Media Release

Africa 4IR

What can Africa contribute to the Fourth Industrial Revolution?

USB News

What can Africa contribute to the Fourth Industrial Revolution?

Africa 4IR

  • September 21
  • Tags Press release, Leadership, 4IR, Africa

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By Prof Martin Butler

The science fiction writer William Gibson remarked that “the future is already here – it is just not evenly distributed”. This is certainly true for the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR).

The First Industrial Revolution explains this perfectly. Even though certain communities and, to an extent, certain countries across the world did not know about the existence of the steam engine and industrialisation in Britain 250 years ago, it transformed the lives of thousands and then millions as it spread globally. That which was unique to parts of Britain in 1770, was well recognised and part of the new normal in 1860 in the developed world.

Fast forward to the Third Industrial Revolution (TIR) and some of the most innovative uses of mobile technologies take place on the African continent. Mobile money is one area where we lead the world in using technologies intrinsic to the TIR. When the World Bank needed the skills to head up mobile payments, they recruited a South African that cut his teeth in Kenya.

Although steam and railways (First Industrial Revolution), mechanisation (Second Industrial Revolution), and computing and automation (TIR) shaped the African content, we remained primarily consumers of the technologies developed in other places. Africa either adapted or implemented the technology owned by global organisations or continue to purchase the products and artefacts. For example, we do not design vehicles or mobile phones at a mass scale. Still, we will create factories to manufacture under licencing, or purchase the products arriving in our harbours.

Three of the industries bucking the trend are telecommunications, financial services and agriculture. Some companies and products in these industries are entirely home-grown, and large organisations that are significant players in these industries have partially transformed the image of the lagging continent as African innovations and role players are starting to shape the transactional environment.

The 4IR, often confused with the third that is all about computers and automation, is blurring the line between the physical and the digital. The omnipresence of technology, as well as significant advances in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, is transforming the work that can be performed by, and how we interact with, technology. This cyber-physical world is different from automation in many respects.

This transformation challenges the essence of humanity, our values and beliefs, and most importantly, how systems react in certain situations. Products of the TIR, like drones and computers, responded to inputs from their human masters. Products of the 4IR, like self-driving cars and autonomous weapons systems, react based on their ability to make sense of their environments by using complex logic that continues to evolve. However, at the core of their reactions is complex patterns devised by humans, or at least the methods in which this complex logic evolves.

…we could, and should, play an essential part in the complex ecosystems that allow this blurring of the physical and the digital.

I do not think African companies will become global role-players in developing automated vehicles or autonomous weapons systems. I do believe that we could, and should, play an essential part in the complex ecosystems that allow this blurring of the physical and the digital. Africa can contribute to the 4IR not by resisting the inevitable distribution of the future brought by the 4IR, but by actively seeking to address some of the biggest remaining problems to ensure universal value for all industries, communities, and citizens of her countries.

Facial recognition systems that dispatch a drone to arrest a criminal on Interpol’s most-wanted list, must not embed past biases in the recognition and decision-making process. Autonomous vehicle and weapons systems must have access to ethical frameworks and moral judgements to make the correct decisions. Capacity development initiatives for humans working shoulder-to-mechanical-shoulder with automated manufacturing lines, or with AI algorithms in financial services, must have the capacity to do so.

The question is often asked about the destruction of employment in the face of automation and the 4IR in particular. Our research indicates that total employment is not reduced; it just shifts as the economy restructures. Rather than asking about the number of workers that will be displaced by technologies, we need to ask how we capacitate our workers to exploit the many new opportunities created by the 4IR. Why can we not be proactive and lead the world in devising methods and models to reskill our workforce for the newly structured economy?

Yes, Africa will not necessarily create the artefacts or entire ecosystems of the 4IR. Still, I think we have a critical role to play in contributing to the reasoning and algorithms embedded in the systems. We also have an important contribution to make in defining and setting examples of building human capacities to exploit and use the new world unlocked by these systems.

…we can make a significant contribution towards long-term value from the 4IR by forming part of the critical conversations and implementations and reskilling of the workforce.

Business, in essence, remains relatively simple: create value for customers through the execution of operations. As new customer value is created, and operations are transformed by investments in 4IR technologies, we need to become part of the conversation about creating equitable value for all customers and providing skilled resources to execute operations that deliver the required value.

