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Musa Capital’s Namibia Mid-Cap Fund Acquires Swanib Cables, Enabling Transformation for the Namibian Economy

Musa Capital SWANIB

Namibia Mid-Cap Fund Acquires Swanib Cables, Enabling Transformation for the Namibian Economy

Swanib Cables, a distributor of electric cables, transformers and fibre optic cables to the Namibian mining, utilities / infrastructure and telecom sectors has been a market leader over the past 20 years. It boasts a robust customer base which includes multi-national mining operations, national and regional government, as well as Namibian blue-chip companies.

The Namibian Mid-Cap Fund (“NMCF”) completed its acquisition of 100% of the shareholding in Swanib Cables from Powertech International Holdings, part of the JSE listed Altron Group.

The Swanib acquisition was made with the intention to grow the organisation into a regional diversified distribution platform through a combination of organic and bolt-on acquisitive growth. The acquisition is aligned with the Namibian Government and the Government Institutions Pensions Fund’s (“GIPF”) policy goals of infrastructure investment to drive economic growth, job creation, as well as meaningful economic transformation and participation.

The Transaction is expected to provide broader benefits to the Namibian economy, which include: 1) localising shareholding from a South African JSE-listed shareholder to Namibian beneficiaries and incentivising empowerment partners to grow the value of the business, and 2) empowering locals, including previously disadvantaged Namibians, through meaningful equity participation and Namibian job creation.

Musa Capital Namibia (“MCN”) is the Fund Manager for the Namibian Mid-Cap Fund, and a subsidiary of Johannesburg based firm, Musa Group (“MG”).  MG is a diversified operating company with financial advisory and fund management capabilities that has been operating in Africa for 22 years.  NMCF is Musa Group’s third African private equity fund.

NMCF is a Namfisa registered investment vehicle, organized as a Trust in Namibia for the purpose of making quasi-equity and equity investments in private Namibian companies.  MCN primarily targets investments into existing businesses requiring expansion capital in the following priority sectors: agribusiness, consumer related industries, financial services, logistics, and light infrastructure. The Fund’s focus on middle market companies drives small and medium enterprise(“SME”) development, which in turn positions each investment to have the maximum transformational impact for the Namibian economy.

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Musa Group Transformation Partnership In Retail 

Musa Group RetailMusa Group (“Musa”) is an investment holding company, that has FMCG, Housing and Construction, Retail Financial Services, as well as an Investment Banking and Private Equity division, all under its group umbrella. While much of Musa’s investment banking work is on larger, transformative transactions, Musa’s other activities are targeted at transforming middle market businesses within our target segments.

In recent times, the notion of social entrepreneurship has become more prevalent in business. Musa has instilled this into their core business strategies, understanding that the long term value of “giving back” whilst conducting business proves far more beneficial to the overall outcome of an organization’s success, than having a focus on the profit motive alone.

The Harvard Business Review (January-February 2011), touched on some vital points relating to the concept of “Creating Shared Value.”

“The concept of shared value recognizes that societal needs, not just conventional economic needs, define markets and social harms can create internal costs for firms…. The concept, which focuses on the connections between societal and economic progress—has the power to unleash the next wave of global growth.” 

The article further states that, “Instead of considering it as the redistributing of a company’s already achieved value, shared value refers, rather, to expanding the total pool of economic and social value,” so as to yield opportunity for prosperity to all parties.

Applying this view to the African landscape, more specifically with respect to the retail sphere, emerging retail owners are faced with severe challenges to be manoeuvred around. The evolving challenges often require innovative thought and co-dependent solution execution. These challenges vary from restricted access to capital, to lack of collateral for securing funding, to the paucity of know-how and to a lack of supplier network.

