Neville Matjie - Transforming KwaZulu-Natal
Neville Matjie is the chief executive officer of Trade & Investment KwaZulu-Natal (TIKZN), where he has worked for the last 15 years.
TIKZN is a South African trade and inward investment promotion agency and is an entity of the KZN Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs. The agency was established
to promote the Province of KwaZulu-Natal as an investment destination and to facilitate trade by assisting local companies’ access to international markets.
Matjie joined TIKZN after working at the Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry. There, he said, he enjoyed interacting with international clients who wanted to either export goods out of South Africa as well as inward buying missions. “Linking our local companies to foreign companies really fascinated me and became something I was really passionate about,” he commented.
This interest in linking local business with foreign clients inspired him to look for work in a similar field and since joining TIKZN he has served in several different roles and capacities. His first job responsibility at TIKZN was in attracting investment to KwaZulu-Natal. Following this position, he set up a business retention and expansion unit within the organisation. This unit was created to assist investors in the province who were having problems during the credit crunch. “I put together a strategy and employed staff to provide assistance and support to our investors, where were on the brink of closure,” he commented.
Two years later this role was followed by heading up the export development and promotion unit. There, Matjie led a number of trade missions with a focus on Africa as the primary market. He put together the
“Export 101” guide to exporting, which became a blue-print for exporters wishing to export their products from KwaZulu-Natal. He was then assigned in the office of the CEO to become the executive responsible for TIKZN’s operations and strategy.
In early 2018, Matjie was requested by the TIKZN Board to take up the position of acting chief executive officer. “TIKZN assists companies that want to locate in the province and that need assistance in the regulatory process. TIKZN is also a transaction advisor and will link foreign companies with key government departments, funders, potential partners and also assist companies in finding the right location to set up. Local investors who wish to set up businesses in the province are assisted as well,” said Matjie.
He says that his biggest inspiration is in the role that his organisation plays in transforming towns and in job creation. One of the highlights of his career has been in seeing the difference between small towns that were almost ghost towns because of no investments, to towns booming with economic activity after investors have been located in these areas.
His motive is to drive labour intensive investments as, “Prior to any investment in our local towns, they turn into ghost towns, with very high levels of unemployed, which was creating social ills.” Citing a few examples, he mentioned Tai Yuen Textiles in Mooi River where today, the company is the largest employer in this town and the town had been transformed and is now ‘vibey’. He added that more needed to be done in towns such as Mooi River and others, that a concerted effort in the attraction of investments was critically needed.
Matjie commented that he has learnt that the most important thing in this line of work is honesty, especially when dealing with the location of projects. However, he says that for companies looking to investing in KwaZulu-Natal, this is the market for them as there are many opportunities. He added that if he does believe that a certain project will work well in an area, investors are very appreciative if you are able to explain your reasons.
Matjie commented that one thing that is important to acknowledge is the dedication and commitment of the
South African government to transformation. He added, “There is clear vision for the country and an understanding that South Africa is an economic basket not only for the continent but for the global world.”
In commenting on his leadership style, Matjie says that he believes in there being a mixture between a manager and being a leader. “When you are a manager, you are dealing with issues of compliance and ensuring that everything is done to the book. When you are a leader, you inspire everyone around you to buy into your vision and seek to implement that vision with their full drive commitment and energy. In this role, one has to find a balance between being a manager and leader, always remembering that you are dealing with people and not robots, at the same time ensuring highest levels of compliance to the laws that
Matjie complimented the TIKZN Board of Directors under the leadership of Ms Ina Cronje for their decisiveness, passion, knowledge and commitment to ensuring the growth of the KwaZulu-Natal economy. He said, “Having board members who are always willing to support, assist, and offer their expertise in attracting investors makes our efforts a bit easier. The TIKZN board is diversified with various skills, sound knowledge and expertise that we rely on as an organisation.”
He also commended the leadership of the Honourable Mr Sihle Zikalala, MEC for Economic Development Tourism and Environmental Affairs, who is clear on his mandate to the organisation in changing the economic shape of KwaZulu-Natal. “MEC Zikalala is passionate about intra-Africa trade and our role in ensuring that we drive KZN exports into the continent, without losing sight on capitalising on economic blocs such as, BRICS, EU, etc.”
When asked to explain what he attributed his success to, Matjie responded, “One can’t have a successful career without dedication and hard work.” However, he added that finding time to play hard was important.
“Without balance you cannot have a career and would burn out quickly.”
Another aspect to his success was through the support of his wife and family who are very important in motivating him. “I have a very spiritual, inspiring and supportive wife, Lenore, and three beautiful kids, Meah, Alessandro and Jiyaana, who are important pillars in my life and a lot of time and effort goes into ensuring that they are looked after and feel my presence and support.”
He concluded with the words of Martin Luther King Jr. “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”