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South Africa's Titan of Business Phuti Mahanyele

Phuti Mahanyele, Executive Chairperson of Sigma Capital

The Essence Festival started in 1994 as a one-time event in New Orleans to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of Essence magazine. With the tagline of “Where Black Women Come First,” Essence is the only magazine that revolves entirely around the black woman experience. The 2017 Essence Festival Durban will take place September 26 – October 1.

What started as a birthday party for the much-celebrated publication evolved into the largest event celebrating African Culture and Music in the United States. It’s only fitting that the festival expand to include the coastal city of Durban in South Africa, one of the largest cities on the Indian Ocean coast of the African continent and a beautiful and vibrant vacation destination.

The festival’s unique design and mission has earned it the title of “the party with a purpose.” Unlike a traditional music festival, the Essence Festival features artists, musicians, and motivational speakers. Attendees can also participate in the Essence Path to Power workshops for budding entrepreneurs and established business professionals.

South African Business Women in Essence Festival Durban

3 South African Titans of Industry Featured in Essence Festival Durban

Dr. Judy Dlamini, Essence Festival Durban 2017

Dr. Judy Dlamini, Founder, Executive Chairman, The Mbekani Group

Dr. Judy Dlamini

“I’ve learned to ask myself questions such as ‘who am I, who do I want to be and what do I want to leave behind.’”

Dr. Judy Dlamini is the Founder and Executive Chairman of the twenty-year old Mbekani Group, which has operations and investments across pharma, property management, tourism, surgical instruments, and fashion retail. Dr. Dlamini is a licensed medical doctor and practiced for many years before consulting in Occupational Health for various corporations. After completing her MBA she joined HSBC Investment Bank, Johannesburg division, in Corporate Finance. Career highlights include:

  • Recipient of the African Economy Builder Lifetime Achiever Award 2016 from African Economy Builder Forum
  • The Global CEO’s 2016 Africa’s Most Influential Women in Business

Why you’ll find her message inspiring: Dr. Dlamini earned a doctorate in Business Leadership. During this time she investigated the intersection of race, gender and social class in the career progression of women CEOs. She developed strategies for gender transformation at a leadership level and which she shares under the context of having the courage to be introspective.

Ntombenhle Khathwane, Essence Festival Durban 2017

Ntombenhle Khathwane, Founder, CEO, AfroBotanics

Ntombenhle Khathwane

“Be authentic and draw from what is natural to you, especially your passion.”

Ntombenhle Khathwane is the CEO and Founder of AfroBotanics, a natural hair and body care manufacturer. Through AfroBotanics Khathwane aspires to give women the option to wear their hair natural, making the notion of beauty more inclusive. AfroBotanics is the leading South African natural hair brand. Career highlights include:

  • Forbes 30 Most Promising Young Entrepreneurs in Africa 2016
  • Mail & Guardian Young South Africans of 2015

Why you’ll find her message inspiring: Khathwane is a perfect example of someone who decided to change careers and take a big risk, reaping big rewards. Recognizing an opportunity, she wasted no time developing her business plan and developing and testing products. She explored every angle, developed her business plan and products, and polished her pitch. Then she quit her government job and used her pension to pay for a trip to the U.S. to speak with business experts. It took her years of hard work, sacrifice, and rejection until a national retail chain picked up her products. Khathwane credits her success to continually learning, evolving, and being relentless in her persistence.

Photo Mahanyele, Essence Festival Durban 2017

Photo Mahanyele, Executive Chairperson of Sigma Capital

Phuti Mahanyele

“If people like my father were able to create opportunities at that time then surely we can do it now.”

Phuti Mahanyele is the Executive Chairperson of Sigma Capital, a privately held, majority-black owned investment group based in South Africa. She is best known as the former CEO of Shanduka Group, a multi-billion rand African investment company — a position she held for over a decade. Mahanyele is considered one of the most influential business people on the African continent — an influence that extends globally.

  • Wall Street Journal “50 Women in the World to Watch”
  • Forbes Woman Africa Business Woman of the Year Award

Why you’ll find her message inspiring: Mahanyele’s mother died when she was 17 and her father was committed to making sure that she and her sister had the best education possible. To her, her mother’s untimely death was a lesson for her not to take time for granted. She believes that a greater role for women in business is necessary because there is “an economic and business imperative” to use the talents of women to solve the problems that the world faces.

These are only three of the stacked Essence of Durban 2017 lineup. View the rest of the inspirational lineup here.

Essence Festival Durban 2017 Lineup

Essence Festival

Feeling Inspired? Plan Your Trip to Durban.

Durban is known for its entertainment and beaches, but it’s also a fantastic location for a family holiday. There is plenty of fun to be had if you’d like to plan an extended trip around the festival. Our top picks for activities and sightseeing in the city are uShaka Marine World, The Valley of 1000 Hills, and Shakaland Zulu Cultural Center.

There are hotel options for every budget and all are family-friendly. We recommend: African Pride Audacia Manor Boutique Hotel, Garden Court Marine Parade, and Southern Sun Elangeni & Maharani.

For more ideas for activities and sights in Durban visit us at or view our tours.




Inspiring South African Business Women Featured in Essence Festival Durban 2017 Lineup


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