Musa bases its core ethos on “doing good and doing well” in the eco-systems in which it operates. Consistently looking to diversify its community engagement and stakeholder development, Musa has taken note of the necessity to establish joint ventures aimed at addressing the fundamental needs of entrepreneurs. This has been performed through impactful programmes and tools, all of which address ground level challenges hindering the development of broad-based black economic empowerment (“BBBEE”) beneficiaries. One such ground-breaking instrument is the formalization of an Empowerment Development Programme (“EDP”) between Musa and one of Africa’s largest retail networks. The EDP is centred around the ideology of creating a substantial presence of previously disadvantaged retail store owners and supply chain participants. The EDP espouses the objectives of the South African National Development Plan, which aims to eliminate poverty and reduce inequality by 2030.

The programme is focused on acquiring a core group of retail stores with a proven track record and experienced owner-operators who are willing to diversify their personal investments, whilst retaining operational control. This structure is focused on store sustainability and maximising return on investment.

The objective of the programme is to utilise the identified stores as a training ground for the development of entrepreneurs, as they receive formal education, as well as in-store practical training through mentorship from established owner-operators of participating stores. A further aim of the EDP is to create opportunities for successful retailer candidates to acquire equity participation in companies or close corporations that own retail stores. The core of the programme is to broaden and accelerate transformation through targeted human capital development.

Musa envisages numerous achievements from this project, primarily, the development, acceleration and retention of previously disadvantaged retailer candidates who will become independent store owners in the future. Surprisingly, ownership levels in this basic stepping stone of entrepreneurship is extremely low, with less than 5% of owners within this network of stores being from the economically previously disadvantaged segment of the population – along with home ownership, franchising is a major source of early economic activity for wealth creation in emerging segments of any population. In addition to spurring entrepreneurship, there will be improved succession planning through structured personal development programmes within the current ownership structure of stores. This project will also assist in facilitating the transfer of critical skills and competencies from existing successful retailers, through structured mentorship and coaching. True skills development has evaded many of South Africa’s industries and pairing successful entrepreneurs with future aspirants in a hands-on approach portends to deliver more efficacy and more lasting results.

The fundamental growth of our people, our country and our continent depends invariably, on our ability to recognise and pursue opportunities which harness socio-economic advancement. Musa is attempting to rise to the challenge that is being posed to business – that of tackling the social and economic realities prevalent in South Africa, through creative solutions, ultimately driving greater growth in our economy and ameliorating the effects of history that are displaying themselves in a myriad of ways, most visibly captured in South Africa’s shamefully world-leading disparity (as measured by the GINI coefficient). Musa believes that only through creative solutions can the business actively play its role in solving this problem.

“Business cannot succeed in societies that fail. Likewise, where and when business is stifled, societies fail to thrive” 

Bjorn Stigson World Business Council for Sustainable Business (WBCSB)

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Musa Group’s Strategic Transformation Partnership in Retail 

Musa Group RetailMusa Group (“Musa”) is an investment holding company, that has FMCG, Housing and Construction, Retail Financial Services, as well as an Investment Banking and Private Equity division, all under its group umbrella. While much of Musa’s investment banking work is on larger, transformative transactions, Musa’s other activities are targeted at transforming middle market businesses within our target segments.

In recent times, the notion of social entrepreneurship has become more prevalent in business. Musa has instilled this into their core business strategies, understanding that the long term value of “giving back” whilst conducting business proves far more beneficial to the overall outcome of an organization’s success, than having a focus on the profit motive alone.

The Harvard Business Review (January-February 2011), touched on some vital points relating to the concept of “Creating Shared Value.”

“The concept of shared value recognizes that societal needs, not just conventional economic needs, define markets and social harms can create internal costs for firms…. The concept, which focuses on the connections between societal and economic progress—has the power to unleash the next wave of global growth.” 

The article further states that, “Instead of considering it as the redistributing of a company’s already achieved value, shared value refers, rather, to expanding the total pool of economic and social value,” so as to yield opportunity for prosperity to all parties.