Although Africa will not necessarily produce the hardware and software at the centre of the 4IR, we can make a significant contribution towards long-term value from the 4IR by forming part of the critical conversations and implementations and reskilling of the workforce.

*

Prof Martin Butler is Head of Teaching and Learning at the University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB) in Cape Town, South Africa. He is also a Research Associate at the Institute for Futures Research (IFR). He holds an Electronic Engineering degree from the University of Pretoria, and an MBA (Cum Laude) and PhD from USB.

**

Butler was the presenter at a USB Alumni Webinar facilitated by the Ghana Chapter of the USB Alumni Association on Friday, 28 August 2020, where he addressed the above topic.

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USB student following class via blended learning delivery on her laptop

Blended Learning at USB – all programmes offered via this format from 2021

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Blended Learning at USB – all programmes offered via this format from 2021

USB student following class via blended learning delivery on her laptop
(Source: Artem Podrez)

  • September 21
  • Tags Our news, blended learning, postgraduate studies, teaching and learning

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The University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB) has developed a multitude of ways for students to keep learning and progressing through these unprecedented times and will also now be offering all its academic programmes via the Blended Learning format from 2021.

What is Blended Learning?
Blended learning is another form of part-time learning that combines e-learning technology and methods with traditional classroom learning practices to create a hybrid way of learning. This means that students can choose to attend the class on campus or via any internet-linked device from anywhere in the world. The online option is delivered synchronously with the on-campus option.

Those who follow the classes via the Blended Learning format can also ask questions and interact with the class. Thus, whether a student are logging in from home just around the corner of the USB campus, or joining from another continent, they will still enjoy the high level of interaction with lecturers while acquiring the crucial business skills needed to lead responsibly in uncertain times.

Blended Learning at USB
USB has been investing in advanced technology and perfecting its methodologies since 2015 to ensure that its Blended Learning experience is cutting edge, personalised and that students get the best education possible – however they decide to learn.

“USB’s lecturers have been trained to deliver a world-class virtual learning experience and currently there are online learning conventions happening to ensure that the Blended Learning format provides an optimal experience for USB students,” says Prof Martin Butler, head of Teaching and Learning at the business school.

“Online classes have been designed by learning experts for delivery via various multimedia platforms. We are using technology to take the teaching and learning to the student,” he says. 

Benefits of Blended Learning
The Blended Learning experience at is immersive, inclusive and highly interactive. Advantages of this format include:

  • Study while you work, which means minimum time away from work.
  • Reduced travel cost because you can log in remotely from anywhere in the world; and
  • Apply learning immediately as students opting for programmes offered in blended learning format can immediately apply their newly acquired skills in their workplace.

Kyle Loff, a current student doing his MBA via blended learning, says the Blended Learning option of study caught his eye immediately, “and the benefits of limited time off from work appealed to me,” he says.

He adds: “Studying part-time takes its toll on you when you have a demanding job, and that’s where time management comes in. The Blended Learning format is convenient for those that want to build new skills and have minimal impact on their working and family life. I believe there’s more balance to it.”

Apply now
It is now more important than ever to keep learning. Find the perfect USB Blended Learning programme for you today.

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SBA participant in front of one of her classic cars that she restores

SBA particpant’s classic car restorations offer keys to tackle rural poverty

USB News

SBA particpant’s classic car restorations offer keys to tackle rural poverty

SBA participant in front of one of her classic cars that she restores

  • September 21
  • Tags Press release, Women in business, Small Business Academy

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Inspired by a TV show on restoring vintage cars and with R2 000 in her pocket to buy a rusted 1947 Pontiac, Nosipho Kholutsoane saw a road out of poverty and an opportunity to develop industry and skills in the remote rural town of Mount Fletcher in the Eastern Cape.

Five years later, Mrs Kholutsoane, 39, employs four people in her business Lereku Trading Classic Cars, has a customer base of vintage car enthusiasts from all over the world, and is currently completing the Small Business Academy (SBA) programme presented by the University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB).

She was one of 19 small business owners sponsored by the Joe Gqabi Economic Development Agency (JoGEDA) to participate in the programme aimed at empowering entrepreneurs to grow sustainable businesses in the Eastern Cape’s northernmost district. The mostly rural Joe Gqabi district includes Aliwal North, Barkly East, Burgersdorp, Maclear, Steynsburg and Ugie.

