The story of Agilitee’s founder, the African Billionaire who built a $20 billion green technology & AI firm, reads like a tale encapsulating the spirit of defying the odds, self-determination, commitment and unparalleled consistency.
It is also a narrative that illustrates how a vision which had its roots in South Africa has transformed into Africa and other parts of the world.
To tell and appreciate this billionaire’s journey, it is perhaps more important to roll back to 2005.
In 2003 at the age of 18 he started what was then known as KingPin Records which was a gospel music entertainment company that had three recording artists and also did gospel music concerts. This is what made him a young millionaire.
From this he grew stronger and in 2005 when he was 20, he started Lamba Corporation which became his holding company for all his business activities. A bigger break came in 2007 when he founded Verityhurst which is his private equity firm that he invests through on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. 2007 is the same year that brought him great misfortune because it is the year that his Mercedes Benz crashed with a Daihatsu and led to the death of a father and son and this changed Lamba’s life dramatically.
Verityhurst invested in companies like MTN, DRD Gold, Sibanye Gold, Harmony Gold and Labat Africa just to name a few. From the success of this, a mining company called EAR was formed in 2008 and later sold to Mazakhele Investments in 2011.
In 2010, Lamba was doing so well that it didn’t sit well with a particular faction of white monopoly capitalists that an attack on his reputation started from a publication that is controlled by this racist group of white power to such an extent that Lamba was arrested for culpable homicide case from the same accident and was sent to jail without an option of bail.
He fought until he got bail from a black magistrate. When a white magistrate heard of it, the bail was rescinded a month later and Lamba had to go back to jail and awaited trial for five years. At the end of the case, Lamba agreed with the family of the deceased to pay R1 million in cash and R60, 000 per month for five years since it was the main bread winner who died in the car accident, however the magistrate cancelled the retribution deal, sentenced Lamba and the family lost R1 million which had to be refunded by Lamba’s counsel back to Lamba and an additional R60 000 per month which was a total of R3.6 million.
The family that lost its loved ones also lost R4.6 million from Lamba, even though the money wouldn’t bring them back, but it would make a financial difference all because there was determination to lock Lamba in jail and throw the keys where they could never be found. He was sentenced to 0 years imprisonment, served five, two three were suspended and went out on parole when left with two.
Lamba’s spirit was not dampened and he soldiered on until he regained his freedom.
Returning from prison, he built a $20 billion business that is an addition to the billionaire’s portfolio of investments. As much as Lamba has invested for profit, succeeded and never lost money on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, his notable investments are where he saved two Johannesburg Stock Exchange during Covid 19, one from liquidation and one from being delisted by the Johannesburg Stock Exchange for failure to submit audited financial accounts.
In 2020 he was approached to save a JSE listed private school group called Pembury Lifestyle Group Ltd which was on the verge of being liquidated by one of its creditors at a time when 200 teachers were about to lose their jobs and salaries were not going to be paid from that month going forward.
Through his private equity, Verityhurst, Lamba was faced with a choice to either pay salaries or settle the creditors and stop the liquidation since he was approached three days before the end of the month. He chose to pay salaries and save jobs of a little over 200 white teachers, even though all his business life he has been attacked and discredited by some white powerful people in South Africa.
He didn’t look at the colour of the skin of the teachers, but rather as parents who had obligations to their families and debt obligations such as mortgage bonds, car instalments, medical aid just to name a few and chose to pay millions of rands towards salaries, not even having met the creditors at the time. He was prepared to lose the money as long as these teachers got paid. He later met the creditors and paid them to stop the liquidation.
Lamba gave this company millions in loans that had no interest and this was the first time something like this had happened on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange.
Lamba repeated this by saving another property development company that is also listed on the JSE, Visual International Holdings, which needed cash infusion and was suspended for failure to submit audited financial statements on time. He paid the auditors’ debt, paid for the new audit and injected over R6 Million loan with no interest in the company which was later converted into shares.
The company was reinstated back to trading by the JSE, all thanks to Lamba and Verityhurst. All these good deeds never made it to the media in South Africa, but immediately after he launched Agilitee’s three full electric scooters in 2021 he went under attack where his past stint in jail was used to discredit his work in Agilitee. All these happened during covid-19 lock downs in 2020 while Lamba was bringing to market Agilitee’s electric scooters.
Lamba had the idea of starting Agilitee in 2015 and commercialized it in 2018. He is the first South African billionaire to make it to the billionaire status without the help of white capital, let alone building the first EV & AI company in a country where black people have never chartered an industry is something that has put him under attack by such white power. His work not being celebrated by the South African media that is controlled by them and his image tarnished by them, so that black people don’t try what he did and succeed in, that he is the first no matter the colour of his skin. He is the true definition of black excellence.
In trying to understand how the Agilitee concept came about, it is perhaps more apt to focus on the contributory factors which have made it possible for the idea to take shape, rather than seeking to locate the proverbial building blocks behind the concept.
But when the founder and current Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Agilitee, Dr Mandla Lamba started the project, he knew that the destiny of the company would be a force to reckon with, a home-bred technology giant that is a pioneer of AI & the Green Revolution.
In the words of Dr Lamba, “The journey to where we are was not easy, a lot of twists and turns and ups and downs but a lot of success has been enjoyed in the midst of pain.
“The story of Agilitee has been that of not amplifying problems and challenges at the expense of the goodness of God.
What gave us strength was the fact that five years ago, there was no Agilitee and here we are today with this great company, yes, we have had to fight a lot, but we can’t complain about it because we are grateful for the blessings we saw in the deep of tears,” he said.
Dr Lamba said the conception of the company started in 2015 and its formalisation in 2018.
“We are the first electric vehicle manufacturer and green tech company in Africa, first black owned electric vehicles and black owned green tech company in the whole world. I believe that is enough reason to count blessings. We are currently raising $2 billion by selling 10% of our company through a $2 billion IPO on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, we are the first company in this industry in Africa, and we are the first one to even do an IPO in this industry. A lot has been achieved over the years and I must say to God alone be the glory,” he said.
We haven’t had any competition so far, except being fought by the remaining elements of the apartheid power holders who believe that black people from South Africa shouldn’t be given an opportunity to pioneer any industry. I am not part of the free world and I am the African Leader of the New World, so I understand that since it started with me, I had to break so many moulds that there aren’t much remaining, and this makes me happy because I know that the next generation will find a levelled playing field to pursue their dreams.
I can’t be contained by an old racist billionaire who is part of where the world is coming from while I am ordained by God to lead in this chapter of life,” he said.
Beyond political and racial related challenges, Dr Lamba said Agilitee continues to enjoy a lot of support from both the black and white communities in South Africa.
“Recently, we were approached by groups in Australia, Asia, North America and UK who want to bring Agilitee to their countries which is a very good thing, however our main focus is in Africa because we are Africans who were born in Africa and our ancestors are buried here.
“Every solution we bring to the market is based on personal experience based research that was prepared by people who have lived in Africa and know the pain of being African, and they have what is appropriate for the African market.
“We have dropped the first electric motor bikes, most recently we dropped the very first full AI TV that has a telematics for voice recognition and instruction remote system, and the very first intelligent kettle.
We have manufactured over 200 AI home appliances and AI electronics in 2022 and this coming weekend we are unveiling our full electric cars in Durban and Johannesburg the CEO added.
The rise of Mandla Lamba came as a surprise to many, but after overcoming so many challenges and breaking so many yokes, something great was bound to come out of him. His rise comes at a time when the world needs leaders of his kind, leaders who have a heart and passion for people.