Huzaifah Elias, Director: Africa operations, Gud Holdings (Pty) LTD, 34

Like his father before him, Huzaifah Elias believed he would become a doctor – so much so, in fact, that in his final years at school, he spent hours visiting clinics and associations within the community, to complete his community service.

While his marks were certainly up to scratch for a career in medicine (Huzaifah matriculated within the top 10 for the region), he decided against medicine, opting instead to study engineering and then changed course once again to do a B.Com. Not only did he graduate cum laude, but he also won a host of awards, and it was this success that ensured he was accepted to do his articles at PriceWaterhouseCoopers.

Huzaifah believed that becoming a CA(SA) would allow him to work across a variety of industries. With hindsight he says it’s the best career option for anybody who wants to make a difference, whether it is in business or on a social level.

It was after completing a secondment to Dubai that Huzaifah joined Gud Holdings (Pty) Ltd, as Group Accountant. GUD is the leading filter brand in South Africa and his new position offered him exposure to complex international trade. While in this position he developed key strategies which ultimately saved the group millions. In 2010, he was promoted to technical and finance manager and was the recipient of a leadership award.

Gud Holdings began its aggressive expansion into Africa in 2011 and Huzaifah was chosen to head up a strategic division as part of Manco. During this year, he also won the teamwork award, which he subsequently won again in 2012.

Huzaifah successful tackled his mandate of African expansion, establishing a distribution centre in Mozambique in its entirety – from forming the legal entity to purchasing machinery; a business which has to date exceeded all profit projections. During this time he also learnt to speak Portuguese, so fluently in fact, that he has done presentations in Portuguese to dignitaries, customers and the media.

By 2013, Huzaifah had done the same job in Zambia, inaugurating GUD Filters Zambia Limited, a profitable company where sales have already increased by 60 percent.

By the time he was 31 he had been appointed Director: Africa Operations. Under his watch, revenue for Gud Holdings (Pty) LTD has doubled, with ROI exceeding 150 percent.

It’s been an adventurous time, he admits. In the past few years Huzaifah has lived in some dubious neighbourhoods, has been falsely detained and even held at gunpoint. That said, he has also opened new markets in Ghana, Nigeria, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). “Living on the frontier of a changing continent has been the experience of a lifetime,” he says. In addition to Portuguese, he has also started to learn French.

As a child, Huzaifah’s ambition was to change the world. Through his career, that is just what he is doing, one continent at a time. 

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