Approximately 100 students participated in the April 15 panel discussion at the Howard University School of Business. The topic of the day, "Business and Economic Development in South Africa: The Mandela Legacy and the 20th Anniversary of Democracy in South African.
The event was organized by the Howard University School of Business, in conjunction with the Center for Global Business Studies and the Howard University Republic of South Africa Project. Former president of Bennett College Julianne Malveaux moderated the discussion. The panel included former U.S. ambassador to South Africa Donald Gips; musician and activist Hugh Masekela; partner at Nixon Peabody Kendal Tyre; stakeholder relations manager for the Department of Arts and Culture, Ministry in South Africa Zwelibanzi Ndlovu; and third-year doctoral student at the Department of African Studies Phiwo Mnyandu.
After the introductions, each panelist reflected on the changes and challenges of South Africa's development, reconstruction, and economic opportunities in the 20 years of the country's democracy.
Masekela touched on the economic isolation of the period before the country transitioned from apartheid to democracy. Because of apartheid, countries and organizations around the world halted trade with South Africa. In the United States, organizations like the Congressional Black Caucus played a key role in corporate divestment of South African holding, in an effort to force an end to apartheid and segregation.
After apartheid ended in 1994, most sanctions imposed on South Africa by the international community were lifted. "After 1994, I think we freed the business establishment of South Africa that was basically White owned," said Masekela.
Masekela said that to date, people who run the major industries in the country are hanging on to their wealth, refusing to share it with the rural townships. "Nothing has really trickled down to the ordinary, especially African men and women in South Africa," he said. "There is a very small willingness by the business establishment to include the previously disadvantaged communities."
Looking at the country's global stance today, Mnyandu said that South Africans are in a limbo between sadness and hopefulness that the country is still making an effort to improve its economic development.
Christian Boyd, a freshman international business major from Michigan, asked the panelists if Nigeria's economic growth, surpassing South Africa as the largest economy, was a good or bad thing for the African continent. Ndlovu said it was good because it was a positive step for the continent as a whole to create a friendly competition between countries in Africa. "If there is another giant, it gives us a challenge to do more as a country," said Ndlovu.
Boyd was impressed with his response. "I got the gist of it because basically he was saying that this was finally something South Africa needed … someone to compete with in terms of growth and their future," Boyd said
Jaelin White, 18, asked Tyre, who deals with franchise companies, manufacturing, and financial services companies on the African continent, how international companies who come into South Africa conserve the cultural aspect of the country.
Tyre said franchising is just a way of doing business and 90 percent of the companies franchised are South African. Tyre added that the populous of the country gets to decide what product will succeed and what will fail.