Best Motivational Speakers in South Africa

We all need a little bit of motivation now and then as we struggle to make sense of life and live to fulfill our dreams. Sometimes, we get that boost from chatting with family and friends, and other times, we might need a more professional setup to make headway. In comes motivational speakers.

Motivational speakers in South Africa for example are the source of inspiration, new knowledge, and thought change; they have done that research, gone through that experience, made the hard life-changing decisions, and are willing to share and inspire you from their wealth of knowledge.

A quick search will show you that there are hundreds of motivational speakers in South Africa and this is not surprising as a lot of people are getting onboard this revered, emotionally demanding yet rewarding profession with some just to make a living. It might be exhilarating to listen to a charismatic speaker but there is a real worth of all your efforts in getting value for your money and time. So we are going to help here by shifting through the chaff and giving you an insight into the 10 Best Motivational Speakers in South Africa.

The Most Famous Motivational Speakers in South Africa

From black motivational speakers to their white counterparts; popular names like Vusi Thembekwayo, Miles Kubheka, Neal Petersen, Femi Adebanji, Pie-Pacifique Kabalira-Uwase, and others are some of the motivational speakers in South Africa who have distinguished themselves in this noble profession.

Black Motivational Speakers in South Africa

1. Vusi Thembekwayo

  • Birthday: 21 March 1985
  • Age: 37 Years Old
  • Active Since: 2002 
  • Number of Books Written: 2 [Vusi – Business & Life Lessons from a Black Dragons (2009), The Magna Carta of Exponential (2017)]
  • Other Endeavours: Founding CEO of MyGrowthFund and Executive Board Member of IC Knowledge Bureau, Venture Capitalist, Business Mogul, Podcaster.

Vusi Thembekwayo is a global sensation in the public speaking industry. He is one man who has banked on his passion for talking to build a multi-million dollar empire. But before that, he had had his own share of misfortune. Vusi had to move in with relatives at a young age when their house was repossessed after it was used by his father as collateral for a loan.

Just as things were about to turn around, his father was killed by thieves over his cellphone. So at 15, Vusi had to hustle through life without a father. His talent for talking was however his savior. He had to hone this talent and with time, he became better at it. In fact, he was once paid R35 (less than $3) for a speech he gave. That marked the turning point in his career as the speech brought him much-needed recognition from former President Thabo Mbeki.

Even with his career picking up, he still encountered some difficulties; losing $274,000 in an investment in a steel company. However, all these shaped him into the man he is today.

Vusi Thembekwayo is One of the Richest Motivational Speakers in South Africa With a Net Worth of $550 Million

Estimated to be worth $550million which is approximately 8,018,593,000 South African Rands. Vusi Thembekwayo has successfully run the then South Africa’s only black-owned forensic Marketing Agency and was the youngest director of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange.

One of his books, Vusi – Business & Life Lessons from a Black Dragons (2009) is an acclaimed best seller and his company operates in Uganda, Kenya, South Africa, and Nigeria. Vusi Thembekwayo’s worth as a motivational speaker can be seen in his achievements; a man who turned his failures into success and is teaching others how to do the same.

2. Miles Kubheka

  • Active Since: 2007 
  • Number of Books Written: 1 [Vuyo’s: From A Big Big Dreamer To Living The Dream 
  • Other Endeavours: Chef, Restaurateur, Gastronomist, and Entrepreneur 

Born in Soweto, Miles Kubheka grew up with a mother who always encouraged him to succeed. Armed with his drive to succeed, he studied Information Systems at Wits University on scholarship and soon after graduating entered the corporate world. Miles worked in Microsoft for about 7 years but surprisingly decided to quit his lucrative job all because of an advert.

Yes, Miles Kubheka saw an untapped opportunity in the popular Hansa Pilsener TV ad “Vuyo’s Wors”. Here was a fictitious brand that had already been made popular from the advert, why not trademark the name and run it as his own business! And so he did, giving birth to the Vuyo Brand.

The Success of Miles Kubheka’s Vuyo Brand Is His Inspiring “Dream Big” Motivation Story

At first, he started at the local market, selling his mom’s recipe of boerewors roll, which instantly became a hit. Miles, knowing what he wants for the Vuyo Brand, went back to school, became a professional chef, and subsequently opened the first Vuyo’s restaurant in Braamfontein.

