On a mission for sustainable development

Chairperson of African Youth For Climate Change at the UN and Unilever southern Africa communications and corporate affairs head, Sithembile Sefako.

Chairperson of African Youth For Climate Change at the UN and Unilever southern Africa communications and corporate affairs head, Sithembile Sefako.

Published Jun 14, 2024


Durban — Chairperson of African Youth For Climate Change at the UN Sithembile Sefako aims for sustainable initiative.

Sefako, who is a media studies graduate and works at Unilever southern Africa as the head of communications and corporate affairs, has made it her life’s mission to change the lives of others.

Born in Sharpeville, Sefako said she is deeply passionate about purpose-driven initiatives.

She has also strived to do meaningful work in every position she has worked in. In corporate affairs, which involves both internal and external communication, she also said that she finds external projects, especially those with social impact to be the most meaningful.

“The most impactful work I have done was the township retail economy project with the North West government, where we set up 150 businesses for 120 entrepreneurs. In my current role at Unilever, I focus on sustainability projects, creating jobs and livelihoods, which is truly fulfilling,” she said.

“From a career perspective, I have always followed my interests and passions. I began with a degree in dramatic arts, which led me into the media industry. I completed my media studies at the then RAU (now the University of Johannesburg). In 2001, I joined Love Life, an NGO focused on HIV prevention among the youth. I also produced major radio and TV shows, including “Take 5”, and “Zola 7” on SABC 1,” she said.

Sefako’s journey into the media industry started with her love for theatre and performing arts. Her acting agent at the time advised her of the limited opportunities in theatre and encouraged her to explore the broader media industry. This led her to switch her degree from performing arts to media studies at RAU, and she has not looked back since.

Sefako said that her biggest career moment came after joining global telecoms giant, Siemens. Coming from an NGO background, she took on the role of media relations manager.

“This role allowed me to understand media relations on a global scale. I travelled extensively in Europe and learnt about public-private partnerships, eventually becoming head of corporate affairs for Siemens.

“In 2013, I started my own consultancy, which helped me understand how government works with the private sector and in the public policy and regulatory space. I ran a successful consultancy from 2013 to 2020,” she said.

Her message to inspire young women who aspire to be successful: “Believe in yourself. Enter the space because you genuinely want to, not because of external influences, as it is not an easy industry to navigate. Focus on your unique offering and what sets you apart. Stay true to yourself, and you will thrive,” Sefako said.

Being a female leader can pose various challenges and Sefako is no stranger to that. “When I first entered the corporate space with Siemens in 2006/2007, it was during the introduction of affirmative action. Black female leaders were not taken seriously, and promotions were often seen as token appointments rather than based on merit. The landscape has since changed significantly, and today we can better navigate the nuances and political spaces,” she said.

Her passions outside of work include cooking and singing, and she is still nostalgic about her hosting a community radio show on Hope FM, which she thoroughly enjoyed.

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