Nelspruit-born Oupa Pilane (47) was elected as the President of the Kruger Lowveld Chamber of Business and Tourism (KLCBT) during the organisation’s board meeting this week, taking over the baton from Dr Norah Fakude.
As the official representative body of business and tourism in the Kruger Lowveld (Ehlanzeni District), the KLCBT’s main mandates are to promote the region as a tourism and investment destination, to provide a diverse suite of networking and marketing opportunities for its members, and to represent and speak on behalf of the business and tourism communities in the area.
Pilane, who holds a Master’s degree in Public Development from Wits University, is the owner and founder of Nelspruit’s Ubuntu Kraal guesthouse and currently holds the position of Executive: Municipal Business Intelligence at the Guma Group, which provides integrated revenue solutions for municipalities.
He was previously an advisor to Nelspruit/Mbombela’s executive mayor and the spokesman for former Premier Mathews Phosa.
“It was during this time that I was involved in the discussions of the founding of the KLCBT, then known by another name, with Mathews Phosa and other government leaders,” says Pilane, who has been involved with the organisation since 2006 when he became a member and also sat on the Tourism Committee.
Pilane left the civil service to pursue his business career and has focussed largely on building relationships with local government and partnering with them in his role at the Guma Group, with business partner and group founder Robert Gumede.
Developing business and tourism opportunities
During his term as President of the KLCBT Pilane says it is going to be key to come up with ways to broaden opportunities for business and tourism in the region.
“I envisage that the KLCBT will be part of the process of business transformation in the region, to grow the economy and to ensure the success of businesses – irrespective of colour, religion or sex. It pains me to see people struggling to put food on the table,” says Pilane.
“We need activist entrepreneurs who can become business catalysts for change in the region, so that business can empower communities. If our members agree, I would like to initiate a campaign – Strength in Colour – which sees business leaders, of all races, working together to drive industrialisation and integration and build sustainable businesses,” he adds.
Pilane is also passionate about consciously taking advantage of the opportunities in Swaziland and Mozambique, to ensure the growth of the local economy. “Business needs to take these two markets seriously by reviving the Maputo Development Corridor. Government does not have the capacity or the mandate to implement programmes of this nature, it is up to business to take the lead and ensure growth,” he says.
During his tenure as President Pilane would also like to see the launch of a KLCBT Youth Chamber, to ensure a succession plan for the organisation. “We need to be confident that we are building a sustainable organisation that the next generation can continue to drive forward,” he says.
Establishing good and sound relationships with government will be another of his priorities for the KLCBT. “Instead of complaining about things that are not right, business and tourism need to come up with solutions to present to government. We should actually be grateful for our challenges, as they present the opportunities that we need to help improve service delivery. This is a proactive approach that will turn our members’ challenges into opportunities for business growth,” he says.
In terms of tourism in the region, Pilane is disappointed that people, especially government, have not taken advantage of ‘this low hanging fruit’.
“I’m excited and hopeful that through my relationship with government we will be able to rejuvenate the many tourist attractions in the region and make them work, starting with Pilgrim’s Rest where we have the opportunity to create hundreds of jobs,” he says.
In terms of growing tourism to the region, the Guma Group and government will soon announce a multi-million Rand project for Graskop.
“The KLCBT is excited to benefit from Pilane’s energy and vast experience during his two-year term,” says Linda Grimbeek, the KLCBT’s Chief Operating Officer.
Pilane has already chaired his first board meeting and will, during the next month, get involved in all of the KLCBT’s eight advocacies and visit all its offices and staff. In accordance with the KLCBT Constitution, he will remain on the board for at least two years after his presidency.
“Members can look forward to Pilane’s inaugural speech at the KLCBT Annual Awards, which takes place on 28 October,” Grimbeek concludes.
For more information, contact KLCBT, visit www.klcbt.co.za.