Women making a difference ,Meet Maria Ramos

Maria Da Conceicao Ramos (b.Feb 22,1959), is a South African economist and businesswoman. Today she is the CEO of ABSA Group, position which she has held since 1 March 2009 . ABSA Group is is one of South Africa’s largest financial services groups, offering a complete range of banking, bancassurance and wealth management products and services.

Previously she was CEO of Transnet.Transnet is overhauling South Africa’s largest transport company, which controls the country’s rail and port operations, divesting noncore assets, including South African Airways, embarking on a major capital-expenditure program, and improving customer service.

Ramos was named outstanding businesswoman of the year (2009) in the African Business Awards granted by the Commonwealth Business Council and African Business magazine.

She is married to Trevor Manuel previously Minister of Finance and currently Minister of of the National Planning Commission.

Ramos moved to South Africa with her parents when she was a child and later became a citizen. She studied economics at the University of the Witwatersrand (B.Com., 1987) in Johannesburg and at the University of London (M.Sc., 1992). As a student she heard about a men-only scholarship offered by Barclays Bank, where she worked as a clerk to pay for her education; she lobbied for the prize and in 1983 won the Barclays Bank Graduate Scholarship. In her early career Ramos worked in banking and finance (in both private- and public-sector jobs), taught economics (1989–94), and served (1990–94) as an economist for the African National Congress’s Department of Economic Planning. In 1996 she was appointed as the country’s director general of finance. In that position she worked closely with Finance Minister Trevor Manuel (whom she married in 2008) to strengthen the country’s economy by increasing exports and cutting debt; the two effectively guided South Africa toward a free-market economic model. Ramos held the finance post into 2003.


Since she had devoted most of her career to fiscal policy and economic planning, her move in 2004 to Transnet—an operator of ports and shipping operations, bus and other passenger transit systems, rail systems, and fuel-transport lines—appeared to be an unlikely choice. Given the size of the state-controlled firm, however, with more than 75,000 employees and a near monopoly on transportation within South Africa, the CEO position offered Ramos an opportunity to transform the country’s economy by reorganizing one of its most inefficient and debt-ridden companies. She embarked on a campaign of privatization, with the goal of selling all but Transnet’s core businesses (pipelines, ports, and freight railways). Unions resisted by demanding job guarantees, and strikes in 2006 forced changes in some of Transnet’s restructuring plans. Although Ramos was unable to restructure South Africa Airways (SAA), she strengthened Transnet’s balance sheet by transferring the money-losing SAA division to a different government entity. Ramos gained international notice as Transnet became profitable under her leadership, and Fortune magazine ranked her as one of the most powerful women in international business for four straight years (2004–07).

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