African Bank founder and ‘Father of Black Business’ dies

 ·30 Apr 2024

Dr Samuel Motsuenyane, a founding member of the National African Federated Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Nafcoc) and an integral player in the formation of African Bank, has passed away at the age of 97.

“Dr Motsuenyane peacefully departed… leaving behind a profound impact on South Africa’s business landscape,” Public Interest SA said in a statement following his passing on 29 April 2024.

The statement described Motsuenyane as a stalwart in entrepreneurship and ethical business practices.

Motsuenyane was dubbed the “Father of Black Business” due to his contributions in establishing and mentoring Black business executives and entrepreneurs.

Back in 1964, Motsuenyane co-founded Nafcoc with its vision to “be the leading voice of business in South Africa”.

The idea for African Bank was born at the inaugural Nafcoc meeting in Soweto. The bank was envisioned as a way to overcome the obstacles faced by Black people in accessing funding.

African Bank’s founding chairman, Motsuenyane, helped start the bank with just R70 and opened its first branch in 1975.

Motsuenyane retired from Nafcoc in 1992 and joined parliament, where he was appointed leader of the house of senate and later the first ambassador to Saudi Arabia from 1996 to 2000. He was also accredited as an ambassador to Oman, Yemen, Kuwait and Bahrain. 

Since his passing, tributes have been pouring in.

“As the sun sets on Ntate Motsuenyane’s earthly journey, we find solace in the knowledge that his legacy will continue to shape the future of entrepreneurship in South Africa,” said Tebogo Khaas, chair of Public Interest SA and chief entrepreneur at the Institute of Chartered Entrepreneurs.  

The Dr Sam Motsuenyane Foundation said in a statement that “through their perseverance and passion to be economically self-sufficient, they were able to mobilise black communities to contribute towards the R1m that was required to capitalise the bank for it to open its first branch in Ga-Rankuwa in 1975.” 

President Cyril Ramaphosa said “the remarkable sweep of his life as an entrepreneur, leader of organised business, parliamentarian and diplomat among other roles embodied our resilient national character and values of ubuntu.”

“His philosophy of self-sufficiency is today entrenched in the constitutional right each of us enjoys to freely choose our trade, occupation or profession and in the socio-economic rights that our constitution safeguards,” he added.

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