Applying this view to the African landscape, more specifically with respect to the retail sphere, emerging retail owners are faced with severe challenges to be manoeuvred around. The evolving challenges often require innovative thought and co-dependent solution execution. These challenges vary from restricted access to capital, to lack of collateral for securing funding, to the paucity of know-how and to a lack of supplier network.

Musa bases its core ethos on “doing good and doing well” in the eco-systems in which it operates. Consistently looking to diversify its community engagement and stakeholder development, Musa has taken note of the necessity to establish joint ventures aimed at addressing the fundamental needs of entrepreneurs. This has been performed through impactful programmes and tools, all of which address ground level challenges hindering the development of broad-based black economic empowerment (“BBBEE”) beneficiaries. One such ground-breaking instrument is the formalization of an Empowerment Development Programme (“EDP”) between Musa and one of Africa’s largest retail networks. The EDP is centred around the ideology of creating a substantial presence of previously disadvantaged retail store owners and supply chain participants. The EDP espouses the objectives of the South African National Development Plan, which aims to eliminate poverty and reduce inequality by 2030.

The programme is focused on acquiring a core group of retail stores with a proven track record and experienced owner-operators who are willing to diversify their personal investments, whilst retaining operational control. This structure is focused on store sustainability and maximising return on investment.

The objective of the programme is to utilise the identified stores as a training ground for the development of entrepreneurs, as they receive formal education, as well as in-store practical training through mentorship from established owner-operators of participating stores. A further aim of the EDP is to create opportunities for successful retailer candidates to acquire equity participation in companies or close corporations that own retail stores. The core of the programme is to broaden and accelerate transformation through targeted human capital development.

Musa envisages numerous achievements from this project, primarily, the development, acceleration and retention of previously disadvantaged retailer candidates who will become independent store owners in the future. Surprisingly, ownership levels in this basic stepping stone of entrepreneurship is extremely low, with less than 5% of owners within this network of stores being from the economically previously disadvantaged segment of the population – along with home ownership, franchising is a major source of early economic activity for wealth creation in emerging segments of any population. In addition to spurring entrepreneurship, there will be improved succession planning through structured personal development programmes within the current ownership structure of stores. This project will also assist in facilitating the transfer of critical skills and competencies from existing successful retailers, through structured mentorship and coaching. True skills development has evaded many of South Africa’s industries and pairing successful entrepreneurs with future aspirants in a hands-on approach portends to deliver more efficacy and more lasting results.

The fundamental growth of our people, our country and our continent depends invariably, on our ability to recognise and pursue opportunities which harness socio-economic advancement. Musa is attempting to rise to the challenge that is being posed to business – that of tackling the social and economic realities prevalent in South Africa, through creative solutions, ultimately driving greater growth in our economy and ameliorating the effects of history that are displaying themselves in a myriad of ways, most visibly captured in South Africa’s shamefully world-leading disparity (as measured by the GINI coefficient). Musa believes that only through creative solutions can the business actively play its role in solving this problem.

“Business cannot succeed in societies that fail. Likewise, where and when business is stifled, societies fail to thrive” 

Bjorn Stigson World Business Council for Sustainable Business (WBCSB)

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Musa Group AVCA Interview with Will Jimerson and Richard Akwei

 

Musa Group Musa Capital

Q: William, what was your background prior to co-founding Musa Group, and what prompted you to start a business in South Africa at such a pivotal time in the country’s history?

A: I co-founded Musa Capital with my partners, Antoine Johnson, and Meredith Marshall in 1995. Whilst completing my undergraduate degree in engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, I interned at Microsoft, NYNEX Corporation, and Digital. I also worked on Wall Street prior to launching Musa Capital. My partners and I felt deeply that we could make a positive contribution to Africa which was at an extraordinary time in its development.Musa Group

Q: Richard, please tell us a bit about your professional background.

