A Bridge of Communication at GSB: The Political Economy of Business in Africa

Xi Chen

MBA Candidate '19


In March 2018, four students from the Renmin University of China were invited to attend Global Network Week (GNW), which was held at the Graduate School of Business (GSB) of the University of Cape Town. Global Network Week (GNW) is an initiative of Global Network for Advanced Management (GNAM), an alliance of 32 top business schools around the world. 2018 is also the 20th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and South Africa. The BRICS leaders' meeting will be held in South Africa and the China-Africa Cooperation Forum will be held in China. Therefore, the interaction between China and South Africa in 2018 has special significance. In this special historical context, we have the honor to participate the GNW 2018 Program in Cape Town, which is centered around the theme: "The Political Economy of Doing Business in Africa". 

On Sunday afternoon of March 11th, nearly 40 MBAers from Global Network partner schools gathered at the Graduate School of Business building for the GNW Cape Town networking engagement. Professor Mills Soko opened the event and gave us warm welcome. We introduce ourselves to get to know each other better. Then, the GNW Cape Town program officially started the following day. GNW Cape Town Program consists of two parts: (1) Lectures, (2) Field trips. We not only have a better understanding of South Africa's political, economic and culture, but also give new expectation to the development and cooperation of China-Africa friendship.


During the week, the professors from GSB and businessmen from well-known corporations in South Africa gave lectures about South Africa's political, economic and culture etc. 32 students were divided into four teams to discuss the cases from these lectures. Professor Mills Soko introduced us 54 countries in Africa with different geographical locations, languages, cultures, and resources. He has long been engaged in the South African government’s commercial relations, international trade, and economic diplomacy. Also, he knew something about China’s Guan Xi culture and called it “Similar to Africa”.

The manufacturing sector remains critical to the objectives of South Africa, because evidence from all successful industrialisers demonstrated that manufacturing plays a critical role in ensuring sustainable economic growth. In the lecture of “China’s growing economic presence in Africa’ he said China has developed significant competencies in the area of R&D and innovation, and China’s companies would like to collaborate with their counterparts in South Africa on mutually beneficial projects. China has been South Africa's largest trading partner and major source of investment and tourism for nine years. China’s investment in South Africa has accumulated more than 25 billion US dollars, creating hundreds of thousands of jobs for local people.

Field Trips

Travelling to townships outside of Cape Town has left us unforgettable memories. During one of the township parts, we went to Guguletu, a middle class township of Cape Town, to communicate with local residents,visit local entrepreneurs and know about education issues. 

Education is one of the most important issue that South Africa is concerned about. A country’s economy will not develop well without amount of educated labors, and politics will be the same. Like other regions and countries in the world, the parents of South Africans are also eager to see their children live a good life. Therefore, every family is willing to invest in education. Even if they are poor, parents will use most of their income to allow their children to go to the schools. In order to get the best possible education for their children, some families live in wooden huts and iron sheds and have no running water or indoor toilets. However, the existing government agencies in many low-income regions can provide a low level of education. Part of this problem is caused by budgetary constraints, but there are also issues of administrative management and corruption.We hope South Africa can learn from successful development experiences such as China’s reform and opening up, poverty reduction and development, and combating corruption and advocating clean governance, so as to inject new momentum into the sustainable development of South Africa and Africa.

During the fantastic visit to Cape Town and GSB , we continuously refreshed our understanding of South Africa, of everyone in the team, and of ourselves. We deeply convinced that what we have learned in the GNW with our classmates to be a bridge for both of us and bring the most beautiful memory in MBA’s life. 

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