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Ice and fire – The land of the midnight sun

19 October 2018

Dr Anna Mokgokong is accredited as the Honorary Consul for Iceland to South Africa and is keen to build a vibrant and dynamic relationship between these two countries.

In 2018 Iceland, the island nation, celebrates 100 years of independence and sovereignty. The Icelanders number around 330 000 and occupy a country 103 000 square kilometres in size. Snow-capped mountain peaks and glacial rivers contrasts the active volcanoes yet compliment the natural hot mineral springs.

Recognising the potential of the ocean economy and energy resources Dr Mokgokong will make these a priority for promoting trade, tourism and investment between South Africa and Iceland. She hopes to raise the trade figure to between half a billion and a billion rand from a sluggish R100 million according to 2014 records. Cooperation on energy and renewables will present opportunities for high-tech innovation and invention.  

Dr Mokgokong‘s passion for women’s empowerment will also receive attention through Iceland’s policies of gender diversity development. ENZA, a women empowerment NGO was established in 2008 as a result of the vision of Ruth Gylfadottir, an Icelandic national living in the Paarl area near Cape Town in South Africa. Her vision was to change the destiny of young women of Mbekweni, between Paarl and Wellington, who fall pregnant (many as a result of being raped) and as a result of the socio-economic circumstances, have no option but to have an abortion or give up their babies for adoption. The aim was to assist them to rebuild their lives and become economically active and self-sufficient.

“I knew what I wanted to do since I was 8," says Dr Mokgokong who was born In Pimville, Soweto, an area demarcated for black people under South Africa’s notorious apartheid regime. Her parents were teachers there, but moved to eSwatini (Swaziland) where Dr Mokgokong completed her schooling. She then attended the University of Botswana where she received her BSc degree. She returned to South Africa and attained her Degree in Medicine from the Medical University of South Africa (MEDUNSA).  

Her passion for business and her knack and acumen for commerce is the driving force behind Mokgokong’s exceptional success. Against the odds and as an African woman Dr Mokgokong overcame the resentment and undermining attitudes to reach the pinnacle of business, advising women to be resilient and tenacious.

We could never raise billions with our township businesses explains Mokgokong. She is grateful to leaders like Nelson Mandela who recognized the devastation caused by the exploitation and injustice that benefitted the business conglomerates during apartheid in South Africa. He understood that reconciliation and the reconstructing of South Africa required the total inclusion and integration of those marginalised and excluded.

“I lament the fact that we are in recession. At CIH group consolidated we employ over 50k people," explains Mokgokong.  From selling ostrich skin handbags to funding her Medical Centre in Ga Rankuwa, to setting up consulting rooms in Hatfield, Pretoria, a daring move in the face of racial apartheid laws, today Dr Anna Mokgokong is Group Executive Chair, leading a corporate with a consolidated turnover of R20 billion.

“But all is not lost. South African’s should unite to fight the recession,” said Dr Mokgokong. She added her voice to the growing call for an economic emancipation convention in South Africa similar to the Convention for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA) which led to the political emancipation of South Africa and laid the foundation for a constitutional democracy.

Iceland has also had its share of economic and political turmoil. They have faced the financial fall out head on and those responsible have been convicted or have resigned and have been removed from their positions. The country has recovered from its challenges and is firmly on the road to growth.

As Honorary Consul Dr Mokgokong has already carried out several duties providing consular services including the issuing of passports to babies that were born to Icelandic nationals who are here in South Africa.

A fact finding mission is being planned to pave the way for a South African business delegation that will visit Iceland next year.  They will explore a country which has endless days during the one season and endless nights during another, and hope to uncover possibilities of engagement and interactions between nations that are poles apart. K Bhana




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