Africa Leaders Magazine

TAELO MOJAPELO – CEO of British Petroleum (BP) Southern Africa

Petrochemicals company BP Southern Africa (BPSA) appointed Taelo Mojapelo CEO, in June 2020.

Mojapelo joined BPSA in April as head of commercial optimisation and supply for Southern Africa.

The company reports that she has a wealth of commercial and operational experience, joining BPSA from Mondelez where she held the position of supply chain director.

Prior to this, she held a number of operational and senior leadership supply chain roles in companies such as South African Breweries, Kellogg’s and DHL.

TAELO MOJAPELO - CEO of British Petroleum (BP) Southern Africa - African Leaders Magazine

“Being the CEO of a multinational corporation such as this one is an exciting challenge that I accepted as I would like to be part of the energy transition [from fossil-based to renewable energy sources]. I accepted the role during a time of high oil price volatility as well as a global commitment to reduce carbon emissions. This gives me the opportunity to contribute towards shaping this agenda,” says Mojapelo

She holds a BSc (Honours) in Chemical Technology from the University of Natal, a master’s degree in Environmental Engineering from Cambridge University and an MBA from the University of Pretoria’s (UP) Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS).

She says she does not have preconceived ideas about how to bring about change and implement new processes. “It is important to understand the organisation and, more importantly, get to know the people that have shaped the organisation over the years. The external environment changes will invariably require internal changes, and these will be co-created with the team I lead.”

TAELO MOJAPELO - CEO of British Petroleum (BP) Southern Africa - African Leaders Magazine

Mojapelo acknowledges that BPSA, like many other companies in the industry, has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, she says that it is important to remain resilient while ensuring the safety of employees as employees are the most important asset of any organisation.

Asked what the impact of automation on the labour market and the rise of electric cars could spell for the future of the industry, she responded: “Automation is here and it is clear that governments globally are progressing on this together with lower carbon initiatives. Chemical and fuel organisations are fully aware of this and putting initiatives in place to respond accordingly.”

Mojapelo says she values being associated with a credible university and one of the reasons she decided to pursue her MBA with UP was the institution’s impressive academic rankings.

A highlight for her was the shared experiences during group discussions and insights she gained while completing her MBA. “It sharpened my strategic thinking skills and provided a broader perspective on real-world business challenges, enabling me to look beyond my current role. This has guided me in my career post my MBA qualification and I believe that alumni have an important opportunity to serve their alma mater through coaching and mentoring programmes for students to prepare them for the corporate environment.”

Mojapelo says universities should be focusing on building critical-thinking skills as many young people enter the work environment and reproduce what they learnt through a “memory bank” and do not focus on critical thinking, which results in paralysis in the workplace.

TAELO MOJAPELO - CEO of British Petroleum (BP) Southern Africa - African Leaders Magazine

She says a year ago, she embarked on a journey of discovery and reflected on her experiences, which culminated in her defining her purpose: “Uplifting other women and grooming better men.

“In everything I do, this has been a purpose I am deliberate about. This is not an easy task and will require me to continue to work hard to establish or use platforms of influence to drive this message”

She advises young people to stay focused because integrity and focus pay off. There are no shortcuts to success, she says.

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