 19 who play netball at secondary schools across the country. The tournament will be contested across all nine provinces and aims to take South African Schools Netball (SASN) to a whole new level by giving the sport more exposure and encouraging greater support, especially in the lead up to the upcoming 2023 Netball World Cup to be held here on South African shores.
- We will also be increasing investment in the Let’s Play sports fields project, which aims to increase access to state-of-the-art sporting facilities for disadvantaged schools and communities across South Africa, with a focus on rural areas. We believe that having access to a world-class sports field is a big first step to encourage children to be more active and lead a healthier lifestyle.
- We are also excited to welcome and onboard the new cohort of SMME’s that have just joined the Innovation Fund and there are some really exciting and different plans that we cannot wait to share with them.
- We will also be running a mentorship program together with industry experts that promises to be very invaluable for our beneficiaries.
- To continue transforming and developing the media and broadcast landscape, Newzroom Afrika entered into an agreement with two of South Africa’s regional TV stations, 1KZN TV and Mpuma Kapa TV. To support this initiative, MultiChoice has given 1KZN TV and Mpuma Kapa TV each a grant to improve their news coverage capability and establish news bureaus in the respective provinces. These grants will cover production equipment such as cameras, lighting, sound, and computers, as well as training and technical support.
Do you have a special message for the businesses and individuals out there who are struggling to survive?
These are challenging times for everyone, and we believe that they are also providing us with an opportunity to address the plethora of social ills that have been brought to the fore because of the pandemic.
It may seem like it is all doom and gloom now, but it is up to us to have a positive lens on how we view the world. Our unemployment rate is skyrocketing, and with that comes an opportunity for businesses to work closely with the government to solve some of these problems in a more creative and sustainable way.
The MultiChoice Group continues to see a lot of opportunities in the media, technology and digital sectors and we have been and continue to support SMMEs that are coming up with innovative solutions that address unique African problems.
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