Accomplished and seasoned entrepreneur, venture capitalist, co-founder and CEO of Washirika Holdings, Romeo Kumalo has for over two decades been a formidable force in the media, telecommunications and information sectors. The Shark Tank investor shared with us how travel has influenced his career.
Speaking about what he finds to be unique and inspiring about conducting business on the continent, Kumalo emphasises the endless possibilities for development and business ventures across Africa, saying: “Africa is still largely considered uncharted territory for the business world compared to other regions, and we as Africans have the opportunity to tap into this potential and develop our continent. We can write the script of success for this beautiful land.
“As a continent, each of Africa’s 54 countries have a unique past. There is great diversity among its people who have a continual desire to improve and innovate. Much of what we do on the continent is to improve the lives of our people. This is evident through the rising sector of ‘frugal innovation’, which involves developing clever designs to serve the poor. We have an opportunity to leapfrog our challenges using technology and leveraging our young demographics.” continued Kumalo.
Citing the importance of cross-border partnerships and “open borders”, Kumalo states that these partnerships have the potential of generating new opportunities in trade that “reduces the cost of doing business and the easier transfer of money between countries”.
“Given the unique opportunity for investing in and growing Africa, the ideal model would be for Africans to partner and trade with fellow Africans. We have an astute understanding of the challenges facing our continent and we can therefore partner amongst and with each other to build successful businesses that can compete globally,” Kumalo continued.
When taking a little downtime from exciting ventures in the telecoms and financial services sectors, Kumalo says his favourite destination remains Cape Town, which always has him coming back for more. ” I love the quaint streets in the CBD and the many restaurants catering to all palates, the fresh ocean breeze along the shore and the picturesque and tranquil nature of the winelands,” he explains. When abroad, Kumalo puts the “concrete jungle of New York City and the mystique of Italy” at the top of his list.
Travelling has influenced Kumalo’s personal and professional selves, from being culturally sensitive and understanding the behaviour of others, to relating to decisions in politics. “Being aware of cultural values and norms is not only fascinating, but can help one understand international issues and conflicts. I am fascinated by politics – particularly that of the USA and UK – and the more I travel, the more I am able to form opinions related to the decisions made within the political sphere.
“We are globalising quickly and travelling infinitely expands your opportunities to network. Being able to reach out into an extensive network that spans various industries and geographical locations provides one with a competitive advantage.”
A lesson the the businessman has acquired through travel is rooted in “appreciating the culture and nuances of each country,” understanding that while one needs to keep a global perspective, it is important to “act locally” in order to respectfully observe each country.
An avid runner who has won the coveted “back-to-back” medal in the Comrades Marathon and achieved a sub-nine hour finish, Kumalo shared his ambitions to compete in the Athens Marathon and other races. “Unlike the Comrades, I don’t have any firm targets for the Athens Marathon other than to run 42,2km where the sport of marathon-running officially began. I set my orthodontist a goal of completing my dental work in record time and I plan to run the Athens race with him. He is of Greek origin. November will be a jam-packed sporting month and God-willing, I will be running the Soweto Marathon, the Athens Marathon and completing the 94.7 cycle race.”