Lessons from South Africa’s Royal Bafokeng Nation

I have been trying to keep myself busy during this lockdown by reading extensively especially about societies and individuals who have managed to transform from poverty to prosperity.

I have been putting much focus on Singapore and its captains of industry given that it’s bearing on Rwanda development model, until I was challenged by a friend in Johannesburg to read about the Royal Bafokeng Nation.


This community which is a related to the Setwana tribe located North West of Johannesburg has a long history of envisioning a better future for its people and taking innovative action to achieve it, dating back from the leadership of King Kgosi Mokgatle, who reigned from 1831 to 1891.


So passionate about his vision for the nation, all members of this community patiently worked together, pooled their resources and used them to buy back the land the Bafokeng had occupied and cultivated for centuries, without using combat means.


Kgosi Mokgatle could never have imagined what full impact of this innovative approach would be when the world’s largest deposits of platinum group metals were discovered on his hard –earned land 33 years after his death.

Once again, his successors had to mobilize all resources available to ensure the nation would retain and benefit from these mineral deposits.

Their efforts, to protect and grow the nations hard won wealth, made it possible to foresee a future for the Royal Bafokeng as a progressive, dynamic and thriving community economically, socially and politically.

Against that background, an entity called the Royal Bafokeng Holdings was created with its sole shareholder, the Royal Bafokeng Development Trust, which is entrusted with the unique responsibility of preserving and growing the financial capital of the Royal Bafokeng Nation as well as ensuring its long-term future.

Currently, the Royal Bafokeng Holdings manages a portfolio with a net asset value of approximately R30 .9 Billion which is around 4 billion dollars based on the prevailing exchange rate consisting of listed and unlisted assets in a diverse range of sectors, including agriculture, infrastructure, real estate, financial services, telecoms, mining and industry.

Their establishments are located in diverse geographies across the globe.

The population of the Royal Bafokeng Nation is approximately 150,000 so if you divide the 4 billion by that number, it implies that every Mufokeng is worth USD26,666 which makes them the richest community in South Africa and the entire world, a fact that is not known to many.

At the helm of the holding company, is a leadership of six executives of which five are female and one male who is an adopted Mufokeng by virtue of his white race.

When you study the history of the royal Bafokeng and their journey to prosperity, you realize there is a lot that Rwanda can learn from them in terms of creating a sustainable wealth generation initiative that suits our context and the available resources.

The main catalyst of the Royal Bafokeng development is a patriotic leadership of King Kgosi Mokgatle who loved his kingdom, and was willing to mobilize his subjects for a common good like working to buy back lost land without using combat means which turned out be a blessing to the entire community.

This is an advantage that Rwandans have in President Paul Kagame at the helm of Rwanda leadership because of his proven ability to galvanize the nation towards such cause.

King Mokgatle’s subjects believed in his strategy and that’s why his legacy is thriving after 140 years after his death.

The person reading this article is likely to ask himself a question how Rwanda can build an entity similar to the Royal Bafokeng Holdings and generate such tremendous wealth without having the rare natural resources on our land like Platinum that they leveraged on to generate their wealth?

The foundation of the Royal Bafokeng Nation is not the natural wealth on their land, rather the commitment to transform themselves as nation prior to the discovery of precious   minerals, an attitude that is vivid in Rwandans.

What if every Rwandan citizen contributed a dollar as a share in an entity similar to Royal Bafokeng Holdings?

This would give us of $12 million as initial capital for the initiative and if you multiply that figure with 140 years journey that the Royal Bafokeng have walked in building wealth and prosperity, then you get picture of the impact it can have in the long run.

Rwanda can certainly borrow a leaf.

The writer is a social commentator based in Kigali

The views expressed in this article are of the author.


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