Santie Botha is chancellor of the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in Port Elizabeth – at 48, the youngest chancellor in South Africa – and serves on the board of Tiger Brands Limited and Famous Brands. She is a South African marketing pioneer who played a role in the success of the 2010 World Cup as head of marketing at FIFA sponsor MTN.
Botha first rose to prominence when, at the age of 34, she became Absa’s youngest ever board member. She joined MTN as Chief Marketing Officer in 2003 and oversaw the network become the Fifa World Cup’s first and only global sponsor from Africa. She recently became South Africa’s youngest ever university chancellor when, at 48, she headed up the Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan University in Port Elizabeth.
Botha holds a degree in economics from Stellenbosch University. She started her career at Unilever in London and South Africa and then moved to Absa. There, as group executive director, she successfully branded the newly amalgamated bank, launching an aggressive marketing campaign to win over its own employees as well as its customers, and attacking the image of a bank as stuffy and bureaucratic. She was also responsible for its e-commerce programme.
Botha had ambitions to become the best women’s tennis player in South Africa, but chose to take a job at Unilever instead. In 1996, while working in the UK, Botha decided to resign so she could move back home to South Africa.
Botha made a splash when she painted OR Tambo Airport yellow (the brand’s signature colour). During her time at MTN, she helped embed the brand in Africa and the Middle East. But her main legacy was that a company born in Africa became the first-ever global sponsor of the FIFA World Cup.
She has won a slew of awards, including the 2010 Businesswoman of the Year from the Businesswomen’s Association of South Africa, Marketer of the Year in 2002, The Star Top 10 Businesspeople in South Africa 2003 and Young Business Person of the Year in 1998.
Botha is one of South Africa’s top 10 wealthiest women.
The role of a chancellor is traditionally that of a figurehead, but Botha has said she plans to play an active role in developing the institution as a place of learning and as a brand.