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Dr Lulu Gwagwa is a multifaceted woman: an accomplished development planner; academic; business leader; executive coach; and philanthropist.
Lulu is the CEO of Lereko Investment, and one of the principals of the Lereko Metier Capital Growth Fund. She has a BA (University of Fort Hare); a Masters in Town and Regional Planning (University of Natal); an MSc (cum laude) (London School of Economics and Political Science; an MPhil (St Augustine College SA); and a PhD (University College London). She is the chairperson of Zutari, and a non-executive director on the board of Massmart and Afrox.
In the early years of her career (1982-1985), Dr Gwagwa focused mainly on physical planning which included design and development control. In 1985 she moved to the Built Environment Support Group, an NGO based at the University of Natal, supporting communities in townships and squatter settlements with their housing and related struggles.
After studying abroad, in 1992 Dr Gwagwa took up a position as a senior lecturer in the University of Natal’s Department of Town and Regional planning. While there she served on a 12-member Commission for the Delineation and Demarcation of Provincial Boundaries, which decided the country’s current provincial boundaries.
Lulu was appointed a Deputy Director General in the national Department of Public Works from 1995 until 1998. She was instrumental in the development of policy for the transformation of the construction industry and managed an infrastructure led job creation programme. In 1995 she served as the presidential appointee on the Commission on Provincial Government and as Deputy Chair of the Ministerial Advisory Committee on Local Government Transformation. In 2012 she served as the Deputy Chairperson of the Eastern Cape Planning Commission.
As CEO of the Independent Development Trust (IDT), from 1998 until 2003, Dr Gwagwa transformed the Trust from a grant making to a development management agency. Under her leadership the IDT was appointed to assist government in the coordination of the Integrated Sustainable Rural Development Programme.
Policy research also forms part of Dr Gwagwa’s extensive resume. In 2004 she spent the year as a policy adviser for Kellog Foundation in South Africa. She was also appointed by the World Bank to co-produce a research paper on the history and status of Community Driven Development in South Africa. Aside from authoring policy documents, Dr Gwagwa has also published in the fields of gender, housing and development management.
Dr Gwagwa’s passion for spatial equity has driven her philanthropic work. In 1995 she founded the Mhakazi Trust which focuses on the empowerment of young people of Umzimkulu. In 2016 she also founded the Girls Lunch, a year-long coaching programme which retools young black women to do the inner self work so that they can be ignited to reimagine themselves and engage the external world with wholesome success.
Lulu was a finalist in the 2001 Nedbank Business Woman of the Year awards. In 2018 she was named one of the Audi Future Shapers. She is a fellow of the Africa Leadership Initiative, a keen reader of African women writers, and an aspiring photographer.