CLCA’s Inaugural CEO Dinner at the Saxon Hotel

The Creative Leadership Collective Founding Friends and their supporting CEOs met this week to sign the Founding Friends Charter

‘If you want to run fast, run alone. If you want to run far, run together.’ This was one of the African proverbs presented by Prof Mugendi K. M’Rithaa, President Emeritus of the World Design Organisation, in his keynote address at the Creative Leadership Collective Africa’s first CEO Dinner at Saxon Hotel on Monday, 19 February.

Addressing the CLC Founding Friends and their CEOs, Mugendi’s keynote set the theme for the evening: Connecting like-minded leaders who believe in the power of innovation to be a driver of growth on the continent.

The dinner was an opportunity for each CEO to meet with equally ambitious and inspiring leaders, and to endorse their organisation’s commitment to the CLC by signing the Founding Friends Charter.

‘CEO commitment and support for innovation is by far the greatest contributor to building sustainable innovation capability,’ said Paul Steenkamp, founder and convener of the CLC.

‘The evening presented an opportunity for our Founding Friends and their CEOs to demonstrate their shared appreciation for the role of innovation strategy, management and practice in helping realise their organisation’s strategy.’

Chief executives who attended the dinner included Dhesigen Naidoo (CEO, South African Water Research Commission), Sizwe Nxasana (Sifiso Learning Group’s Founder and Executive Chairman), William Blackie (CEO, Investment Banking, Standard Bank), Richard Perez (Founding Director of the d-school at UCT’s Graduate School of Business) and Chris Venter (CEO, AFGRI Group Holdings).

Foremost in conversation was the continent’s potential for problem solving and the need to prioritise partnerships in Africa for Africans.

Sizwe Nxasana highlighted the necessity for people and organisations in South Africa to promote a culture of innovation so as not to be left behind in the context of the fourth and fifth Industrial Revolutions.

‘We have the building blocks of what we need to solve not just South African problems or even continental problems, but worldwide problems – moving that forward is about the attitude and the ability to collaborate and share ideas to unleash the innovation that’s there.

‘That’s why I’m here – to continue these discussions and conversations around innovations, creativity and problem solving.’

Opening speaker Dhesigen Naidoo expressed excitement and hope for the partnership potential presented by the CLCA. ‘We have an opportunity in the African context to leapfrog the development pathway to become the first adaptor of the new sustainable development paradigm.

‘But for this to happen, we must deal with the problem that we don’t have enough resources individually. Partnership is therefore key – and not only in the same sectors, but across the entire value chain. The Water Research Commission wants to contribute very directly to this.’

Mugendi, also curator for Design Indaba Expo and lecturer within the Department of Industrial Design at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, gave a moving keynote presentation highlighting the vast potential of the continent and its growing innovation solutions base.

One innovation from the continent that drew particular praise was the project initiation of the world’s first drone airport, or ‘droneport’, in Rwanda. Serving as a hub for the delivery of crucial medical supplies, the port will change the face of critical services globally.

A clear theme emerging from both the presentations and the evening’s relaxed dinner conversation was that people are at the center of innovation and that the power of the connections they make with each other cannot be underestimated.

Highlighting the importance of these connections in the CLCA, was Richard Perez: ‘It was a very beneficial evening and a fantastic platform and opportunity to network and understand and little bit more about what’s going on and what people are doing.

‘A big thing for us as d-school is to not get isolated in Cape Town. Johannesburg obviously as a massive ecosystem, spanning corporate, government and NGO spaces. So, for us it’s about belonging to a bigger ecosystem and not trying to do everything ourselves down in Cape Town.’

‘GETTING THE COMMITMENT FROM OUR CEOs IS A POWERFUL STEP IN MOVING FORWARD’

The Founding Friends of the CLC in attendance with their CEOs the evening included Dr Valerie Naidoo (Executive Manager: Business Development and Innovations, South African Water Research Commission), Sean Doherty (COO, Investment Banking, Standard Bank), Niki Neumann (MD, AFGRI Technology Services) and S’onqoba Maseko (COO, Sifiso Learning Group), among others.

Speaking to the value of the dinner to connect CEOs to the work their innovation leaders, Valerie Naidoo said: ‘This was a great starting point. Getting the commitment from the CEOs is a powerful step in moving forward and strengthening those different activities we have planned.

‘I’m hoping that as they start to understand this more, there will be a lot more cross-fertilisation of ideas around innovation, design and how organisations can work better together.

‘I can see already that there may be opportunities where we as the founding members start testing things with each other.’

It’s people like Valerie and the other Founding Friends of the CLCA that William Blackie believes need to be supported by their organisations.

‘The thing that always differentiates your business, now and into the future, is innovation and specifically those people who commit themselves to this. So, it’s important to support and encourage them.’


The next CEO dinner will take place in February 2019 and we’ll be showcasing some of the shared insights and indigenous knowledge that surfaces as CLCA members over the course of 2018. We look forward to seeing you there.

Are you a CEO and/or an executive innovation capability builder interested in joining the CLCA? Contact Paul Steenkamp and he’ll guide you through the application process.