The past two days have been very full, but we have learned a lot and had a great time! We started out yesterday by going to the Pick n Pay headquarters. Pick n Pay is mainly a grocery store with some other home items. We talked to Suzanne Ackerman there, whose father, Raymond Ackerman started the company many years ago. She discussed the sustainability program, the Small Business Incubator program, and building an ethical company in an unethical society. The practices of Pick n Pay and their employee benefits make them a company of choice, and Suzanne knows what she wants and how to get it.
Following Suzanne’s talk, we heard from Mario Thompson, the founder of Loaded Smoothies. Loaded Smoothies is part of Pick n Pay’s incubator program and Mario is very interested in learning how to break into the United States. Our group shared some of our perspectives and ways that Mario could try to break into our market. Mario’s story was one of persistence and dedication to his company. He was interesting to listen to and seemed to enjoy the ideas we gave him as well!
We had a light lunch at Pick n Pay, and then headed to an African storytelling session. This was so neat! Philippa Kabali-Kagwa told us two traditional stories, and then we were part of the storytelling process. We were split up into healers, poor family, rich family, immigrant family, widows, elders, and chief. Philippa told us the first part of the story where we listened as our characters and then had give our reasons to the chief why no one in the village brought wine to the community gathering. The whole process taught us the importance of community, and following that story we all shared what we appreciated about this trip and the group. It was a great way to end our day before heading to the airport!
We arrived in Johannesburg last night about 9:15 pm, and were up early this morning to start the day! We began by hearing from Stella Nkomo who discussed business leadership in the “new” South Africa after apartheid was abolished. She was an engaging speaker who was very straight-forward about the issues and the necessity for transformational change. She detailed the differences in high context cultures (Africa) and low context cultures (USA) that affect how business is done. This was a very interesting session that kept us all wanting to hear more!
After Stella’s session, Lydia Tanyanyiwa shared her thoughts as an African Leader and woman CEO. She made us think about what our colleagues would say about our leadership styles and how leadership should be moral and ethical no matter what country you are in. She had us participate and was fun to listen to. We gained so much perspective from our two sessions this morning!
After lunch came our favorite part of the day. We went to the African Leadership Academy to eat lunch with and talk to the students. The ALA “seeks to transform Africa by developing a powerful network of 6,000 leaders who will work together to achieve extraordinary social impact.” Most of the students are international and come from other African countries rather than just South Africa. There are currently 200 students studying there split between first and second years. They are all very intelligent, and the majority will go to college in the United States. The ALA is essentially a boarding high school that gives these students incredible opportunities. One of the guys I talked to today is starting at Skidmore in the fall, and another will be applying to several schools including UNC. We have some African Leadership Academy students currently at UNC, and many become Morehead-Cain or Robertson scholars, two of our most prestigious academic scholarships. Also, a teacher now at the ALA is a graduate of Kenan-Flagler’s BSBA program and knew several of our professors. We thoroughly enjoyed speaking with the students and getting to know them and hear their stories.
We ended our day by going to the Apartheid museum. We were able to see and read about some of the injustices and affects of apartheid that we have been hearing about. Also, there was a special exhibit about Nelson Mandela that was truly interesting and inspiring. We had a wonderful day and the pace has definitely picked up now that we are in Jo’burg! We have a busy day tomorrow that starts bright and early! Sorry for not posting pictures, but the wifi does not seem to connect to my phone, and I am going to wait until I return home to load all of my pictures on my computer (I have been emailing certain ones to myself to post).