The JSE recently welcomed the WEF’s Young Global Leaders as part of an information-sharing visit


The CEO of the JSE, Nicky Newton-King, was well placed to talk to the group of young leaders when they were at the exchange in mid-March. Newton-King herself was selected by the WEF in 2006 to join the prestigious Forum of Young Global Leaders in terms of which ‘bold, brave, action-orientated and entrepreneurial’ individuals under the age of 40 are chosen from every region of the world. Among Newton-King’s class were Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the co-founders of Google, Crown Prince Haakon of Norway and Jack Ma, CEO of tech giant Alibaba.

The stock exchange hosted the newest group of Young Global Leaders (YGLs) after the Wits Business School (WBS) selected the JSE as a ‘forward-looking institution of tomorrow. WBS Executive Education implemented a three-day YGLs programme, the theme of which was Building African Enterprises of the Future in the African Environment.

Both Newton-King and Corli le Roux, Head of the SRI Index and Sustainability at the JSE, told the visiting YGLs about the importance of finding solutions for the future, and that the stock exchange was proud to take the lead among world bourses in promoting responsible investment as well as sustainability.

Newton-King presented an overview of the stock exchange, its business and how the JSE fits in the local political, economic and social context. The discussion also centred around understanding how the stock exchange is positioning itself to respond to challenges from within the country (political and economic) and beyond its borders (such as global competition), as well as its position in relation to the continent.

There was also debate about Africa, the stock exchanges that operate on the continent, and the challenges and opportunities that the continent and its markets face. A point of interest from the YGLs was about how stock exchanges can better enable small enterprises and create opportunities so they too can access capital.

Meanwhile, Le Roux spoke about the work the stock exchange does with companies and investors to promote greater environmental, social, governance (ESG) transparency and responsible investment. ‘There’s no doubt of the importance of ESG issues in investment decision-making,’ said Le Roux.

The JSE was proud to take the lead among world bourses in promoting responsible investment as well as sustainability

She made mention of the ‘perfect storm’ [a term explored by John Beddington, a former chief scientific adviser to the UK government] detailing what the world will face in 15 years when the planet will have to produce around 50% more food and energy as well as 30% more fresh water, while adapting and dealing with the consequences of serious climate change.

Everyone in the investment chain needs to play their part, she said, and developing leadership was a key consideration for any institution that wanted to keep up with change.

A new group of WEF YGLs is selected each year in terms of their personal success and effect on society. The high-performing individuals then join a Forum of Young Global Leaders for six years, engaging in networks and processes that seek forward-looking and innovative solutions to the problems faced by mankind.

According to Adam Gordon, director of executive education at WBS, it was the first time that such a module was held at an African university.

In the past, YGLs were hosted at specific institutions around the world, such as Harvard, Yale and Oxford. ‘It was important for us, because our learning programmes are future-orientated, to ensure that the YGLs module was also forward-looking instead of dwelling on the past. It wasn’t meant to be a lesson in history, hence WBS Executive Education specifically did not take an international group of future leaders to bastions of the state or monuments of venerable leaders.’

The YGLs also visited the Maboneng Precinct, Awethu Project (a new business initiator) Impact Hub in Braamfontein, Tshimologong (the Wits digital project), and Vilakazi Street in Soweto. ‘The WEF group met locals who, like them, were looking down the road instead of over their shoulders. The programme progressed from a wide view of moving trends in African business and institutional conditions to a deep-dive into local start-up, scale-up and corporate entrepreneurship; the pros and cons of “social” businesses that look to return community benefit in addition to the bottom line,’ he says.

Commanders Side

By Louise Brougham-Cook
Image: Fredrik Broden/