A: I started my career with J.P. Morgan, spending 16 years in investment banking positions in Latin America and Africa. I transitioned to principal investing in 2004 when I joined The Rohatyn Group, an emerging market fund manager based in New York. I have known the founders since 1995 and joined the Group in 2012 shortly after moving to South Africa.

Q: Tell us about the evolution of Musa Group. What makes you different from your peers? Do you consider yourself an impact investor?

A: Musa Capital started with Fund I which had US$30mn and was focused on financial services and telecommunications investments across Sub-Saharan Africa. As the fundraising market was difficult following the exit of Fund I, we decided to make direct investments with the carried interest and also developed a broader advisory platform.We launched Fund II in 2008 with US$80mn and continued making investments leveraging the consumer theme. Moreover, we realised that these types of companies required a more direct investment model to sustain their rapid growth. In 2015, a large African institutional shareholder acquired a 30% stake in the newly constituted Musa Group, with Musa Capital holding 70%. Musa Group now consists of a fund management group, operating companies in the food, housing and retail financial services sectors, and an investment banking group. Our structure has evolved to enable us meet our core objective of “doing well and doing good” in Africa, while being cognisant of the investment opportunities that are present, the needs of the underlying businesses and the broader fundraising market. Management believes that the firm is well-positioned to take advantage of Africa’s attractive investment themes regardless of the structure of the opportunity.

Musa Group

Q: Musa is currently raising capital to invest in Botswana, Namibia and Tanzania. Why develop a country strategy now?

A: We decided to focus on these countries because they have similar development challenges to South Africa, so we felt we could successfully apply the expertise we had gained from investing in South Africa. Furthermore, it was important to focus on countries where pension fund managers had shown commitment to investing in PE, and these three countries fit that criteria. Each country fund will target mid-cap businesses, with typical investment sizes of between US$3mn and US$8mn (in local currency). A co-investment facility, domiciled in Mauritius, will provide global investors with exposure to each of the country funds.

Q: Given your experience investing in the mid-market in Sub-Saharan Africa, what are your key value creation levers? What is your philosophy when it comes to social impact?

A: Many mid-sized businesses cannot afford a well-trained risk manager or finance director. However, they still need strategic direction, not just in the board room, but also in the c-suite. Sometimes, you just have to “roll up your sleeves” and meet the CEO every other day, on issues such as the product range, cost efficiencies and containment, or leakages. The challenge is to instil a good governance model without stifling entrepreneurial spirit. Our ethos is to “do good and do well” which means feeding, housing and educating people, and giving them access to decent healthcare and financial services. In 2010, through Fund II, we invested in Matlapeng Housing, which builds and manages good-quality rental stock for low to middle income housing in South Africa. If the needs of people are met, we will always do well financially.

Q: Has Africa’s recent economic slowdown meant for a more challenging environment?

A: Our presence in South Africa for over 21 years has given us insight into a number of cycles within the market and we have always found success. With depressed asset prices, investors are able to deploy capital at more attractive prices. With depressed asset prices, investors are able to deploy capital at more attractive levels. We actively seek out opportunities within the education, food, healthcare and residential real estate sectors, where there is a clear need due to a lack of high-quality supply.

Q: Given your longevity in the African PE industry, what developments have you witnessed over the years and what are your expectations for the future?

A: The African PE market has significantly evolved from the early 90s. The industry was originally dominated by New York or London-based fund managers, which over time established regional offices. Those players still exist and have become household names like Actis, Emerging Capital Partners and Helios; however, they have been joined by a growing number of indigenous African fund managers. Similarly, while the initial commitments were largely DFI-based, the investor pool has widened to include commercial investors such as fund of funds, global and regional pension funds, family offices and global impact investors. Like most nascent markets, first-mover advantage is rewarded, and much of the value creation in those initial transactions came from finding and building “hidden gems.” In the current market, improving operational performance and governance are as, or more important, as finding “hidden gems.” We believe that the current trends will continue, and that African pension funds will play a significantly more visible role in the future.

