Social conscience: That’s what makes the Lesco partnership unique

Executive chairperson of the Akhona Group, Noluthando Gosa, has said the recently concluded partnership deal between the company and former chief executive of Exxaro, Sipho Nkosi, was a befitting example of an ideal empowerment transaction.

Gosa said the deal, which is an acquisition of 33% stake by Nkosi and Akhona into Lesco Manufacturing headed by Jonathan Shapiro, became very attractive because its model includes an element of social conscience.

Gosa is a former commissioner of the National Planning Commission and Akhona was also recently involved in a manufacturing transaction with ArcelorMittal SA.

Light electrical switch company, Lesco, formulated an innovative production model over the past 20 years that has not only grown the business but has also prioritised the hiring and training of unskilled workers.

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Speaking to City Press, Gosa said another element that made the deal attractive was the fact that Nkosi, who she has known for over two decades, was already in talks with Lesco.

She pointed out that the company’s model of using significant amount of labour and its in-house upskilling and design team were also an attractive component.

Of the 33% stake in Lesco, Nkosi has 10% while Akhona has the 23% with a view to increase the shareholding progressively over time.

Nkosi has also been appointed the chairperson of the board with Gosa as the deputy.

Nkosi on the other hand said his first impression of Lesco enticed him from retirement as he saw an opportunity that transcends charitable generosity by sustainably empowering the disadvantaged.

“The weakness of empowerment is that it tends to look at redressing the ills of the past while overlooking the predicament of the youth, who are the future. Efforts should be made to create opportunities to take them out of their current state.

“The unskilled should be developed and the disabled should be afforded life-changing medical interventions where possible. As a section of the population that is not considered work material which can contribute to society, they deserve dignity that gives them hope, employment and the chance to improve their lives.

“What we can do is unlock ideas which create jobs along the lines of which Lesco has already embarked. This partnership is a platform to give back to these communities,” said Nkosi through a statement issued about the deal.

Shapiro explained that the company’s ideology boiled down to relationship building and faith in the company’s philosophy of empowering previously disadvantaged local communities with skills development and jobs.

“We are strategic about growing the family business and partnering with the like-minded Sipho and the Akhona Group, to take Lesco to the next level.

“We are challenging business as usual by factoring community benefit into every step of technical innovation and product design. We uphold the integrity of a proudly South African company by doing all we can towards nation building.

“We are where we are as a direct result of the struggles and determination from the generations that precede us. This partnership will be our vehicle for generations to follow”. he said.

Lesco is a family-owned light electrical manufacturer that has several assembly facilities in Johannesburg that sells directly to retailers, an element that saw it grow exponentially.

Before the transaction it was not BEE compliant.


Lesetja Malope