Unfortunately, the restaurant had to close down after a while but 9 months later, Miles was back with another restaurant in Soweto and you can bet that this time it was successful. This incredible journey of how an IT graduate turned gastronomist became the brain behind the Vuyo Brand, a chain selling “real South African chow” is the story Miles Kubheka preaches today.

Renowned for his story-telling skills, he is out to help entrepreneurs with small businesses dreaming of making it big and achieve their dreams. And just like Vuyo; start small, make it “beeeg”.

3. Neal Petersen

  • Birthday: Born in 1967
  • Age: 55 Years Old
  • Active Since: 1995 
  • Number of Books Written: 2 [No Barriers (1994), Journey of a Hope Merchant: From Apartheid to the Elite World of Solo Yacht Racing (2004)]
  • Other Endeavours: Adventurer, Round-the-world sailor, and Founding Partner of the Investment Bank Sequence Holdings

Born to a factory worker father and a school teacher mother, Neal Petersen started off life with quite a lot of challenges. He was born black in apartheid-era South Africa, in a family managing to get by. He was also born with a disability that saw him undergo three major surgeries by the age of 5. So how did he overcome all these and become one of South Africa’s best motivational speakers? Yachts! Yes, he fell in love with sailing.

Inspired by books such as Joshua Slocum’s Sailing Alone Around the World, Neal started hanging around the Royal Cape Yacht Club, hitching rides on yachts and learning as much as he can on sailing. Working on oil rigs, and as a diamond diver, he managed to save up some money and built his boat Stella R, with which he completed the OSTAR race in 1992.

In 1999, after a previous unsuccessful attempt in 1994, Neal finally completed the BOC Challenge race becoming the fourth South African to ever do so. Facing and conquering the raging waves of the world’s oceans has been the catalyst to boost Neal Petersen’s career as a motivational speaker. Neal Petersen’s message to his listeners can be summarised by his favorite quote – “In life, there are no barriers, only solutions”.

4. Femi Adebanji 

  • Number of Books Written: 2+  (Service Excellence Playbook, Lead The Charge)
  • Other Endeavours: Customer Experience Strategist 

Femi Adebanji is the guy to go to for anything on growing your customer base and building a formidable brand. With a postgraduate degree in Economics, a master’s degree in Financial Economics, and nearly two decades of experience in building successful businesses, Femi has succeeded in carving a niche for himself as a motivational speaker with the desire to help businesses and organizations achieve success via service and organizational excellence. 

Along with his motivational speaking career, Femi Adebanji has worked as divisional head of investment strategy within the Momentum Group, where he and his team grew client assets under advice from R1 billion to just over R5 billion within 2 years, while also quadrupling their client base. He has also worked as a Senior Customer Experience Strategist at Baines & Partner, and as a Research Director at Pinnacle Consulting among other positions.

Femi Adebanji Has Worked With Both Local and Foreign Organisations as a Motivational Speaker

Femi Adebanji’s passion for excellence has seen him participating in numerous speaking engagements across South Africa and abroad. He has worked with or is still working with companies and institutions such as the Office of the Presidency, International Centre for Parliamentary Studies, The University of Cape Town, 3M, Hewlett Packard, Vodacom, Barclays Africa, Tiger Brands, Unilever, FNB, SARS, Standard Bank, Old Mutual, Nedbank, etc. 

5. Pie-Pacifique Kabalira-Uwase

  • Birthday: 21 August 1980
  • Age: 41 Years Old
  • Active Since: 2013 
  • Number of Books Written: Witnessing (2022)
  • Other Endeavours: Founder and Director of PEM Afurika

Pie-Pacifique Kabalira-Uwase’s success story is as tragic as it is inspiring. Fleeing from the horrors of the Rwandan Genocide at the age of 14, Pie-Pacifique came to South Africa hoping for a fresh start. He had already lost a brother to the genocide at the time and had been scammed of all his money in his attempt to flee to Canada.

At first, he worked as a car guard in the Durban city center to make ends meet, however, he was quite ambitious. Determined to further his education, he enrolled at the University of KwaZulu-Natal where he was lucky enough to gain the prestigious Mandela-Rhodes Scholarship and finally graduate with a Physics Degree.

