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Wiphold puts women centre stage

Wiphold (Women Investment Portfolio Holdings) is one of the best-known Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) companies. From its headquarters in the exclusive northern Johannesburg suburb of Houghton (Nelson Mandela has a house just up the road), Wiphold has spent more than a decade helping South Africa’s women share in the country’s wealth.

Its founders set up Wiphold in 1994, with a seed capital of R500,000 ($74,000). “Women were left out of wealth creation,” says group CEO Louisa Mojela, one of Wiphold’s co-founders. “In creating wealth for them, we would bring them into the mainstream of the economy. They wouldn’t just be workers and consumers.” Another co-founder was Gloria Serobe, one of South Africa’s highest-profile black businesswomen.

Wiphold is a broad-based BEE company. In 1997, its women-only IPO raised R25 million. A rights offering the following year raised another R76 million. Wiphold is now owned roughly one-third by Old Mutual Specialized Finance, one third by its management and staff, and one-third by the Wiphold Investment Trust and the Wiphold NGO Trust that supports black NGOs. The beneficiaries of the Wiphold Investment Trust are 18,000 women from all over South Africa.

“We set up the Wiphold Investment Trust at the time of the IPO, and for every share you subscribed to, you got a unit in the trust,” says Mojela.

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