Thebe Ikalafeng

Everything about Thebe Ikalafeng is centred around Africa. Having been to every country in Africa, building brands across the continent and summitting the highest free-standing mountain in the world, Mt. Kilimanjaro, he lives and believes in the continent’s possibilities. He is passionately engaged in driving an Africa-focused brand-led agenda that shapes the continent’s image and competitiveness. He is widely acknowledged globally as the pre-eminent authority on brands in Africa and has been recognized by New African Magazine as one of the 100 Most Influential Africans.

 He founded Brand Africa, an inter-generational movement to create a positive image of Africa, celebrate its diversity and drive its competitiveness, Brand Africa 100: Africa’s Best Brands, the only pan-African research and ranking of brands in Africa, to highlight and promote excellence in building brands in Africa and Africa Brand Leadership Academy (ABLA) to ignite and enable Africa-focused global brand leadership.

After a distinguished corporate career which started at Colgate Palmolive in New York, US and concluded as chief marketing officer for NIKE for Africa, during which he won over 75 awards in branding and marketing communication globally, he established the award-winning Brand Leadership Group and has worked on over 100 corporate, nation and political brands across Africa. Brand Leadership has been recognized by Fin Week Magazine as “Marketing Services Agency of the Year” in 2008 and was inducted into the Rebrand Hall of Fame for Excellence in Branding in 2015. He has judged awards on design, branding and leadership globally, including the Red Dot awards in Germany and St. Gallen Symposium ‘Wings of Excellence’ in Switzerland. He served as the inaugural vice-chairman of the Brand Council of Southern Africa and as the first African chairman of the Loeries, the premier advertising awards in Africa. 

A fellow of the Institute of Directors, he is a non-executive director at South African Tourism, Cartrack Group and WWF South Africa. He has held directorships in the public and private sector, including a 15 years tenure on the board of Mercantile Bank Group and full terms on the boards of Brand South Africa, Foodcorp and Nike.

Ikalafeng holds BSc and MBA degrees from Marquette University in the USA, completed executive education at Harvard Business School in the US and is a Chartered Marketer (SA).

An adventurer and avid traveler, beyond Mount Kilimanjaro, he has summitted Mount Elbrus in Russia, the highest mountain in Europe; sky-dived in Swakopmund Namibia, the only place in the world where the sand dunes meet the ocean; jumped the 216m tall Bloukrans Bridge, the highest bunjy in the world, and took a plunge into the coldest waters on the planet in Antarctica, in an adventurous and purposeful journey around the world since leaving his birthplace in Kimberley, South Africa.

Based in Johannesburg, South Africa, he advices, writes and speaks on Africa-focused branding, leadership and related mattes worldwide. Africa is in everything he does.