A little over a month ago the country celebrated its first two decades as a new democracy after 20 million South Africans formed now legendary queues to vote for the very fist time in the country’s first ever national democratic elections held on 27 April 1994. Shortly thereafter Nelson Mandela was elected President and the rest is history. Or is it?
Now the second largest economy on the African continent, there is much to be proud of in the country over the last 20 years and as a nation it has certainly moved from a once isolated and sanctioned state to a globally recognized player. All efforts have been focused on redressing the social and economic injustices of the past and much has been done to integrate and entrench the basic rights of all citizens in the country.
The country still faces tremendous challenges though and is a place where race and politics are never far from boardrooms, sports fields and every day life. Key issues affecting society remain government service delivery, corruption, education, crime, HIV/AIDS, housing and unemployment. Addressing these challenges will take a herculean effort and will require consistent and constructive leadership. Something the country is in dire need of.
This story of transformation and the associated lessons to be learnt can be told through the voices of people from all spheres of society, from government, to boardrooms, to sports people, to religious icons. These are the stories that continue to provide a tremendous source of inspiration for leaders the world over, not least of all an invaluable source of learning for our MBA participants.
The theme of the latest Legacy Ventures’ MBA trip to South Africa centered on leading change in a complex world for which South Africa provides an ideal learning environment given the trnsformation in the country in the post-Apartheid era. The participants explored the challenges and opportunities of doing business in the country with an emphasis on how the private sector is driving an agenda for social and economic development.
The whole week was intense and comprised encounters with leading political figures, business executives and entrepreneurs who shared their stories of social and economic transformation and their business strategies in a troubled post-Apartheid environment. The trip started in Johannesburg with visits to amazing historical local sites such as the Hector Pietersen Apartheid Museum and Nelson Mandela’s house in Soweto and an academic lecture at Gordon Institute of Business and opportunity to network with fellow South African MBAs.
Mid-week the participants flew to beautiful Cape Town and had the once in a lifetime opportunity to meet with Noble prize winner Desmond Tutu and understand more of Mandela’s cherished spirit of Ubuntu (“I am because we are”).
The MBA’s also had the chance to meet with sports leaders such as ex-rugby captain winner Bob Skinstad and learn practical valuable lessons from leading South African executives in top firms like Old Mutual, Anglo-American, Standard Chartered. The trip also included time for the MBA participants to gain a first-hand understanding of local culture and visit award winning social enterprises Streetwires and Monkeybiz and engage with local social entrepreneurs in the township of Khayelithsha.