By Simone Sribrath
Valentine Dzvova, the CEO of African Equity Empowerment Investments, strategically navigated rough waters when Covid hit leading to financial growth at a challenging time.
African Equity Empowerment Investments (AEEI), a fully black-owned and black-controlled investment company situated in southern Africa, faced a turbulent last quarter, but despite this, is probably one of the few in a pandemic-stricken continent that has managed to grow by 44%.
The captain at its helm, Valentine Dzvova, reveals that the strength of the company, majorly focusing on fishing and IT, has been the diversity of its portfolio.
“Having diversity is absolutely vital to weather any storm, with the most recent example being the storm brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic,” says Dzvova.
Dzvova, from humble beginnings in Zimbabwe, saw her career scale new heights when she was made Chief Executive Officer of AEEI last year. Having come in when interim results were due and the company’s Chief Financial Officer was leaving, Dzvova dove straight in at the deep end.
“It also helps that I’m not a stranger to AEEI because during my years as an auditor clerk and auditor manager, AEEI was my client as well, so it was almost like rejoining family because they’ve known me from when my career began back in 2007,” she says.
Rising through the ranks at PKF International (a global network of accountancy firms) saw Dzvova familiarizing herself with the likes of AEEI as she was promoted to supervisor and then manager shortly after completing her articles.
Balancing her current role with her home-life has been no easy task, as she states; “I have to be very strategic about how I spend my time, I have to work late at night because you know, during the day, I would have mini emergencies at home that would need my attention, so certainly it has been challenging.”
Dzvova was inspired by ‘career days’ in high school and seeing other girls pursuing accounting inspired her to do the same. She achieved success by completing both board exams successfully in her first attempt while still continuing with her daily workload. Joining AEEI was the culmination of her determination and tenacity.
“The previous CEO and his team did a fantastic job so I joined with there being a very solid foundation already in place,” she says of her predecessor.
Under her leadership, AEEI ensured no jobs were lost during the Covid-19-induced lockdown period as operational costs were streamlined and these practices were also encouraged amongst AEEI’s suppliers and partners.
And about the future, she says: “We are looking at offloading some of our smaller investments so we can really focus on the major ones which are Information Technology and fishing; these are the areas where we feel our strength lies.”
As Dzvova reflects on her growth strategy, she emphasizes the need for one thing – liquidity.
“Cash is king and there has never been a time that this has been more true than right now. With lockdown, businesses weren’t able to trade as normal, so revenue wasn’t coming in but there were still employees and suppliers to pay, so if one didn’t have cash on hand, you were basically dead in the water which is why a lot of businesses closed.”
Dzvova’s expertise, coupled with her business acumen, has seen AEEI grow by 44% and its basic earnings per share increase by 101.3%. It is clear she brings the same enthusiasm for business to everything she believes in.
“Certainly as women, we wear many different hats at the same time and as a result, there is so much more responsibility on us and we just have to work that much harder for everything to fall into place. As women, we have our focus pulled in different directions at different things and it takes a lot of hard work to master this and it’s all the nasty back-ends that no one else sees which is where all this hard work happens,” she says about juggling her multiple roles.