Posts tagged south africa

and speaking of gems…

this is a really really good use of lawyers!

Finally, someone is sticking it to DeBeers. After all those years of exploiting miners and overcharging customers, people are at least realizing what Putzes they were to pay so much for diamonds. The really cool thing would be if all the people who win settlements decide to give their money to miners in Africa.

We didn’t visit any mining companies while we were there, but I was really curious to learn about diamond mining today, to see if it’s gotten any better. One source told me they have a strong union and earn at least minimum wage. But then, labor rights are strong all over South Africa now, not just in mining. The problem is, there aren’t enough jobs, because unions and BBBEE scare off all the MNC’s that normally come along and build factories in developing countries. South Africa has much higher minimum wages than most developing countries. Partly because it’s really quite developed, but also because they might not have been thinking about global competitiveness when apartheid ended and these laws were written.

The most heartbreaking thing I heard about mining was the prices the prostitutes charge, because there are so many women with few alternatives. 25cents with a condom, $2 without. And we’re not talking about some massive exchange rate like in Zimbabwe. Garment workers earn about $2 per hour in SA, so I’m sure miners earn more than that. How many times have any of us spent an hour’s wages, or less, on coffee? lunch? It kills me that these women are forced to devalue themselves so much, having to go for high volume to compensate for such horrendously low margins.

the overview..

because I’m busy being lazy and doing as much of nothing as I can before I start work =:-O tomorrow, I give you this link….

Johannesburg Vs. Cape Town

Cape Town felt like some European city, not the least bit like Africa. I had so much fun walking all over town, shopping, meeting people. It was gorgeous. Johannesburg, on the other hand is a giant sprawling metropolis which is strictly business. I’m giving it another chance, though. I’ll be spending the next couple days looking for my people here- the artists and freaks. They’re certainly not in Sandton City, the tourist/business enclave where we’re currently safely ensconced. It’s like being in West LA. Right next to a mall. Nice if you want a completely sterile experience.

Today we toured Soweto, the largest township. On a giant tourbus. I was one of tourists. It was deeply disturbing. But our tour guide was a local and gave us some great info. Like how the citizens take care of crime themselves, and are far harsher than the pathetic criminal justice system, so crime is actually very low in Soweto. Desmond Tutu and Winnie Mandela still live in their old hood. There’s quite an interesting mix of housing there, as people make enough money to build up their homes, they do so.

We drove through an area that looked a lot like the area in my dream on April 11, where I’d dreamt I was staying with friends. In my dream there were black and white people living together, and a couple of the locals I talked to said that some whites have moved into Soweto, and are welcomed. It seems the black people I’ve talked to here are eager to move beyond racial divides.

We also went to the Apartheid Museum, which was fascinating. It showed the entire history of apartheid, so you left on a fairly high note, seeing the work that was done to end it, and bring about the truly democratic election. South Africa has reportedly the most kick-ass constitution in the world- They didn’t have that on display, but did have the bill of rights, and it was a tall order for any government.

Dinner was cool, we went to the restaurant at the birthplace of humanity. It’s like the restaurant at the end of the universe, but a shorter drive and much more chic and tasteful. Stunning decor. Great food, gorgeous starry night sky. A bunch of rocks in little display cases, which were supposed to be old tools, but they didn’t look like much. I was hoping to see ms. Lucy herself. We got there too late to see the site, just went straight to dinner. I’m looking forward to getting out on my own and seeing the rest of the city. Here’s some smokestacks from SAB. More about that trip tomorrow.

Company Visits

Our first company visit was Pik n Pay, which is about as popular here as Wal MArt is in the states, and much nicer. We had a presentation from the founders’ daughter, who drove their recent re-branding, and told us all about the great things they’re doing for the community and the environment. If only Wal-Mart would help disadvantaged entrepreneurs build their businesses and therefore create more ownership and employment, then they’d be as cool as Pik n Pay. Afterwards, Ariyah, Chanel, Tom and I went to the one in the mall nearby and were really impressed. Here’s Ariyah greeting the manager.

The next day, after another morning of classes, and a fun brainstorming session with some up-and-coming entrepreneurs, we visited Investec, a swanky investment bank. I liked it because they don’t orchestrate mergers & acquisitions, which means they’re not evil, like so many other i-banks. Also their patio has a great view of the highway to nowhere.

University of Cape Town

On Tuesday and Wednesday we had classes at UCT’s Graduate School of Business. It’s in an old prison, and our teacher said they “imprison your body so they can free your mind.” It’s right near the waterfront, which is what Fisherman’s wharf would be if it were melded with a really cool mall like San Francisco Centre.

The classes were great, we learned a lot about apartheid and about what’s changed in the 14 years since it ended. Most of the professors were white, but one was mixed race and had survived unspeakable horrors as a kid. Of the many tremendous pearls of wisdom he left us with, I am kinda stuck on the explanation of his last name, which is April.

He said that because interracial friendships, and of course parenting, were illegal, children of interracial parents couldn’t be given either parent’s surname, as it would indemnify them. So they were named for the month in which they were born. His surname was April, and he mentioned the phone book was full of people with month names. Here’s a whole page of Septembers. I met one today, too, and told her how happy I was to meet her, and that is one law I am very glad to see was broken by so many people. It only proves that you can’t stop love.

South Africa is Awesome!

Been too busy to write. more later….

Here’s a bunch of MBA students relaxing after a hard day of learning about doing business in South Africa. This was at one of the many great restaurants in Cape Town which we visited. Our days have been jam-packed with activities…

Monday: We arrive in Cape Town after a ridiculous amount of time spent on airplanes. My 14 hour leg went fairly quickly, as I had a very interesting seat mate, and couldn’t stretch out to sleep anyway. She’s with a group of Master’s students too, only they all work in the defense industry and were on their way to study post-conflict recovery areas. It was fascinating, and at the same time kinda frightening.

This picture was taken at Cubana, a really fun restaurant/lounge/nightclub down the street from our hotel. It was quite a scene, and a bit of a sports bar for women, as the tv’s were all showing Fashion TV. South Africa is big on fashion and has its own vibrant fashion industry which I’m doing my best to support! I found this really cool store/label- “Democratic Republic” that’s all made in Cape Town, and really cool, high-quality stuff. There’s even a chain of Fashion TV nightclubs, like how ESPN has ESPNZone. More about that later.