By Santiago Hoyos, Global MBA 2013-2014, Colombia
Our trip to Cape Town started with two very long flights and a layover in Dubai. We finally landed at 11:40 am and were directly taken to our accommodation called Bellavista Lodge, very comfortable, and where the Stellenbosch University staff welcomed up with some snacks and drinks. After just one hour of rest we took off to Tabletop Mountain, the number one must do in Cape Town, it was definitely worth it! Beautiful views, spectacular weather, and magnificent scenery built up the energy to make this place very powerful and mind blowing. Not only did we get the opportunity to have a bird’s eye view of this gorgeous city, but also we started to get a glimpse of the social reality of this intriguing culture. After taking the cable car down we ventured to the Waterfront, a nice buzzing place full of locals where we had a tasty and soulful dinner.
The following Monday was when things really got started with a lecture at 8:30 AM with our wonderful host Johan Burger, who introduced us to the business climate of the country, followed by a lecture on economic trends and issues faced by the Republic of South Africa. Learning about a “first world country with third world country problems,” as Johan described South Africa, was fascinating. On one hand, South Africa is one of Africa’s biggest economies (currently in competition with Nigeria for #1); on the other it has significant structural unemployment of around 25%. This lecture gave us a better perspective on the opportunities and challenges facing South Africa’s development. That afternoon we were exposed to a major player in the construction sector called Power Construction, where we learned about the ins and outs of business, as well as the actions being taken to provide adequate housing to the thousands of people in the so-called “South African poverty trap.” To finish the day, we attended one of many welcoming dinners, where we had the chance to learn more about the people and food, which is a must-try here.
Tuesday began with a lecture from Mr. Sithole about the current political context of the country, touching on hot topics such as the electoral system and the corruption problems currently afflicting the nation. Later in the morning we went to the Department of Coffee in the “township” of Kayalitsa, one of the many marginalized neighborhoods of Cape Town, where people struggle continuously to earn enough each day to live on. This was a very emotional experience, as we heard from an entrepreneur about his experiences about what he has had to do for his business to survive for over a year in a difficult environment for his business model. For lunch we went to Kayas Coffee in this same township and had the chance to more local cuisine. In the afternoon we went back to the classroom where the directors of Engen, the South African leader in oil and fuel distribution, visited us.
This was an intense, back-to-back trip with magnificent experiences that helped us open our minds and acquire new knowledge about doing business in other cultures, which will help us later develop business between countries.
To be continued…