Previously involved in the construction industry, Mrs Kholutsoane now combs the dirt roads and farms of the area in search of disused classic cars dating from the 1930s to the 1970s, buying and restoring them to their former glory and marketing them around the globe via social media.

She has taken on commissions from all over South Africa from owners of old cars in need of restoration, and also hires out her restored vehicles for special events and photo shoots, as well as participating in classic car shows all over the country to promote her business.

“My team and I have a passion and a love for these classic old cars.  Reconstructing them and restoring them to an excellent standard and value for money, brings joy to us and our customers who get to drive a unique vehicle and feel like a king or a queen,” Mrs Kholutsoane said.

The mother of four sees her business as a way to develop skills in the youth of the impoverished, underdeveloped area, and build a future for her schoolgoing children.

Mount Fletcher, with a population of about 11 000, is deep in the rural Eastern Cape – 40km west of the Lesotho border and the nearest urban centre, Mthatha, is 170km away, making it an unlikely spot for a vintage car restoration business.

But the  location has a strategic advantage, says Mrs Kholutsoane, in that Mount Fletcher is on the R56, the shortest route between KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape, gaining international customers for her business as tourists travelling from Durban to Cape Town stop to take a look at the remarkable sight of classic cars being worked on “in the middle of nowhere”.

Competing against established classic car restorers and custom outfits in Johannesburg, Pretoria and Mossel Bay, she says the SBA programme  has inspired her and equipped her with the skills to “put Mount Fletcher on the map of classic car restorers in South Africa”.

“The Small Business Academy has made a big difference to my business and opened my mind to opportunities to grow the business and market it better. I didn’t understand profit and loss before, but now I can track whether business is growing or going down – and the best part is that I can see that the business IS currently growing.

“I can also see now how many more people I can employ, how I can spread skills to more young people and create job opportunities,” she said.

The SBA programme has also helped her to map and plan for future needs such as a proper workshop under cover and a much-needed chroming machine for restoring bumpers and metalwork.

This was the fourth year of the JoGEDA partnership with the USB Small Business Academy to bring their development programme – specifically designed for historically disadvantaged entrepreneurs in low-income areas – to the district and sponsor participation by selected local entrepreneurs.

JoGEDA chief executive Ayanda Gqoboka said that results for the more than 60 businesses that have now been through the programme had been “outstanding” in enabling entrepreneurs to structure, focus and plan for their businesses.

He said that empowering small businesses to move out of survivalist mode and become sustainable engines of economic growth and employment creation was part of JoGEDA’S strategy to diversify economic activity in the district, unlock the potential for growth in sectors such as agro-processing and manufacturing, and create local employment opportunities that would retain young people in the district.

SBA head Dr Marietjie Theron-Wepener said the programme was developed, and first rolled out in the townships of Cape Town, in response to the high failure rate of small businesses, and she was delighted with the positive results seen in its extension to the Eastern Cape.

“Our vision is to make a difference in the lives and businesses of small business owners in low-income communities, building sustainability and eventually supporting them in such a way that they can play a vital role in alleviating poverty by creating employment,” she said.

 

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gwo 2023

USB to host Gender, Work, and Organization (GWO) Conference in 2023

USB News

USB to host Gender, Work, and Organization (GWO) Conference in 2023

gwo 2023
Business people working in high-end modern office

  • September 14
  • Tags Press release, Women in business, Leadership, diversity, inclusion, gender

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The University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB) has been selected from a competitive round of applications received from around the globe, to host the Gender, Work and Organization (GWO) Conference in 2023.

The GWO provides an international forum for debate and analysis of contemporary matters affecting gender studies specifically related to the workplace.

With the theme Marginalized gender identities, Prof Anita Bosch, USB Research Chair of Women at Work will be the lead convenor together with Faith Ngunjiri from the Concordia College in the USA; Nasima Carrim from the University of Pretoria; and Ameeta Jaga from the University of Cape Town.

Prof Bosch said hosting the conference in 2023 will be a first for Africa and a major achievement given the significant positioning of the GWO in global business scholarship.