Q: Taking the long-term view, is this a good time to invest in Africa?

A: There has never been a better time in the past 21 years. This is partly because African pension funds are now more enthusiastic about investing locally. The only problem posed, is that there is a lack of product for them to invest in. Now it is up to us and other investment managers to prove that their enthusiasm is well-placed.

Read PDF version here http://www.avca-africa.org/media/1514/avca-member-interview-musa-group_final.pdf

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“Private Equity Will Flourish Where Strategic Investors Won’t Go”

William Jimerson, “private equity will flourish where strategic investors won’t go”.

William Jimerson at SuperReturn Africa 2015, at the Mövenpick Ambassador in Accra.

Musa Group Corporate Essentials Feature

Watch Musa Group CEO, Will Jimerson talk  entrepreneurship‬, ‪the importance of impacting lives‬ when doing business, and success‬, all fundamental focus areas for the Musa Group.
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Why Millennials Should Look Into Entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurship - The road less travelled

Entrepreneurship – The road less travelled

As is reflected in South Africa’s alarming level of youth unemployment, one of the biggest challenges facing Millennials is finding a job. With the need to create more new employers and more opportunities for others, should Millennials be following the path to entrepreneurship?

ACCORDING to the 2014 GLOBAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP MONITOR (GEM) SOUTH AFRICA REPORT, 7.0% of the adult population in South Africa is engaged in entrepreneurship, while 2.7% already own or manage an established business. It also reveals that for every 10 adult males engaged in entrepreneurship there are eight females.
From this report we also learn that the typical South African entrepreneur is male, between the ages of 25 and 44, lives in an urban area, is involved in the retail and wholesale sector, and has a secondary or tertiary level of education.

Based on the report’s findings, it is safe to say that South Africa needs more male and female Millennials (born between the early 1980s and early 2000s) to consider starting businesses. The reason for this is that the biggest challenge this group faces is finding jobs and/or opportunities, hence the alarming level of youth unemployment.

Education plays a significant role in starting a new business and Millennials, unlike generations before, have more access to education. Moreover, Millennials are tech savvy and possess IT skills that are a must have for any business start-up. Currently, 28% of South Africans start businesses because they do not have another option for work – they are known as ‘necessity entrepreneurs’.

In this day and age, we need to create more new employers that will create more job opportunities for others. The challenge begins after graduation when the majority of graduates opt to seek employment instead of starting a business. Some graduates even settle for career paths different from their field of academic study, while others eventually give up and end up sitting at home. Our society is in dire need of ‘opportunity entrepreneurs’ who can identify an opportunity to start a growing business that, in return, will create employment for others.

The majority of Millennials are risk takers and dream chasers, willing to make mistakes and learn from them. A generation that has been constantly overcoming obstacles and has gained tremendous amounts of bravery, boldness and confidence growing up. This generation is distinctive and open minded. Millennials believe in lifelong self-development and growth. A wealth of information is available at the Entrepreneurs Growth Centre (0861 SMEFIN) for this purpose.

Millennials are also entering into what THE FUTURE OF ENTREPRENEURSHIP: MILLENNIALS AND BOOMERS CHART THE COURSE FOR 2020 REPORT refers to as the traditional ‘peak age’ bracket – around 40 – for entrepreneurship.

Millennials are resilient, assertive go-getters and fall into the 35.5% of adults in South Africa who identify good opportunities to start businesses. This compared to 25.4% of adults who are prevented from starting businesses because of fear of failure.

