ASABA NWU Chapter – setting the standard for excellence

Barely one year old, the Association of South African Black Actuarial Professionals (ASABA) North-West University Chapter won the Best University Chapter Award on Thursday 4 November 2021. 

The Association of South African Black Actuarial Professionals was established in March 2005 to address the dearth of actuarial and quantitative skills amongst previously disadvantaged communities in South Africa, by initiating a mutually beneficial set of skills development interventions. ASABA was created to tackle these issues directly through the commitment and establishment of three key functions: a holistic mentoring capability; a vacation-work placement scheme; and a duty to make the actuarial profession in South Africa more accessible and inclusive of all races.

The ASABA NWU Chapter was started in March 2021 and has about 600 members who are studying Quantitative Risk Management, Actuarial Science, and Data Mining | Business Analytics. 

At the helm of this chapter is Piwokuhle Ngetu, an honour’s student in Quantitative Risk Management. She is supported by eight other members who form the chapter’s council. 

We chatted to Piwokuhle about ASABA’s 2021 motto, goals, and being crowned the best. 

Congratulations on being crowned the Best Campus Chapter in your inaugural year. How did it feel when it was announced that you won? 

Wow, I wish I could show you the video (it’s on their Instagram page). A few of ASABA’s members came to my place, and we watched it virtually. We were so scared because there was UCT and UP, and here we are in our first year. We didn’t have any point of reference like “someone did it like this last year” – so we just ran with the vision. 

When they announced that we won, we screamed so much my neighbours came to check if we were okay. 

What is the goal of the NWU Chapter?

There are so few black people in this profession, especially from disadvantaged backgrounds. The name refers to black people, but ASABA has 600 students from diverse backgrounds and races. 

We are under the NWU Faculty of Agriculture and Natural Sciences’ Centre for Business Mathematics and Informatics (BMI). Our mandate is to mentor and tutor BMI Students. 

We have merchandise made to promote the association. 

We wanted to create awareness, and also help and support the students who study to become Actuaries, Quants, and Data Analysts. We host mentorship sessions every month with industry professionals, qualified Actuaries, Quants, and Data Analysts.

The theme for 2021 was “Students must graduate”. How did you choose this theme? 

We wanted to raise the passing rate for Actuaries, Quants, and Data Analytics students. There is a downward curve in these courses. Each year we see people dropping their studies or changing courses, especially black students. 

When I started in my first year, we were 50 students, in my second year 30 returned and in my final year, I think we were only six students. So, we thought let’s have this motto, let’s help the students. 

We host a lot of events for students from our department to come together and network, we just talk about the profession. But we also have mentor programmes where students would mentor younger students. You get overwhelmed when you’re starting university but being guided by someone who has already walked this path – it helps. 

What can members gain from joining the association?

Mentorship, knowledge, and collaboration. Collaboration is an important one. Before we started the chapter, students were separated and didn’t engage. Now we are like a family, we have a support system, and we look out for each other. 

So, you started on a high note in your first year. Where is the association going from here? 

This award was great, but we will see the true results at the end of the year when the students graduate or pass. We want most of the students to qualify as professionals. We did, however, provide them support. In that aspect, we did succeed. 

Covid-19 has restricted a lot of what we wanted or were able to do. So, next year we would like more in-personal sessions. I believe talking to the professionals one on one will be very beneficial. And I hope to win again next year, take it to greater heights. 

We also want to diversify the speakers and bring in mental health coaches and business professionals. It is a difficult course, so we want to give people every opportunity to succeed. 

Are you running for chapter president next year? 

There is a hashtag trending on our WhatsApp groups: #PK2022 – PK is my nickname – but I am unsure. I am receiving a lot of job offers, so I have to decide. 

I would love to give it to someone else. I feel like my job is done and that there is a strong foundation for future leaders to build on. Now they have a point of reference. 

What would you tell students about joining the ASABA chapter or other parts of organised NWU student life?

It is really an eye-opener. When I came here, I was alone, and it felt like I was drowning. ASABA has helped ground me, it got me involved with other students and the support is priceless. 

You have been a leader for the past couple of months, during a pandemic. What would you say are the key qualities of being a good leader?

When I was running for the presidency, there were four things going through my mind: 

  • Commitment 
  • Accountability 
  • Transparency 
  • Integrity 

I would also add bravery and courage to the list. You must have courage, that’s what kept my fuel. 

Sometimes people want the title, but don’t have the heart and passion for the job. And I think that’s what differentiated me from others – my heart for the job. 

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