James Francis talks to Khanyi Mamba about her journey to the boardroom table. She is a board member at Business and Arts South Africa (BASA), who encourages mutually beneficial partnerships between business and the arts, securing the future development of the arts sector in South Africa.
As a supporter and lover of the arts, few opportunities were as inviting to Mamba as to join the board of BASA. Founded in 1997, this internationally recognised development agency drives mutually beneficial relationships between business and art, effectively forging public-private partnerships.
Among its noteworthy successes are Connecting Creative Markets, a means for artists to pursue international art education, and #artMOVESme, an ongoing participatory campaign that encourages public engagement with art. Most recently it launched Conduct The Orchestra, an event co-hosted by the Johannesburg International Mozart Festival during which six prominent business leaders picked up the baton to conduct a professional orchestra.
CONNECTING THE DOTS
These types of creative engagements help society to see value in art, so it`s no surprise that Mamba saw a place to live out her passion. Nonetheless, it being her first board experience she had her uncertainties. `To be honest, at the beginning I was very nervous, as I really didn`t know what to expect,` she says, `I absolutely love the arts, so, I was thoroughly excited to join a team doing so much remarkable work to support the art industry – not only in South Africa but across the continent. The biggest and most pleasant surprise for me was that everyone in the room genuinely shares a huge passion for the arts and that the boardroom is not as cold and emotionless as it may be perceived from the outside`. This passion goes beyond promoting South African creativity; the arts are often described as the mirror of society, and in a country facing many social challenges, then is an opportunity to use art as a conduit for real and meaningful change.
“A board`s role is to see to it that an organisation has a solid strategy and vision for sustainable growth, and that company finances are well managed to support their vision and mission,”
Mamba says, “South Africa is a country where unemployment remains a huge challenge and any business that can contribute to economic development by providing stable employment is an enormous asset. It aids in raising the quality of life and living standards of families and the community at large”.
This can be accomplished through stable and financially sound companies, which come into being because of healthy and pro-active boards. Understanding that the role of the board is not the top of a pyramid, but rather a critical part of the business organism that facilitates and supports the rest of the company and creates room for it to grow and evolve. “It`s important that certain lines are not crossed and that the board does not deviate from its key mandate: it must be clearly documented and communicated as to what extend the board can be involved.”
THE WAY FORWARD
As a young and energised member of a prominent board, one that is helping shape the future, how does Mamba see her new responsibilities?
“I think the era of board members hiding behind the secret confines of a boardroom is gradually changing. We can no longer, as board members just say we don`t concern ourselves too much with what is happening in the day-to-day running of the business. We must be held accountable not only when things are going well, but also when there are a serious challenge within the organisation”.