A prosperous future for Millennials in entrepreneurship begins with establishing a locally desirable idea, ensuring it is clear and simple for people to understand, it is relevant and provides a needed service or product, and that they identify mentorship from knowledgeable and supportive people. It is of utmost importance to maintain focus on acquiring and maintaining customers by fulfilling on a promise to provide a quality product at a value proposition. Following this mantra will allow the entrepreneur to do good for the community in which they operate while doing well (making financial, social and emotional profit) for themselves.

http://www.sabusinessintegrator.co.za/viewonline/196/company-news/why-millennials-should-look-into-entrepreneurship

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Musa Group Launched as Founding Firm, Musa Capital, Celebrates 20 Years of Growth

Musa Group Announcement

Boutique advisory and private equity firm adds shareholders and operational entities to increase its capacity to make a social impact

Musa Group Launched

Musa Group Launched

After 20 years of successful financial advisory and private equity activity in Africa, creating both wealth and value for communities at the base of the pyramid through impact investment, boutique firm Musa Capital has added capacity by institutionalising itself through the acquisition of commercial and industrial operations and taking on new shareholders.

The resultant Musa Group is now a diversified trading and operating company with products and services in areas key to the transformation of South Africa and the rest of sub-Saharan Africa: Housing, manufacturing, retail finance, fast moving consumer goods (FMCG), and agriculture. The Group retains its original private equity and financial advisory divisions.
Its operating divisions are former investee companies of the Musa Kubu Fund in which Musa Capital directors played pivotal roles at board level in structuring the companies for growth by delivering essential products and services to grass roots communities.

“Our close association with these companies gives us confidence in their ability to deliver further value to us as the Musa Group and to society as a whole,” says Musa Group CEO, Will Jimerson, one of the founders and directors of Musa Capital. “We bought them out of the Fund because of their close fit with our future strategy.”
Management has a stake in the new Musa Group and other shareholders include BEE groupings and large investment institutions.

“Our Group mission is to develop Africa through inspired leadership – by growing businesses that provide relevant products and services made in Africa, for Africans, by Africans,” Jimerson says. “We have, therefore, involved ourselves with shareholders who have the same mission and will support our actualisation of it.

Musa’s track record In the past 20 years includes investments in Ecobank, UBA in Nigeria, and Sonatel in Senegal, all in the mid and late 1990s. One of the Group’s operating companies has a track record of feeding over 1.2 million school children a day throughout South Africa. Another division has been responsible for building over 3 000 middle income housing units for mining industry employees in the Northern Cape.

“In the past two decades we’ve proved just how much can be achieved with high levels of innovation and comparatively few resources,” Jimerson says. “Having additional skills on board now, via our operating divisions, enables us to scale significantly the transformational effect of our entrepreneurialism. In addition, with the institutional backing of our shareholders along with the company’s larger organisational footprint, we’ve broadened our access to project capital. “All of which positions us to improve the quality of life for at least 5 million Africans within the next five years.”

The Musa Group is made up of four divisions. The FinServe Group provides, among other retail financial services, insurance and pension-backed housing loans.
The Skyward Group, which is the country’s only manufacturer of uPVC windows and doors, provides low cost housing as well as the finance for people to rent to buy the houses it builds.
The AFH Group, which owns a number of Spar retail outlets in KwaZulu-Natal, has established an integrated value chain that incorporates products from small scale farmers in the delivery of fresh produce to Spar outlets around the country.
Musa Capital will carry forward the company’s original and rapidly expanding advisory and private equity business.

Lumkile Mondi, former chief economist of the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC), is non-executive chairman of the Musa Group.

Musa Capital Sponsored Bakubung Student Excels At M.I.T

sibongile-magagula-at-m-i-t

Musa-Capital-sponsored-Sibongile-Magagula-

South Africa’s export-driven economy is highly dependent on good road and air transportation, so the country’s government recently sent 30 fast-rising transport managers, mostly in their 30s and 40s, to MIT for a specially developed five-day professional education programme. What was also special about these managers was that most of them had grown up in disadvantaged communities with limited educational, social, and employment opportunities under the apartheid era. They brought with them a passion for learning and an infectious collegial spirit, and they became an inspiration for their MIT Professional Education faculty, making the summer week in Cambridge a transformative experience for all involved.Professor Joel Schindall, director of the MIT Engineering Leadership Program, and Blade Kotelly, lecturer in the same program, taught several sessions on design thinking and innovation.

