Johannesburg: March 2014

Johannesburg skyline

Understanding Africa’s Growth Challenge

In March, 2014, MBA@UNC students set out to join their classmates, UNC-Chapel Hill faculty and global business leaders in Johannesburg, South Africa, to learn about emerging market development in one of the world’s most unique and conflicted economic regions. Over the course of the three-day immersion, students were taken on a journey through the challenges and opportunities of the African business landscape, immersed themselves in the local culture of South Africa, and had the chance to network and collaborate with classmates from around the world.

Day One: Navigating a Turbulent Market and Building Sustainable Growth

After arriving in Johannesburg, students began their immersion experience with a series of interactive sessions focusing on the past and future of financial markets in Africa. Students heard from Ade Ayeyemi, CEO for Sub-Saharan Africa Citibank, and Raldu Nel, founder and managing director of Blank Canvas International.



Sessions explored the challenges of doing business in a region that is highly unstable and often corrupt, as well as strategies for finding and capitalizing on the tremendous opportunities this burgeoning market presents. Students also participated in a group activity in which they developed long-term solutions for building sustainable business growth in the region.

The day was capped off with a trip to Newtown to visit the SABMiller World of Beer brewery, one of the largest in the world. Learn more about Day One’s activities and speakers here.

Day Two: The Evolution of a Turbulent and Divided Society

The second day of the immersion weekend focused on the challenges and conflicts that have shaken both the economic and social landscape of South Africa throughout the region’s history. Students heard from Murray Cairans, principal tutor at the University of the Witwatersrand, Alex van den Heever, chair of Social Security Systems Administration and Management Studies at the University of the Witwatersrand, and Clive Glaser, associate professor at the University of Witwatersrand. Sessions explored how influencers — such as the AIDS epidemic, lack of water, a vast wealth disparity and decades of apartheid — radically altered South African business, and considered how businesses are capitalizing on the region’s potential.



In the afternoon, students headed to the region of Soweto to immerse themselves in local culture and visit local organizations and landmarks, such as Freedom Square and the Hector Pieterson Memorial & Museum. For most students, the highlight of the visit was interacting with the children at the Soweto Kliptown Youth Foundation. See more about Day Two’s events here.



Day Three: Economic Development and The African Consumer

The final day of the Johannesburg Immersion examined the economic gaps that prevail among South African communities and businesses. Students learned how these gaps present tremendous growth opportunities for emerging entrepreneurs, and heard from Sean Temlett, CIO of iCampus, and Adam Kendall (UNC ’98), principal of McKinsey & Company.

The final session focused on the South African population, who are young, urban and most importantly, mobile. Students learned strategies for connecting with these plugged-in consumers and entering this unique market. Learn more about Day Three here.

Some students continued the immersion experience by participating in the extension to Cape Town.