AYO Technology Solutions chairman advocate Dr Wallace Mgoqi writes an open letter addressing rumours that allege that the company is corrupt – and requests that the company be allowed to breathe so that it can continue its business of transforming the ICT sector to include all South Africans in the conversation.
DEAR South Africa
What is corrupt about AYO? Nothing. As proven by numerous inquiries, audits and investigations the company has endured over the past 12 months.
AYO is an established company employing several thousand good, honest people. It is the single largest black-owned and managed ICT company on the JSE, and one of only a handful of black-based listed entities.
Until AYO listed, the company went about its business undisturbed, delivering profits and value for its stakeholders.
Of late, however, there has been a mire of misleading, factually incorrect and unsubstantiated media reports, which have created noise in the market.
Starting with a single accusation carried in one paper, AYO has been subjected to a barrage of negativity that has morphed into claims of corruption and wrongdoing across much of the media landscape, resulting in being tried by public opinion.
Although three separate audits have cleared AYO and proven that all is above board, the company has continued to be tarred with the same brush as the acknowledged fraudulent and criminal behaviour of the likes of EOH, Tongaat Hulett and Steinhoff – the latter costing its shareholders billions.
This, therefore, is my open letter to once and for all set the record straight.
AYO listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) in December 2017. It was born out of African Equity Empowerment Investments (AEEI), a diversified investment group, itself a listed entity.
With the rising dependency of the world on technology and the opportunities this presents, it made complete sense to float a company that would house all AEEI’s ICT-focused entities under one umbrella – Ayo Technology Solutions (AYO).
Ahead of listing, the company underwent months of planning and a thorough valuation process – conducted by independent parties and advisers.
The illustration below shows the timeline for the listing – all above board, open and transparent, with many opportunities for questions and challenges, and those that were raised were addressed prior to listing.
With the stated aim of creating the country’s largest black-owned ICT organisation, AYO went in search of the appropriate investors and potential shareholders who would fulfil this business goal.
Consequently, AYO’s shareholding is representative of this with hundreds of different shareholders, including a grouping of unions and black women’s groups, along with other large and small entities.
Why the PIC as a shareholder?
A number of asset managers were approached. However, the PIC is the biggest asset manager in the country and has a mandate to invest in businesses and sectors with growth potential. Together with its imperative to support the development of black businesses, this made them a good fit for a sector till then largely untransformed.
From the outset, the PIC supported the listing, as it created the largest black ICT company in the country.
As a result, the PIC is a significant shareholder in AYO – investing R4.3billion and owning 29% of the company with representation on the board, which also has independent directors to support it.
By comparison, Sekunjalo Investment Holdings owns an indirect 29%, through its stake in AEEI, but has no seat on the board nor is it involved in any of the day-to-day operations of our organisation.
To list on the JSE, a company also needs to adhere to clear-cut rules, regulations and requirements set by the exchange.
This, AYO did. To infer, therefore, that AYO is corrupt, is to say the same of the JSE – how could the JSE have listed a company that was, if subsequent media reports are to be believed, crooked, fraudulent and unethical?
The simple answer – AYO is ethical, honest and has a good business proposition, echoing the values held by the JSE. It continues to do so.
Despite being cleared by several investigations, it has not stopped media from rolling out reams of factually incorrect and misleading copy about AYO, which armchair crusaders have seized and relayed to their peers. One cannot help but question the motives for such a strategy.
It should also be noted that any “findings” from the PIC commission have been based on hearsay and not on any evidence that would stand up to scrutiny in a court of law.
In fact, to date, not one critic has come forward with clear-cut evidence or demonstrable proof of any form of crooked behaviour by this company to back these claims. That’s because these claims are fictional. I challenge anyone to prove differently.
Shade has been cast over this company for reasons we will probably never truly fathom, which has made our operating environment severely challenging. Despite this, we have managed to grow our asset base (now sitting at R6bn) and invest in a future that will be essential to how technology will impact every facet of how we live, do business and the economics that will govern us all.
We might not be creating the next big thing, but the technology that will drive it is where we will have an integral and necessary part to play.
With a dearth of adequately qualified technology-adept personnel in the country, AYO has also launched an academy that focuses on building capacity for the jobs that have yet to be created, as well as for today’s needs.
No one truly knows what the future holds, but one thing is for certain, AYO will be a part of it – an active participant in connecting the unconnected and driving the African digital ecosystem.
To get us all there, we need you to help us by giving us the space to breathe so we can continue to work on digitally transforming the economy – for the better, for everyone.