LIZE LUBBE’S PIONEERING SPIRIT HAS LED HER TO DELIBERATELY CHOOSE THE ROAD LESS TRAVELLED AT EVERY PIVOTAL MOMENT. AND WITH INVESTING AND ENTREPRENEURSHIP BEING THE GOLDEN THREAD THAT RUNS THROUGHOUT HER CAREER, THE RESULTS OF HER LEADING HUGE IMPACT INVESTMENT PROJECTS ACROSS THE AFRICAN CONTINENT HAVE BEEN EXTRAORDINARY. IN HER SPARE TIME, SHE IS A PROFESSIONAL MUSICIAN.
With Lize’s creative and ambitious personality, she intentionally crafted her career around entrepreneurship and investment the moment she completed her articles. After a few years working in business rescue and restructuring, she was driven by her love for entrepreneurship and left to pursue an adventure in venture capital and impact investing and today is making waves across the African continent.
‘Lize Lubbe is an African with so much to give – a brilliant candidate!’ remarked Andile Khumalo during her judging session.
But with the constant scarcity of resources in the venture capital space, Lize set her sights on heading to Silicon Valley to glean as much information as she could about the venture capital space. In 2015, she was ecstatic to find out that she was the only South African selected to participate in the prestigious Frontier Market Scouts Program in California, USA. She was one of 30 participants globally attending this programme to advance high-performing professionals in the field of impact investing and thrived on every moment of this experience of meeting and learning from those at the heartbeat of entrepreneurship and impact investing.
‘We collaborated with practitioners from the top impact investing funds in the USA. As part of this programme I completed a research fellowship in impact investing
and venture capital in Silicon Valley, New York City and Washington DC to research international best practice with the vision to implement it in an African context,’ says Lize.
Returning to South Africa, and after an avid search for a company whose dreams and vision aligned with hers, she joined Phatisa’s Africa Agriculture Fund (AFF) in 2016, a fund whose mission is leading impact investing into food and agriculture across Africa. Lize has been intrinsically part of the African Agriculture Fund impact in delivering 2,6 million tonnes of food and food-related products, supporting more than 9 000 permanent jobs and more than 78 000 small-scale farmers and entrepreneurs in rural communities from investment to date.
‘This has been a pivotal moment in my career and has been a wonderful environment to catalyse the large scale impact that I have always dreamed of being part of.’ Lize was soon recognised for her abilities and was appointed a principal of the fund.
I am the first female principal at Phatisa, which is reflective of an industry that still has a distance to travel regarding gender parity. Rather than my own singular achievement I feel honoured because other young women that will come after me in the organisation now know that it is possible,’ says Lize.
Lize loves her job because there is never routine or predictability. Each day is unique bringing along new opportunities for endless learning.
‘I love the travel and adventure that comes with investing across our continent. I absolutely love meeting and working with entrepreneurs across our continent.’ Says Lize.
Lize credits her CA(SA) qualification for unlocking the amazing opportunities that may have been a lot more difficult without it.
‘Pioneering anything is not easy. When one is pioneering and blazing a trail simultaneously one can sometimes feel that have the odds stacked against you. You have no clear path to follow. You mostly go blindly, equipped only with the vision in your mind and the dream in your heart.’ This is the way Lize describes her journey in the impact investing industry.
In 2017, Lize was appointed to serve on the board of a leading Malawi-based agricultural equipment and contracting business. Critical to her portfolio was to lead the development of its regional growth strategy into neighbouring countries, from ideation to fundraising and execution.
She also led the successful financial and operational improvement programme in Zambia’s largest poultry business at board level. This re-engineering has led to a doubling in profitability and enabled the sale of more than 150 million eggs per year.
‘This is a business that targets the “bottom of the pyramid” consumer through the provision of an affordable source of protein, ensuring adequate nutrition for a large part of the population,’ she says.
In a previous role, Lize led the innovation and implementation of South Africa’s first Uber owner-driver financing scheme. She worked with one of South Africa’s big four banks to reinvent their credit scoring system to be based on the Uber driver data and not their credit history. ‘We leveraged the Uber technology to enable drivers who did not have a sufficient credit record to qualify for affordable vehicle finance. Consequently, drivers could create their own micro-enterprise through ownership.
The project had the capacity to create 1 000 jobs and increase the income of these drivers with up to 300−400%. This project remains one of my most proud achievements as, till this date, I meet drivers that are the proud beneficiaries of this scheme, long after I left my previous organisation.’
Lize is a professional musician, a violinist, and has been a permanent member of the Gauteng Philharmonic Orchestra (GPO) since 2014. The GPO is a professional orchestra and NGO based in Pretoria which aims to promote classical music in the local community and to make it accessible to the previously disadvantaged, the youth and the elderly. They run an outreach programme with the City of Tshwane Municipality to uplift the vulnerable youth and victims of drug and sexual abuse and include them in their activities.
‘It is not an easy task to juggle this with my executive role, but fills my life with joy! As a musician, I have learned about leadership from some of the best conductors in the world.’
Lize’s ultimate dream is to head her own impact investing fund one day.