Sibongile Manganyi-Rath is an award-winning entrepreneur from South Africa who was recently named Africa’s most influential woman in business by CEO magazine. Sibongile’s life story is inspiring; She comes from a family of two illiterate parents and started working for her father’s fresh produce business in Soweto, Johannesburg at the age of 12 years old.

By the age of 26 she quit her previous line of work and established Indigo Kulani Group, a multifaceted company active in the South African construction industry.

Sibongile recently completed IMD’s Foundation for Business Leadership (FBL) program, which brings executives up to speed in cross-functional skills and helps integrate them into their business.

She said she wanted to enrol in FBL because her great success so far had come from trial and error since she had no formal business or managerial education, apart from her degree in architecture. She felt she was ready to attend a prestigious business school in order to give herself an opportunity to facilitate her executive development.

Sibongile said she was drawn by IMD’s number one spot in the Financial Times executive education rankings and that she has not been disappointed. “So far the experience has been awesome,” she said.

But it hasn’t been a walk in the park, according to Sibongile: “Running a business is hard but FBL has been one of the most challenging experiences in my life.”

According to Sibongile, the amount of information in the program was staggering but at the end everything fits together and it becomes obvious that there’s a “real science behind it”.

She particularly enjoyed sessions run by the FBL program directors Leif Sjoblom and Benoit Leleux, who focused a great deal on entrepreneurship and opportunities in Africa.

But, by far one of the biggest benefits Sibongile took away from her experience at IMD was learning how to create and communicate the real impact her group is responsible for. When she left the program she immediately began putting together a report on the socio-economic value her company creates.

“We were very focused on the ‘products’ we provided but not what we contributed to South African society,” said Sibongile.

“We’ve built over 200 schools in South Africa but those aren’t just buildings. That means nearly 10,000 South Africans have been given the chance to get an education and improve their lives because of what we have done.”

Sibongile also got to know herself better and grew as a leader during the program. “It was very challenging because as a CEO I am not used to getting feedback, but it was also very rewarding.”

Despite her long list of achievements – women in business awards, national business awards, black business awards, entrepreneur awards – Sibongile is keen on giving back and mentoring others for success. She regularly comes back to contribute to FBL and is the founder of IKG Start-Up Capital that specializes in funding, mentoring and growing startups.

However it’s too early to write the end of Sibongile’s story. She has many plans for the future including enrolling in an upcoming cohort of IMD’s Executive MBA to continue her learning journey.

Sibongile Manganyi-Rath