Ime Okon photographed by Philip Maeta/Gallo Images
A year ago, Ime Okon was writing his matric exams. This year he's Bafana's newest and youngest defender and the difference was made by The Diski Challenge. “It was a big stepping stone from where I was,” says Okon. “I had to work hard, it helped me grow and I gained a lot of my experience there. I really developed a lot.”
This 19-year-old is one of thousands who benefited from MultiChoice Group’s rich and varied ESG initiatives in a real way over the past decade. Another is stylist extraordinaire – at the noon of her career rather than the dawn – Queen Motlatle.
Like Okon, her career trajectory has been extraordinary (her first job was as a MultiChoice call centre agent) but through hard work, dedication, and a foot in the door, she’s now shaping the look and feel of even international shows and movies. “When I got the job at MultiChoice, that was the beginning,” says Motlatle. “I didn’t know how to explain to my parents in the dusty streets of Alex what I wanted to do. I worked on many things, and one that stands out is District 9 and the crew that was doing the special effects - I learnt so much from the stylists and designers on set. There was no school like that in SA at that time.”
The Diski Challenge that propped up and trained the talented Ime, and Motlatle’s journey and her current role in our creative industry, were both supported by MultiChoice’s ESG initiatives. It sounds pithy, but this quote from MultiChoice’s 2023 ESG report is starkly reflected in reality: “Our approach to ESG is guided by our purpose to enrich lives.”
UNPACKING ESG - AND WHY WE CARE
ESG is one of those terms that gets thrown around so frequently by big corporations, it's distanced from its true meaning. Essentially, it can be simplified to a brand’s moral compass: Are their efforts matching their rhetoric? Is profit the business’s main driver, or is it the people under their care, and the communities impacted by their actions?
And people care about this. Consumers care about this. Compared to decades ago, individuals are aware of the impact of big businesses – and this directly affects their spending. Gen Z, just coming into the workforce, is particularly influenced by a brand’s footprint on the world around them, beyond what they actually sell. “To gain respect and loyalty from Gen Zers, brands need to show their commitments and create a business model built on sustainability, equality and acceptance,” explains Think With Google.
PwC, one of the big four consulting and auditing firms, explains it simply: “In the last decade public consciousness has been growing on a wide range of issues, including climate change, water and food crises, modern slavery, poverty, conflict and inequality. Today, society has increasing expectations of the role businesses should play in tackling some of the planet’s biggest challenges. Organisations are expected to not only minimise their negative impacts, but to also contribute positively to both society and the environment.”
Businesses can play a crucial role in addressing global challenges by:
- Being kinder to the planet: This means using renewable energy, reducing waste, and conserving resources.
- Being socially responsible: This means upholding human rights, promoting diversity and inclusion, and investing in education and training.
- Playing by the rules: This means being transparent, accountable, and ethical.
And that’s all well and good: good for business, good for the planet. But it somehow feels very far away from real people. And this is where Okon and Motlatle are two striking stories of the difference it makes when a business is committed to ESG in a real, human-focused, and ultimately, impactful, way.
MULTICHOICE’S IMPACT ON THE CREATIVE ECONOMY
SA has a vibrant creative economy. “The creative economy accounted for 6% of all jobs in South Africa, which is just under 1 million jobs. This is a slight increase from 2017, when the creative economy made up 5.9% of all jobs,” reports the government in its 2022 Creative Industries Masterplan.
MultiChoice, with its focus on the arts, small businesses and sports, is no small player in these million jobs in an economy with a shocking 32% unemployment rate.
The creative economy includes film, advertising, music, fashion, software, and more - anything that relies on creativity, innovation and intellectual property.
MULTICHOICE’S ESG INITIATIVES
“It means sharing our resources, experience, expertise and platforms to positively contribute to Africa and the world. This is not simply about making a difference, but ensuring a lasting impact that creates sustainable value for our stakeholders.” - MultiChoice ESG report
- MultiChoice Talent Factory (started in 2014)
Driven by a deep-seated commitment to fostering positive change and shared value across Africa, the MTF nurtures the technical and professional skills of aspiring filmmakers and television professionals.
- 379 storytellers from across the African continent have been trained through the MTF over the past eight years
- 86 interns and graduates in the 2022 financial year
- 30 production houses registered by MTF alumni in the past eight years
- 14 core markets served by MTF masterclasses
- Africa Accelerator (started in 2021)
The MultiChoice accelerator is a game-changer for entrepreneurs in Africa, providing them with the skills and connections they need to take their businesses to the next level. Through a combination of intensive training, mentorship, and access to a global network of investors, the accelerator helps entrepreneurs develop the knowledge, confidence, and resources to scale up their businesses and make a lasting impact.
- Supporting small business, communities and sports development (including the Diski Challenge, started in 2014)“Our commitment lies in closing the gap in resources and infrastructure for grassroots sports, ensuring that everyone has equal access to the advantages of sports, thereby creating more robust, healthier and more vibrant communities,” says MultiChoice. For Okon, this meant recruiters coming to highschool soccer matches and actively encouraging him to join the big leagues where he was supported and trained “beyond the limelight”.
- Promoting local content
MultiChoice achieved an impressive milestone of producing 6,587 hours of local content, which was added to its extensive content libraries spanning 76,000 hours across 40 languages. Motlatle highlighted that when she started to pursue her passion for styling and makeup - an unheard-of career in her youth – there were gatekeepers in abundance and opportunities were hard to come by. “MulitChoice is my family,” Motlatle says, “and they were the start of where I am today.” Motlatle and her business, House of Queen, are instrumental in the iconic looks behind Shaka iLembe, District 9, and many others, including the looks behind Hollywood celebs, and even TV shows that are too high-profile to mention by name in an interview (though she has promised to spill the beans when they air!)
ESG initiatives designed with real people in mind, backed by genuine corporate efforts, can transform lives and change career trajectories. That isn’t to say the rewards come easily. “My advice,” says Motlatle, “is to pursue your dreams, stop at nothing. Be humble, be kind and be generous to pass on the knowledge on that you gain.”
Okon echoes this sentiment: “I just keep on working and at the end of the day, I know everything happens for a reason. I work hard and focus on my team.”