Pie-Pacifique Kabalira-Uwase Uses His Life Experiences To Give Back to the Society

His experiences no doubt shaped his worldview, not only serving as a catalyst for success but also as a drive to give back. He was involved in a lot of organizations that seek to help the less privileged and one way of doing such was by creating wealth.

Pie-Pacifique Kabalira-Uwase was soon involved with the FPD Business School, working on providing experiential education that meets the needs of professionals and entrepreneurs. He later founded his own consulting firm PEM Afurika and has continued to use his life journey as a road map to success for determined entrepreneurs.

6. Phillip Ramphisa

  • Number of Books Written: 2 [Young, Wise, and Kick-S (2015), Confidence for Success (2016)]
  • Other Endeavours: Founder Fapro-LA and Triumph and Philanthropist 

Another one of the most popular motivational speakers in South Africa is Phillip Ramphisa. He is a South African man who like many here grew up in a large family in a rural village in South Africa. From a polygamous household with a schizophrenic mom and an absentee father, the odds were stacked against him.

However, Phillip Ramphisa didn’t allow his background to put him on the ground; he made the decision to take life’s lessons as capsules of wisdom to avoid bad decisions and make the right choices. Now he teaches young people how to do the same. 

Phillip Ramphisa Has Worked in Different Multi-Billion-Dollar Corporations

Through dedication and hard work, Phillip Ramphisa has served in senior management positions in several multi-billion-dollar corporations and by the venture of his multi-national speaking career has worked with organizations like the Pavement Bookworm Foundation, Project Hope, and AIESEC.

He founded Fapro-LA and Triumph to bring his best motivational speaker experience to young people in various rural townships across South Africa. He is also the author of several books and holds two master’s degrees, including an MBA from the University of the Witwatersrand. He speaks on personal success, leadership and management, change management, corporate culture, environmental leadership, and entrepreneurship.

7. Gayton Mckenzie

  • Birthday: 10 March 
  • Active Since: Early 2000s
  • Number of Books Written: 7+
  • Other Endeavours: Founder Patriotic Alliance

From a convicted criminal, bank robber, and gangster to a renowned businessman, motivational speaker, author, and founder of the political party – Patriotic Alliance, Gayton Mckenzie is success personified. In fact, his success today was a result of his past, a past that has continued to fuel his hunger to help fellow South Africans achieve their dreams of success. 

Growing up in Bloemfontein, Gayton said he knew he was going to become a criminal by the age of 8, and he was involved in his first bank robbery when he just turned 16. His criminal activities saw him spending most of his youth in jail, as he was sentenced to 17 years, however, it was there he met his best friend Kenny Kunene, one of South Africa’s most influential businessmen, politicians, and an inspiration to ex-convicts to turn their lives around.

Gayton McKenzie Changed His Life From a Prison Inmate to a Businessman

His ordeal in prison ultimately made him turn his life around and would you believe it, today Gayton Mckenzie now runs a diversified business with interests in restaurants, hotels and events venues, logistics and transport, imports, mining, energy, and entertainment and events, publishing and farming.

He has also published several best-selling books, among which are: The Choice: The Gayton McKenzie Story, A Hustler’s Bible, The Uncomfortable Truth, Trapped, Kill Zuma By Any Means Necessary, A Hustler’s Bible: The New Testament.

Female Motivational Speakers in South Africa

And just like their male counterparts, South Africa has also got a budding crop of female motivational speakers who are as good as their male counterparts in the profession. These women have distinguished themselves in various life endeavors and still stand tall. Here’re the best female motivational speakers you can find today in South Africa.

8. Zipho Sikhakhane 

  • Birthday: 17 January 1988
  • Age: 34 Years Old
  • Other Endeavours: CEO and Founder of EMZ Advisory, Poet

Zipho Sikhakhane is one powerful motivational South African woman that is making waves in the motivational speaking scene. Raised by a single parent in a poor township in northern KwaZulu Natal, Zipho Sikhakhane overcame the challenges of her birth through sheer determination and hard work.

At the tender age of 5, Zipho Sikhane had already started her first business and while studying for her Business Science degree at the University of Cape Town, she continued with her business venture, using the proceeds from the business to fund her first trip overseas and her first car.

