MBA@UNC Global Immersion: Johannesburg 2017 - Day One

MBA@UNC Global Immersions are offered four times a year as unique opportunities for students to travel to major domestic and international business destinations with their fellow classmates, participate in engaging discussions with their professors and elite industry leaders, as well as apply what they have learned to real-life problems.

MBA@UNC students recently had the chance to experience the complex business environment, political landscape, and culture of South Africa through the Johannesburg global immersion.

Dr. Thandi

The immersion kicked off with an empowering session presented by Dr. Thandi Ndlovu, CEO of Motheo Construction Group. Born in Soweto, an underdeveloped township in Johannesburg, Dr. Thandi was directly impacted by the uprising in 1976. She was forced to abandon her Bachelor of Science (BSc) degree as a direct result of the oppression that followed. After several active years in politics and health in the armed wing of the African National Congress, a group co-founded by Nelson Mandela, Dr. Thandi enrolled with the University of Zambia, completing a BSc (Human Biology) and MBchB degrees. Upon returning to South Africa after the un-banning of political movements and the return of exiles, she ran a private medical practice in Orange Farm, an informal settlement South of Johannesburg, for five years. Dr Thandi was the Sole Private Practitioner, and delivered medical services covering a population of over 200 000 people.

However, what began as simply a hobby turned into a passion and a responsibility to supply the people of South Africa with better living conditions, to encourage a higher standard of healthcare. Dr. Thandi sold off her thriving private practice in order to launch the Motheo Construction Group, which started by building quality low-income housing. Over its current 20 year history, Motheo has become the leading provider of Social Housing in the country, building over 80,000 homes and counting.  One of Motheo’s key focus areas is the development of young talent and today boasts six black female shareholders who hold in excess of 54% of the company’s shares.

Dr. Thandi shared one of the keys to her success with the students: her 10 L’s. Law, Lead, Learn, Leverage, Listen, Look, Love, Lean In, Live, and Leave a Legacy. She left the group with one of her personal mantras that helped her achieve such great heights of entrepreneurial success: “To experience each day as if it were my last, knowing that nothing is impossible if you put your mind to it. To make a difference in the lives of those less fortunate than I am. To touch each soul that I encounter as I journey through life with compassion, dignity, humility and respect – in the full knowledge that – irrespective of our circumstances – we are all made in the image of God.”

Sean Temlett

Next, students learned about the economic development of South Africa from Sean Temlett, CIO of iCampus; specialising in innovation and entrepreneurial strategy. He has taught innovation and strategy at several business schools including Duke Fuqua and CE, University of Oslo, the University of Cape Town. Temlett detailed to students some overarching themes about South Africa by showing the biggest paradox of the country: South Africa’s economy is small, but interesting.

In exploring the economic paradox, students learned that the South African economy is about the size of North Carolina! Most of the inhabitants are poor, but have good access to smart phones. They also mostly have access to the internet, although the broadband is very slow. Since the infrastructure isn’t in place to manage power, water, and internet to all people in the country, an interesting sharing economy has emerged. The people are creatively entrepreneurial and very trusting and trustworthy. This allows them to work together to solve problems in uniquely African ways.

Temlett also explained how the countries of the world were compared on a number of metrics compiled by the World Economic Forum, called the Global Competitiveness Index. The countries were then clustered into similar groups. Using these clusters to understand how South Africa compares to other developed and underdeveloped countries, Temlett showed how SA is on the rising cusp of large economies with huge future potential, along with other countries like Brazil, Russia, China, and India.


After lunch, students rounded out the day session with an activity led by UNC Kenan-Flagler Professor Rolf Hoffmann. They were divided into groups and researched individual countries in Africa. They then had to prepare their most compelling reason why an investor should invest their capital into their represented country and present a short pitch to the large group of students.

Apartheid Museum

For the evening event, students had the chance to visit the Apartheid Museum, which illustrated apartheid and the 20th century history of South Africa.