/ 26 July 2019

The theme of the IRFA conference is ‘The Retirement Ecosystem: You Have The Power’

Pension fund adjudicator Muvhango Lukhaimane
Pension fund adjudicator Muvhango Lukhaimane



An optimal ecosystem monitors, evaluates and self-corrects; and is resilient and dynamic. The retirement funding ecosystem is a complex, interconnected network. All stakeholders of this diverse complex system are integral to it and have an impact. Each component has the power to influence this ecosystem positively or negatively.

In this year’s conference IRFA will be exploring the existing pensions ecosystem and highlighting the components, as well as the interrelationship between its parts. It will also be examining roles within this system in order to understand the impact and power of individual actions.

The conference aims to surface and highlight trends and practices that equip participants to positively influence the system for the ultimate benefit of improved retirement outcomes.

You have the power!

The theme follows a logical succession in conference themes over the past four years, bringing the focus from industry trends, stakeholder collaboration and outreach into the scope of individual influence over retirement outcomes and, most importantly, the symbiotic nature of this influence.(“Navigating the Future/2016” (examining key trends and influencers in the industry”,) “Partnering for Change/2017” (collaborative relationships and partnerships,) “Reaching out for Financial Security and Freedom/2018” (from navigation to outreach).

Encyclopaedia Brittanica defines an ecosystem as the complex system of living organisms, their physical environment, and all their interrelationships in a particular unit of space.

Other definitions include:

  • A system, or a group of interconnected elements, formed by the interaction of a community of organisms with their environment.
  • Any system or network of interconnecting and interacting parts, as in a business environment.
  • The transfer and conversion of energy is vital to the functioning of any ecosystem, both in driving it, as well as regenerating it when necessary. Energy moves life. The cycle of energy is based on the flow of energy through different trophic levels in an ecosystem. Our physical ecosystem is maintained by cycling energy and nutrients obtained from different external sources.

    Applying these concepts to the retirement community, let’s look at the definitions of symbiosis: interdependent; synergetic; co-operative; reciprocal; associated; and mutually beneficial.

    An ecosystem is: the retirement landscape is a system, with all parts and stakeholders interdependent on one another; each part of constituent has the power and ability to influence the entire system; there is a synergy (interaction and combined effect) between each.

    Symbiosis means these actions can be reciprocal or associated, impacting either negatively or positively on the retirement ecosystem as a whole; and where constituents engage and interact positively this interaction can be mutually beneficial as well as contributing health and vigour to the retirement ecosystem itself.

    For the purposes of the IRFA conference, the term “energy” applies to sources of external energy used within the retirement ecosystem; to how this energy is used within the system; and/or the power of the individual or constituent group to generate this energy.

    Energy: It can only ever be changed

    “A business ecosystem is just like the natural ecosystem; first, it needs to be understood, then, it needs to be well planned, and also needs to be thoughtfully renewed as well.” — Pearl Zhu, Digital Maturity: Take a Journey of a Thousand Miles from Functioning to Delight.

    “Nature is good at connectivity. The impact of diverse human activities is observed and absorbed throughout nature. Everything is linked. Nature has no problem with coherence. Ecosystems react with their own logic.” — Jonas Gahr Store

    “Waste does not exist in nature, because ecosystems reuse everything that grows in a never-ending cycle of efficiency and purpose.” — Frans van Houten

    “Where the quality of life goes down for the environment, the quality of life goes down for humans.” — George Holland

    “When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.” — John Muir

    “The energy of the mind is the essence of life” — Aristotle

    “Energy cannot be created or destroyed, it can only be changed from one form of energy to another” — Albert Einstein

    “We come into relationships often very much identified with our needs. I need this, I need security, I need refuge, I need friendship. And all relationships are symbiotic in that sense. We come together because we fulfil each others’ needs at some level or other.” — Ram Dass

    “Over the long term, symbiosis is more useful than parasitism. More fun, too. Ask any mitochondria.”— Larry Wall

    On the Power of the Individual

    – “You lose your power not by giving it away” — Debasish Mridha

    – “You have a lot more power than you are giving yourself credit for. Please embrace it.” — Queen Tourmaline

    – “Do not wait for the green light. You are the green light.” — Dr Jacinta Mpalyenkana

    Impact investment injects life into the economy

    The Transport Sector Retirement Fund (TSRF) is single-minded in its efforts to find innovative ways to grow their members’ retirement assets, to provide them with excellent returns and long-term financial security,” says principal officer, Joe Letswalo. “Apart from creating sustainable futures, the fund is committed to facilitating transformation in South Africa.”

    “Our board considers infrastructure development as an important asset class — one which we believe provides direct benefits to our members; and which assists to drive economic development, empowerment and job creation. Our investment strategy ties in with the country’s National Infrastructure Plan,” says Letswalo.

    Some of the TSRF’s investment projects include the development of quality truck stops along our country’s major transport nodes. “Our aim is to create safe and efficient transport hubs along our major routes. The TSRF holds a 50% share in the Highway Junction Truck Stop near Harrismith. Within this joint venture, the facilities at Highway Junction were upgraded and expanded to create the first multi-brand facility of its kind on the continent.

    The Highway Junction is proving so successful that the TSRF will now expand this concept to four more sites near Cape Town, East London, Colesberg and Musina.

    Some of the Fund’s other infrastructure partnerships include the recently opened Philippi JunXion Mall outside Cape Town, and two new mixed-use property developments — one near Sebokeng in the Vaal Triangle, and the other in the Western Cape near Simon’s Town.

    “These spatial development projects will assist with poverty alleviation, ensuring that property can be accessed by all as an asset for wealth creation. We believe our impact investment strategy is setting the tone for boosting economic growth and maximising investment returns. Within our diversified investment portfolio, these strategic initiatives are offering good returns,” concludes Letswalo.