What an introduction to Africa! We are three days into our Seminar in International Business trip to South Africa, and already, starting in Jo’burg, we have met with McKinsey’s managing director for Sub-Saharan Africa, senior executives from one of the four largest South African banks, a finance executive from South Africa’s largest private health insurer, Ahmed Kathrada, one of the leading anti-apartheid leaders (imprisoned on Robben Island with Mandela), and the finance and advisory leaders from the International Finance Corporation. Yesterday, we met with EPI-USE, a leading SAP technology partner, founded by a UC Berkeley PhD, and discussed a range of issues with their principals: the skills shortage in South Africa, international growth strategies, and entrepreneurship in general. We also met up with fellow Haas students, doing their IBD with LoveLife, South Africa’s only HIV/AIDS prevention program targeted at youth. It’s been a whirlwind so far, and we still have a week and half left on the trip. I am particularly grateful to my 19 EWMBA colleagues on the trip with me, who are asking the questions that I wish I had thought of.
(We were honored to have a chance to meet Ahmed Kathrada at the Apartheid Museum.)
We ended the day yesterday with a visit to Soweto, a large township in Jo’burg. Dinner there has been a highlight of the visit, filled with traditional African food, songs in pretty much all of South Africa’s 11 languages (so it seems), and dancing. The restaurant was a model of the rainbow nation, and a great introduction to the cultural nuances of South Africa (mandatory education for anyone considering entering the South African market). Business has never been so fun!