The first few weeks of class after spring break have been nonstop, so it’s nice to take a moment to remember the people and businesses we got to know in South Africa.
The country is facing unique challenges, straddling some of the benefits of a developed economy with some of the challenges of an emerging market country. It was incredible to visit the Johannesburg Stock Exchange and to hear about the challenges of maintaining the largest stock exchange in Africa in an environment with load shedding, or scheduled power outages.
We met with financial firms launching new digital banks meant to target low to middle income South Africans — a group that went largely unserved by the formal financial system during the era of apartheid. We learned about a struggling retailer that is trying to rebuild after being overburdened with debt.
Our trip ended in Cape Town, a busy hub with stunning views on the southern coast of the country. It is fitting that our last company visit was Babylonstoren, an expansive farm and vineyard owned by CBS alum Koos Bekker (’84). The massive property also holds a hotel for guests who want to spend several days exploring the land and enjoying the good food and wine.
Based on what we saw that afternoon, Babylonstoren has plenty of services and activities to offer, leaving it with several diverse income streams. After a tasty spread and wine tasting, the head gardener took us on a private tour of the garden. We nibbled on fresh mint, sat on a lawn of chamomile, wet our feet in a fountain and snacked on citrus. All the while, we enjoyed views of the beautiful landscapes of Stellembosch. It was a fantastic way to end the trip. A big thank you to the organizers for planning such an incredible week.
–Jonnelle Marte ’19