Home African CEOs Profiles Meet Nonkululeko Nyembezi-Heita, an amazon in South Africa’s Corporate World
Profiles - December 21, 2020

Meet Nonkululeko Nyembezi-Heita, an amazon in South Africa’s Corporate World

In a corporate environment that has become quite difficult for women seeking a seat in the boardrooms, the name, Nonkululeko Nyembezi-Heita, stands out. She is a corporate amazon who has continued to break all odds, shining brilliantly like a million stars in South-Africa corporate world.

With an unblemished career that spans over three decades, Nonkululeko Nyembezi-Heita has become a beacon of hope for many young South-African women whose chances of becoming boardroom members have been constricted by socio-cultural factors.

Nyembezi-Heita was born in 1960 at Pietermaritzburg, the capital and second-largest city in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Nata province. This region is home to important industrial hubs for companies producing aluminum, timber, and dairy products. Being born here must have fueled her desire to study for a Bachelors degree in Electrical Engineering (a discipline largely dominated by men) at the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology.

Not ready to settle for less and with a passion for knowledge, she proceeded to the California Institute of Technology where she bagged a Master of Science degree. She also has an MBA from the Open University Business School.

Nyembezi-Heita…A track record that speaks volume

Nyembezi-Heita began her career as an engineer at IBM’s Research Triangle Park in Raleigh, North Carolina, USA. She then worked for IBM in Dallas before working for the company in South Africa. She then transitioned to head the financial services group, Alliance Capital Management before joining Vodacom, where she acted as Chief Corporate Strategy Officer at the Vodacom Group in South Africa.


In 2008, she was appointed executive director of ArcelorMittal South Africa, the local unit of the world’s biggest steelmaker, where she remained for six years. In March 2014, she joined IchorCoal as CEO. Nyembezi-Heita has also served on the boards of several other companies.

In recognition of her brilliant performance, Nyembezi-Heita was listed 97th in Forbes list of The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women, in 2012.

Nonkululeko Nyembezi-Heita took over in 2014 as the independent non-executive chairman, Johannesburg Stock Exchange, becoming the first African and woman to hold the position.

Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown

In 2007, a year before she assumed leadership at ArcelorMittal, the demand for steel was booming on the back of increase in civil construction by public corporations and accelerated

government spending aimed at bridging infrastructural gaps in the build-up to the 2010 soccer World Cup.

In the first six months of her assumption as CEO, ArcelorMittal enjoined a surge in sales, on the back of strong demand for steel.

EDITOR’S NOTE: You may read the rest of the profile on page 52 of our 50 Most Influential Women in Business edition. Download it by following this link.

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