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Southern Africa’s top three entrepreneurs were named at the 22nd Annual EY World Entrepreneur Awards gala dinner in Johannesburg on Wednesday 13 November 2019.

CEO’s, Founders, and leading entrepreneurs attended the Southern Africa programme of the world’s most prestigious business awards for entrepreneurs: the Global EY Entrepreneur Of The Year™. Annual national and regional awards programmes are run in more than 145 cities across 60 countries culminating in the grand, global awards final in Monte Carlo to recognise the world’s top entrepreneurs.

Largely unconstrained by the mechanisms and processes of corporate entities, entrepreneurs go-to-market capability and ability to scale innovative ideas is far quicker than their corporate counterparts. The programme makes a difference through the way it recognises this entrepreneurial agility, inspired vision, leadership and achievement.

Finalists are selected amongst entrepreneurs who have demonstrated excellence and extraordinary success in such areas as entrepreneurial spirit, value creation, strategic direction, impact, innovation and purpose-driven leadership. They include traditional entrepreneurs who are founders and leaders of high-growth companies. They also are transformational people who may not have started their company but have been essential to its success.

This year’s finalist group and of course, the winners, have built businesses across all sectors offering innovation and exceptional acumen and leadership on the topics of organisational culture, upskilling the unemployed youth, tourism and conservation, effective food supply chain management, online payment and credit systems, insurance and insurance underwriting, the owner and operator hotel model and property and real estate across Africa.

The 2019 Southern Africa winners in the Master, Exceptional and Emerging categories are:


Master category winner: Craig Irvine: Managing Director, Irvine’s Group

Irvine’s is a poultry focused company with operations in six countries. They supply and support nutritional, animal health, Cobb Genetics and supporting products across 22 countries in Sub Saharan Africa.

Master category judging panel:

  • Judging Chair: Peter Mountford: Chief Executive Officer, Super Group and EY World Entrepreneur Award Master Winner 2016
  • Ridhwan Khan: Chief Executive Officer, Mobicel and EY World Entrepreneur Award Master Winner 2018
  • Allan Hirsch: Chief Executive Officer, Hirsch’s
  • Tashmia Ismail-Saville: Chief Executive Officer, Youth Employment Service (YES)

In June 2020, as Master category winner, Craig will go on to join the finalists from over 60 countries in Monte Carlo to compete for the title of 2020 EY Entrepreneur Of The Year™.


Exceptional category winner: Bronwyn Corbett: Co-Founder, Grit Real Estate Income Group

Grit is a multi-listed real estate income group operating in carefully selected African countries, optimising their structural investments, underpinned by solid property fundamentals and anchored by multinational tenants.

Exceptional category judging panel:

  • Judging Chair: Sipho Nkosi, Talent10 and EY World Entrepreneur Award Master Winner 2012
  • Christi Maherry: Chief Executive Officer, Etion Secure, incorporating LAWtrust and EY World Entrepreneur Awards Emerging Category 2017
  • Alison Collier: Managing Director, Endeavor SA
  • Debbie Merdjan: Chief Executive Officer and founder, Camelot Group and EY World Entrepreneur Awards Emerging Category 2018


Emerging category winner: Ashraf Mohamed: Founder, Polar Ice Cream Company

Polar Ice Cream produces the ultimate happiness product, a wide range of quality Ice Cream and frozen delights. Polar believes that ice cream must reach the mass markets with products that are affordable but more importantly, enjoyable.

Emerging category judging panel:

  • Judging Chair: Catherine Townshend, Rand Merchant Bank
  • Jean Chawapiwa: Win Win Solutions for Africa
  • Matthew Jankelow: Chief Executive Officer and founder, VentureWeb


The EY Lifetime Achievement Award for entrepreneurship is awarded each year. This year it’s been awarded to Medical doctor, MBA, Doctor of Business Leadership, University of the Witwatersrand Chancellor and one of South Africa’s most successful entrepreneurs, Dr Judy Dlamini. She practiced as a medical doctor for several years before pursuing a business career as the founder and chairperson of the Mbekani Group, which she launched 22 years ago. Today the group includes a range of companies, including surgical equipment, facilities management, security, commercial property and luxury fashion retail. She has served on many boards and is actively involved in women’s empowerment and education.

Azim Omar, EY Africa Growth Markets Leaders says: “These entrepreneurs demonstrate extraordinary business acumen, financial performance excellence and inspired strategic direction. These and most entrepreneurs embrace bold thinking that often sees opportunity in adversity; a relentless drive to build a better working world; and an unwavering commitment to solving their clients’ issues,” he adds.

This year EY marks 22 years of recognising and celebrating entrepreneurs who have consistently demonstrated excellence in their businesses. Since the first award in 1998, when Adrian Gore of Discovery was the inaugural winner, EY continues to see trailblazing entrepreneurs whose vision is shaping industries, creating new markets and generating employment opportunities while contributing to economic growth and development.

Previous winners and awards: 2018

Last year, Ridhwan Khan of Mobicel Communications was named the overall winner of the EY World Entrepreneur Award. Joining him were category winners Davison Norupiri of Davipel Trading (Pvt) Limited and Deborah Merdjan, CEO of Camelot Group. For her outstanding contribution towards creating social and economic change as a founding member and CEO of WIPHOLD – and for the empowerment and development of women – Gloria Serobe was awarded the 2018 Lifetime Achievement Award. BM 


About the programme – locally and globally

The Southern Africa awards programme provides the finalists with an opportunity to connect with local and international businesses and join a global network of entrepreneurs who share their experiences and perspectives. The Southern Africa awards covers: Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Mozambique, Malawi, Mauritius, Madagascar, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Zambia.

About EY

EY is a global leader in assurance, tax, transaction and advisory services. The insights and quality services we deliver help build trust and confidence in the capital markets and in economies the world over. We develop outstanding leaders who team to deliver on our promises to all of our stakeholders. In so doing, we play a critical role in building a better working world for our people, for our clients and for our communities.

EY refers to the global organization and may refer to one or more of the member firms of EY Global Limited, each of which is a separate legal entity. EY Global Limited, a UK company limited by guarantee, does not provide services to clients. For more information about our organization, please visit ey.com.


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