“This group, more than any I’ve worked with, was so open, so excited,” said Kotelly. “They had such a strong desire to learn, and to modify the way their organizations operate, and they were very quick to realize that you can innovate on any level, even the smallest thing, and make a difference.”After a day of classroom work on design principles, Kotelly gave the students MBTA subway passes, and sent them on an evening photo scavenger hunt. “I asked them to find examples of good and bad design — door handles, turnstiles, street signs,” he says. “They took photos and shared them via Twitter; the next morning we went through and talked about what made them good or bad in various contexts.”

“That exercise gave our students the opportunity to immediately engage with the excellent transportation system in Cambridge in absolute safety and security,” notes Hazel Bagley, strategic business development manager at the Regenesys Business School in Johannesburg, which oversees the educational program on behalf of South Africa’s Transport Education and Training Authority. “That alone led to new insights; consciously scanning your surroundings gives a completely fresh perspective.”Student Sibongili Magagula, a senior logistics controller, commented on how Boston and Cambridge have put “so much effort into encouraging walking and cycling, and catering to old and disabled people. Adapting some of these features will help solve some of the challenges we face in South Africa.”Classmate Virginiah Hlungwani, who works as an operations and technical assistant, said the program experience “has added a value in my life, it expanded my knowledge and taught me to handle challenges in any environment. After the course I felt in my spirit that I have gained self-confidence.”

Professor Schindall, commenting on his experience, said, “From the moment I walked into the classroom and met the students, the program was inspiring. The students were engaged, active, participative, thoughtful, and wonderfully supportive of each other. If I had to pick a single word, I would say they were a delight to work with.”The program’s content, which also included operations management, was developed over an eight-month period by Tish Miller, MIT Professional Education’s director of academic programs, in consultation with Bagley. Together they ensured that the material would have immediate and lasting value for the students, who were selected on criteria including managerial experience (3-5 years), employment in operations or supply chain management, and identification as strong candidates for senior management roles in the near future.“I’ve worked on many programs at MIT over the years,” says Miller. “What made this collaboration stand out was the level of gratitude both the participants and the faculty had for each other. Both groups shared how much they were learning from each other and appreciated working together. It made for a very fulfilling experience for all.”The program, MIT Professional Education’s first with South Africa, came about as a result of the unit’s strategic objective of creating greater engagement with professionals from the world’s major emerging economies. Executive director Bhaskar Pant, who was himself born in one of South Africa’s neighboring countries, Zambia, noted, “There is hunger in rapidly developing economies for the kind of expertise MIT can provide, and it is so satisfying when you witness such joyful participation and adoption of learning as we saw in this program. We look forward to organizing more such mission-centric endeavors in the future.”

Schindall praised the program’s mission of developing the skills of workers from disadvantaged communities who have demonstrated initiative, leadership skills, and potential in the workforce. “I think it’s well-conceived and hope it will be enormously successful,” he says. While no firm plans are in place yet, Regenesys and MIT Professional Education are in discussions about additional offerings down the road.Whitehead Institute Professor Hazel Sive, founding director of the MIT–South Africa program and herself a South African, gave a brief talk at a program reception, and noted how the interaction there exemplified the two-way value of working with practitioners from around the globe. “Making connections between MIT and South African colleagues through this type of exchange is clearly to our mutual benefit,” she said.

A post-program note to Pant, Bagley, and Regenesys director William Vivian offered a summary of the student perspective. “We learned about mind and hand but equally we were encouraged to be ourselves and we were heard,” they wrote. “We were heard when we asked questions, we were heard when we sang and danced. Not once did we experience anything but unconditional acceptance of who we truly are, and that is MIT’s trump card. When you are accepted in this way you … open your mind to accepting ideas and ways of doing things that you might never have thought of before.”

Picture:Sibongile Magagula at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T)