My recent trip to South Africa saw my personal and professional worlds collide in a way I had not intended. After much indecisiveness, I determined at the eleventh hour to make the forty-eight-hour roundtrip from Washington D.C. to Cape Town. I was headed home for the first time in over six months to first, hug my dog, and second, graduate from the University of Cape Town’s Graduate School of Business (UCT GSB) with a Master of Business Administration.
Since I was headed to the region, we seized the opportunity to check-in with our five South African member schools. As a recent GBSN recruit, and recent MBA scholar, I was able to get a lay of the b-school land with fresh eyes. Somewhat, because it would be unnatural not to have a healthy degree of bias in favor of my alma mater, and simultaneously a reasonable amount of management studies fatigue. ‘College rivalry’ was definitely reciprocal as I was quizzed on a couple of occasions why I had not chosen their school for my academic journey. It did give me just a little satisfaction as a newly minted graduate, and employee of the Global Business School Network, to happily retort on one occasion: “because you rejected my application.” But I digress.
My slightly bruised ego pales in comparison to the woes facing my beloved rainbow nation. With unemployment at 29 percent in the second quarter of 2019, and 38.5 percent by the expanded definition which includes people who have stopped looking for work, South Africa’s economy is on the precipice. These wicked problems require all, including our local business schools to constantly evaluate and respond to the challenge.
During my visit in Stellenbosch, the business school hosted a Financial Inclusion and Sustainable Growth winter school co-led by Laval University and the University of Groningen. The program, focused on low-income African economies and explored how financial inclusion can induce sustainable growth. Meanwhile, Henley Business School Africa was excited to release its white paper on the future of work in South Africa, finding one in three engage in the ‘Side Hustle’ economy. Wits Business School too has increased its offerings in the ‘future of work’ space with its array of programs in Digital Business, while the Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS) had just launched its new online Business and Management Development Program. In recent weeks UCT GSB became the first African school to win Gold in the EFMD Global Excellence in Practice Awards in the Professional Development category. Since 2014, the Masterclass in Strategic Client Management Program has graduated nearly 400 delegates from 17 African countries. Additionally, the school’s involvement with The Embedding Project, a global sustainability initiative co-hosted with the Beedie School of Business was recognized as one of the “champions of change” in the AACSB 2019 Innovations That Inspire challenge.
International collaboration aside, I could not help but come away from my engagements thinking the local ecosystem could do with a good dose of ‘Ubuntu’––the philosophy that “I am because you are.” Each school expressed a yearning for deeper collaboration between them. More considered, thoughtful, and intentional collective activity is incumbent on us all and surely the key to a more scalable impact.
Rob Vember is a Senior Advisor, Communications and Membership at the Global Business School Network. Rob is a multi-award-winning broadcaster who has worked for some of South Africa’s most iconic media brands across radio and television, putting his undergraduate degree in Journalism & Media Studies, and Political Studies to good use. From covering current affairs, to interviewing Hollywood stars, and introducing rock stars, Rob’s journey has been anything but ordinary. In 2018 Rob decided it was time for a new challenge and enrolled in the full-time MBA program at the University of Cape Town’s Graduate School of Business. He recently graduated in July of 2019. Rob is keenly focused on intercultural communications and focused his MBA dissertation on how Multinational Corporations use business diplomacy to mitigate the liability of foreignness in host countries.