Home » Tradition and their impact on family governance

Tradition and their impact on family governance

by Tsitsi Mutendi

Recently, the world was observing Easter and many global countries closed down to observe the holidays. This Easter also falls during the time of Ramadan, where there is the observation of the Islamic holy period. Looking at these as holidays and just normal traditions or religious events we observe, is only seeing the surface level of the impact of spiritual capital on the families on businesses and on wealth. To give a recap of spiritual capital; it is one of the fundamental capitals of the Five Capitals of Wealth identified by Jay Hughes, a family wealth advisory veteran.

After serving many families for decades, he came up with these capitals to identify the important elements of wealth building, especially for business families. Further unpacking this spiritual capital is not focused on religion as it may look like it alludes to. It instead focuses on more than just religion, but the values of the family. Those elements of the family’s foundation that all family members know about, are bound to, and endeavor to honor the things that align them and bring them together. How does this spiritual capital impact  family businesses or wealthy families? You may wonder. It may seem strange to use the terms spiritual and capital together in a single phrase. Yet spiritual capital – the values and principles that a family stands for – forms the foundation for all other forms of capital and wealth. Spiritual capital refers to how a family defines and lives its values, then weaves its activities together to create meaning for the family. Spiritual capital is generated when a family looks beyond money to define its values and how they wish to use it as a morally binding family mission and value statement for its next generation. Fortunes cannot be inherited without attaching some message to them. Families must be clear not just about what is being given to their heirs, but why, and what is expected in return? This includes expectations of people and ideals about responsibility, roles in the community and relationships. The answers to these questions will be passed on in the family’s mission and values.  

Spiritual capital is the cornerstone of many of the family’s business decisions and choices in areas of philanthropy and sustainable investments. It becomes quite clear in a family’s operations what is driven by the overarching family value system. For example, during the times of public holidays, some families prefer to close down all operations to observe the holiday and what it symbolises. This impacts not only the family system, but it overlaps into the business system. Most importantly you find that some families will not extend their investment or philanthropic ventures because they are misaligned with the family’s spiritual capital.

What drives the giving and philanthropy of Africa’s wealthiest usually comes from their spiritual capital, which can be linked back to their history and experiences. There is Theophilus Danjuma, a former Nigerian defense minister, who is one of the continent’s most recognizable givers. In 2010 he bestowed a $100-million endowment on his TY Danjuma Foundation, which provides grants to non-governmental organisations that champion free healthcare, education and poverty alleviation.

Through The Oppenheimer Memorial Trust, Nicky Oppenheimer, gives away millions of dollars annually to South African college students, providing bursaries and scholarships from undergraduate to postgraduate level.  Oppenheimer is also an avid financial supporter of environmental conservation causes.

Nigerian billionaire Aliko Dangote has given away millions to causes as varied as microfinance for small and medium businesses to a mentorship program for young African leaders, healthcare and educational causes as well as to communities that have been afflicted by natural disasters.

Raymond Ackerman is the founder of the Pick N Pay Group, which gives back through The Ackerman Family Educational Trust, which provides scholarships and bursaries for about 60 South African students every year. The trust, which is managed by his wife, Wendy, also helps the mentally and physically disabled. In 2001 he partnered with the University of Cape Town to found the Raymond Ackerman Academy of Entrepreneurial Development, an institution which grooms young budding entrepreneurs at centres in Johannesburg and Cape Town. The academy’s fees are highly subsidised because of Ackerman’s funding.

Hakeem Belo-Osagie is a reclusive Nigerian-born Harvard-trained petroleum economist shot into national consciousness in the late 1990s after staging a hostile takeover of the United Bank of Africa, one of the country’s largest commercial banks. Belo-Osagie has given away millions to educational institutions such as the African Leadership Academy and Kings College Lagos. He also funds a scholarship program for select African students at Oxford University.

In 2001, Onsi Sawiris, the patriarch of the Sawiris family business dynasty of Egypt, founded the Sawiris Foundation For Social Development, a charity which provides micro-credit to Egyptian entrepreneurs and grants scholarships to outstanding Egyptian students in tertiary institutions. Onsi’s sons, Naguib, Samih and Nassef, all sit on the board of the foundation. The foundation also funds an annual prize for the best of Egyptian literature.

All these examples unpack not only the areas that the families believe in, but their investments in these places add to their social capital. It adds  to what the world recognises as the family to align with, what their values are and how they align this with their operations. Its not based on merely giving but it speaks to the histories of the families, their founders and members who direct the family wealth. Most of the choices most likely have rich histories and the stories are then passed on from generation to generation.

What makes families decide on what and who they share with? It is their perception of the world and their experiences thereof. It could be experiences within their family environment or experiences in the greater environment of the countries they live in. Education is one of the prevalent themes in giving, especially among African donors. This may be rooted in the fact that a lot of these individuals came from a place where they were encouraged by parents and grandparents to get a good education because it would change their lives . This would be apparent in the Black family businesses given the historic past where education was only afforded to a few elite or was unaffordable to people of a similar background to theirs.

In other cases, the donors may have seen other people being deprived of the basic right of getting an education and sees this as a way to balance out an injustice perpetrated by others. For example, the Ackerman family has long championed the rights of the black majority and even given them shareholding and professional advancement within their organisation. Raymond Ackerman at the height of apartheid broke the law by appointing black people as managers at stores in white suburbs. Many of those black managers are now franchisors and executives of Pick n Pay. The transformation continues to this day, with a multitude of black entrepreneurs on the payroll of Pick n Pay as suppliers of merchandise and fresh produce. Staff regularly receive shares in the business as well. As you can see the values of the family continue to show through not only social endeavours but in business practice.

Each area can be equally unpacked and linked to the identities of the families. What would be of interest as we go into the future is how the next generation upholds and chart their own experiences and start imprinting their own values to the family history. One last example of this in action would be the Cuppy Foundation. The organization was founded by Florence Otedola, also known as DJ Cuppy, daughter of billionaire businessman Femi Otedola. Cuppy Foundation donated N7 million ($17,000) to the Lagos State government for sustainable development goals (SDGs) projects. DJ Cuppy said the undertakings with the state government are premised on her foundation’s aspiration to address issues surrounding the education and well-being of citizens.

Although Cuppy’s father is a well-known billionaire, it’s interesting to note that his father (Cuppy”s grandfather) Sir Michael Otedola moved to Lagos to pursue his education and he won a scholarship to study journalism at the Regent Street Polytechnic in London, where he graduated in 1958. He began his career as a teacher before working as a reporter at the St. Pancras Chronicle, then as a reporter and later sub-editor at The Guardian and The Times in England. His rise in life saw him eventually becoming a governor of Lagos State. Further digging may find more about his history and his parents and how his success came through his education. Cuppy herself has documented her journey at Oxford pursuing higher education. It goes to show that our values are embedded in our stories and the future successes or failures of wealth are also tied to how we pass on these values and how our next generation then uses it as spiritual and social capital to build the family wealth.

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