Nolulamo (Lulu) Nobambiswano Gwagwa completed a Bachelor of Arts at the University of Fort Hare. She proceeded to the University of Natal’s Planning School where she completed her Masters in Town and Regional Planning. From there Dr Lulu Gwagwa went to the London School of Economics and Political Science where she graduated cum laude with an M.Sc. She then obtained a PhD from University College London.
The early years of Dr Gwagwa’s career focused mainly on physical planning. In 1986 she started work at the Built Environment Support Group. The NGO based at the University of Natal, supported communities in townships and squatter settlements with their housing and related struggles.
After studying abroad, Dr Gwagwa took up a position in 1992 a senior lecturer at the University of Natal’s Department of Town and Regional Planning. While there she served on a 12 member Commission for the Delineation and Demarcation of Provincial Boundaries, which decided on the country’s current provincial boundaries.
She was then appointed a Deputy Director General in the national Department of Public Works from 1995 until 1998. Dr Gwagwa was instrumental in the development of policy for the transformation of the construction industry and managed an infrastructure led job creation programme.In 1995 Dr Gwagwa also served as the presidential appointee on the Commission on Provincial Government and as Deputy Chair of the Ministerial Advisory Committee on Local Government Transformation.
As CEO of the Independent Development Trust (IDT), from 1998 until 2003, Dr Gwagwa transformed the Trust from a grant making to a development management agency. Under her leadership the IDT was appointed to assist government in the coordination of the Integrated Sustainable Rural Development Programme.
Policy research also forms part of Dr Gwagwa’s extensive resume. She was appointed by the World Bank, in 2004, to co-produce a research paper on the history and status of Community Driven Development in South Africa. Aside from authoring policy documents, Dr Gwagwa has also published in the fields of gender, housing and development management. Currently the Chief Executive Officer of Lereko Investments, a black-owned investment company, and one of the principals in the Lereko Metier Capital Growth Fund. Dr Gwagwa also serves as non-executive director of FirstRand, Massmart and Sun International. She is also the Chairperson of Aurecon Africa. She recently served as the Deputy Chairperson of the Eastern Cape Planning Commission.
Dr Gwagwa’s passion for spatial equity has driven her philanthropic work. Two decades ago she founded the Mhakazi Trust to empower the young people of Umzimkulu, some of whom have even graduated from tertiary institutions.
Dr Lulu Gwagwa is a multifaceted woman: an accomplished development planner; business leader; and philanthropist. She is a keen writer and photographer who is currently studying philosophy.