Alforde Charumbira, former finance professional, business leader and volunteer, believes strongly that business must work to empower communities and address inequality, and he is helping to develop a social impact measurement tool which will enable organisations to do just that.
When Alforde Charumbira came to South Africa from Zimbabwe to study, he picked accounting as his chosen field. “At the time, accounting for me was about combining my love for numbers with a career where I could also put food on the table and take care of my siblings and extended family while securing a place in the world for myself as an immigrant.”
He rose up the corporate ladder in South Africa, becoming CFO for the VW Group and then Director for FMI. But he found his interests moving from the static domain of financial reports and balance sheets to the more dynamic world of impact and socio-economic development. This led to further studies at the University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business (UCT GSB) after which he co-founded the Ukwaba Group (formerly Isithemba Group), a holding company with investments in construction, logistics, real estate and social impact consultancy. Utando Social Impact Consultancy aims to spearhead compassionate capitalism, helping businesses thrive while making a difference in the communities in which they operate.
“Companies that ignore the broader social and environmental context in which they operate are likely to pay a price,” he believes. “Reputational damage and loss of brand value, falling sales, and difficulties in recruiting talent, lower worker productivity, corruption, tougher government regulation, or an increase in climate change-related costs are just some of these costs.”
As an entrepreneur himself, Alforde wants to help other entrepreneurs and start-ups to be successful, which he is able to do as the UCT GSB Entrepreneur-In-Residence at the Solution Space in Phillippi outside Cape Town - a volunteer role where he mentors young businesspeople and interacts with community members on a daily basis. “I care deeply about the role that business plays in society and the community and how we can bring small entrepreneurs into the mainstream economy.”
He has plenty of experience on both sides of this coin as one of his roles is CEO of Ukwaba Distribution Services, a logistics company operating in Cape Town and Johannesburg. He is also a founding partner at Utando Social Impact Solutions, a consultancy he started with a former classmate turned partner at the UCT GSB. He credits his studies at the UCT GSB, where he completed both a postgraduate diploma in business administration and an MBA, with instilling in him an awareness of the importance of good leadership. In particular, he feels business leaders should be champions of challenging inequality and empowering communities. Aware that he sounds idealistic, he insists, “These conversations must be had and heard.” Eager to play his part, he has published some freelance articles on these topics on various media platforms.
As if he doesn’t have enough on his plate already, he also mentors current postgraduate diploma students at the UCT GSB in order to give them the extra boost they need to be successful. “I believe it is important to give back to the community and play a small part in actually changing society in a very rewarding way,” he says.
But it is perhaps in his role as social investment consultant to various local and international companies that he is doing some of his most meaningful work. He is currently helping to develop a social impact measurement tool which will help organisations determine more precisely and effectively what the social impact of their investments have been.
“There are multiple layers to social investments,” says Alforde. “Traditional tools tend to focus on financial performance and fail to take into account the wider impact. So, for instance, an investment into a school will often be tracked by the number of children that this school helped educate. But what about the jobs that were created, the average earnings of those who got jobs, how many kids could go to school because parents were employed and so on.”
Better measurement of social investments, he believes, will enable scarce resources to be channelled more effectively resulting in a much larger social impact. “Business should be about sustaining the wellbeing of all those who interact with it,” he says.
“Business is in most cases a force for good and in the long run its success will, in my view, be central to society’s success.”