Zipho Sikhakhane is the First Black South African Person To Earn an MBA at Stanford University, USA

She continued with her educational pursuit, successfully becoming the first black South African to complete an MBA at the top-ranked Stanford University in the USA. Zipho has since worked in 7 countries across 5 continents, including Brazil, the USA, Spain, and Bulgaria. Her wealth of knowledge and experience is undeniable and today, she uses her public speaking platform to inspire others like her to unleash their potential.

Zipho Sikhakhane is also a writer and a poet; having featured in numerous publications around the globe and is also a weekly Business Columnist for the Sunday Times in South Africa. Through her lengthy career as a spokeswoman for leadership, entrepreneurship, youth, and women in business.

Zipho has presented and spoken in four continents, including a TEDx Talk on the Vision for Africa. Zipho Sikhakhane lives by the quote: ‘Fear eats the soul, don’t fear just do it”. 

9. Dr. Maria Phalime

  • Active Since: 2004 
  • Number of Books Written: 3 [Postmortem: The Doctor Who Walked Away (2014), Second Chances (2013), Leap of Faith – 5 Steps For Leaving a Job You Hate (2012)]

The “Dr.” attached to Dr. Maria Phalime’s name isn’t just an academic title, she is an actual medical doctor who had gone through medical school and acquired some years of practice. So what will make a doctor change her career path to become a motivational speaker? Let’s look at her story.

Dr. Maria Phalime grew up in the township of Soweto in South Africa, and from an early age, she had always wanted to be a doctor, a dream she was able to actualize in due time. However, life as a medical doctor was not what Maria thought it would be and she soon suffered a burn-out.

Luckily she was able to “diagnose” her ailment and soon turned to motivational speaking. Now, she works with doctors, academics, and leaders in the public and private sectors, as well as with women and girls, helping with challenges in the workplace, moving on from failure, and becoming the best version of themselves.

An award-winning author with several books to her name, Dr Maria Phalime continues to show that it is never too late for a fresh start and that wellness and mindfulness are a part of success.

A Notable Mention of One of the Best White Motivational Speakers in South Africa

Aside from the list of black motivational speakers in South Africa, as well as female motivational speakers in South Africa, another notable mention in this list is Christopher Bertish. He’s a white-South African whose career as a motivational speaker has been a blessing to many people in various ways.

10. Christopher Bertish

  • Birthday: 11 July 1974 
  • Age: 47 Years Old
  • Active Since: 2009 
  • Number of Books Written: 2 [Stoked! An Inspiring Story about Courage, Determination and the Power of Dreams (2015), The Power of Dreams and All In: No Turning Back, Giving Up Or Giving In (2021)]
  • Other Endeavours: Adventurer, Surfer, Filmmaker, Businessman, and Founder Chris British Foundation

A piece on South Africa’s best motivational speakers would not be complete without mentioning Christopher Bertish. His inspiring story of a humble beginning from Kenilworth in Cape Town to breaking several world records is the sort of story that truly inspires one to reach for greatness.

Chris first recorded his first major win in February 2010 when he won the Mavericks Big Wave Surf contest. Interestingly, he came to the competition without his equipment and had to borrow a board to compete. In March 2017, Christopher became the first person to single-handedly cross the entire Atlantic Ocean (over 7500km) on a stand-up paddleboard from Morocco to Antigua, over the course of 93 days.

This impressive feat earned him a Guinness World Record. But Christopher wasn’t done. He went on to set three more world records during an attempt to travel the furthest distance of 115.86 kilometers in a day and another for a 12-hour open ocean paddling, covering almost 130 kilometers.

Christopher Bertish Also Advocates for a Greener Environment

Christopher Bertish’s passion for the ocean also extends to the life that lives within it. He is at the forefront of conservation efforts with his foundation – The Chris Bertish Foundation, engaging in projects that educate, conserve, and find sustainable alternatives to tackle the climate change issues.

His mantra of – Dream It. See it. Believe It. Achieve It is the pinnacle of his motivational speeches; using his life story to inspire, encourage and foster a can-do, charitable spirit amongst the youth. To this end, Christopher Bertish has written two books: Stoked! An Inspiring Story about Courage, Determination and the Power of Dreams (2015) and The Power of Dreams and All In: No Turning Back, Giving Up Or Giving In (2021). 

Bertish has also featured in several documentaries as well as spoken to world leaders on climate change and conservation.

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