Emina Bajra, a student at the Yale School of Management, had read about South Africa’s townships and about the state of social entrepreneurship in the country. But experiencing it firsthand was different. As part of the University of Cape Town’s module on emerging markets, she traveled with a team that explored how innovative business models were using finance in the field to reach residents living in the townships, where some of the country’s poorest citizens reside.
“It’s not the type of firsthand experience we would have been able to do on our own,” Bajra said. “Immediately I felt like the value of the GNAM week was real and I’m glad that I came to get that kind of perspective… To know their challenges, what business models have been effective, and their perspective. There’s no way that we would have had that kind of entry point without this.”
Nattaporn Siriphanitwatthana, a student at Hitotsubashi University’s Graduate School of International Corporate Strategy, had studied marketing before seeking her MBA, and wanted to explore South Africa’s socially responsible investing models. The experience on the ground was very different than she expected, she said.
“I think people just view Africa like there are so many problems, or that it’s very high inequality, or problems with education,” she said. “When I visited the township, you see it’s not only just that. They live their life in this environment… They’re just human beings who have human needs as well. There is good room for business to come up with solutions here.”
Matthew O’Rourke is blogging this week from the University of Cape Town’s Global Network Week module on emerging markets.