Our first company visit in South Africa, to Brand South Africa, was the perfect introduction to the country. Brand South Africa was founded by the government to manage the country’s reputation, with the goal of maintaining a positive and compelling image for the nation (similar to the “Incredible India” campaign.) Its mission is two-fold: internally, to instill pride and hope for the future in South Africans, and externally, to encourage trade and investment with foreign nations. Our meeting offered an excellent overview of the country’s competitiveness on a range of issues, from financial market development and ease of doing business (on which South Africa ranks highly versus other nations) to health and the labor market (where it ranks far below most other nations.) We came away with a better understanding of not only South Africa relative to other nations – but with some great swag, below, to sport proudly on our way out.
After a great lunch, shown above, we made our way to FirstRand, one of the largest financial institutions in the country – and whose CEO is one of the most compelling speakers I’ve ever seen. The firm has branches across Africa, India, and the U.K., and prides itself on its owner-manager culture (which the firm credits for its impressive track record and growth.) After the financial crisis, when many lost their jobs, FirstRand was one of the sole firms to hire exceptional talent and increase capital expenditure. After the meeting, we stayed for snacks and conversation with CBS alumni, and made sure to take a group shot with the CBS flag.