“USB is ideally placed to take the lead as host institution with our expertise in workplace gender studies and offers us the opportunity to showcase the high calibre of international scientific and scholarly pursuits on the African continent.

“We are extremely proud that USB has been recognised as a partner to the GWO which further strengthens the business school and Stellenbosch University’s international scientific standing.”

Attracting around 500 people from around the world, the conference convenes for interdisciplinary scholarly exchange. The conference evolved in recent years from the Gender, Work & Organization Journal, launched in 1994 and the first journal to provide an arena dedicated to debate and analysis of gender relations, the organisation of gender and the gendering of organisations. It is one of the top journals for explicitly feminist work in organisation studies. The recently released 2019 Impact Factor emphasised this with an increase to 3.101 and a position as the number one title in the ‘Women’s Studies’ Web of Science subject category.

Although initially bi-annually, the conference will be hosted annually from 2021. For 2021, University of Kent in the UK will be the host, followed by the Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Universidad Cooperativa de Colombia and the Universidad Santo Tomás, Bogotá, in Colombia in 2022.

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2020 women's report south africa

Could #BlackGirlMagic be the secret recipe for success in SA workplaces?

USB News

Could #BlackGirlMagic be the secret recipe for success in SA workplaces?

2020 women's report south africa

  • August 25
  • Tags Women’s Month, Black Women Excellence, Gender equality

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Black African women who bring their #BlackGirlMagic and ubuntu management style to the South African workplace provide leadership that is more culturally relevant to transformed and diverse organisations and leads to better business performance.

Businesses that understand these women’s impact, and tailor their leadership development and mentorship programmes accordingly, can “capitalise on ubuntu-infused leadership and Black Girl Magic” to build an organisational culture geared to greater employee engagement, productivity, and profitability, says University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB) lecturer Dr Phumzile Mmope.

In the 2020 Women’s Report, in association with the South African Board for People Practices (SABPP), released during Women’s Month, she says that while the concept of ubuntu is rooted in African traditional philosophy and #BlackGirlMagic is a modern-day movement stemming from social media, the two are linked by values of solidarity, unity, inclusion and a focus on relationships and collective well-being.

“When deployed by leaders these qualities can create more humane workplaces and engaged workforces,” she said.

In her article #BlackGirlMagic – does it have a place in the workplace? in the 10th anniversary edition of the report, themed The rise of the black woman: Celebrating black women’s excellence, Dr Mmope said that research on women and leadership in the African context was limited and that leadership training and development in South Africa remained mainly Eurocentric.

“But the concept of ubuntu-based management, specifically in the context of its application by black African women through #BlackGirlMagic, provides a foundation for leadership development that is more contextually and culturally relevant in transformed and diverse South African organisations.”

Dr Mmope said while increasing numbers of black African women were rising to leadership positions in business, they often had to adapt their behaviour to “the norms in organisations historically dominated by white male leadership” to assimilate and as a coping strategy against discrimination and stereotyping.

…there is a surge of professional black African women who are positively embracing their authentic self and influencing and reshaping organisational cultures with their practise of ubuntu values…

“More recently, however, there is a surge of professional black African women who are positively embracing their authentic self and influencing and reshaping organisational cultures with their practise of ubuntu values and their embracing of the #BlackGirlMagic movement that celebrates black women’s success and resilience and gives them a collective voice.”

“Black Girl Magic is an affirming phenomenon that resonates deeply and amplifies the traits that professional black women embrace when they practise leadership that is shaped by ubuntu values,” she said.

Professional black women who identify with the #BlackGirlMagic movement share their stories of success and encourage others, and attribute their leadership traits such as resilience, accomplishments and triumph over adversity to their #BlackGirlMagic.

Black Girl Magic could be a powerful force in the South African workplace, because its power lies in uniting and establishing a collective voice among black African women leaders…

“Black Girl Magic could be a powerful force in the South African workplace, because its power lies in uniting and establishing a collective voice among black African women leaders who are all striving for the same thing — to challenge the status quo and create humane workplaces.  In reality, black African women should be supported to reach their full potential through community, while they, simultaneously, protect each other from the world that often views them as ‘others’,” she said.

Studies on black African women leaders found that they employed ubuntu-style leadership and employee engagement, focusing on achieving goals through collaborative problem-solving and collective action, building unity and authentic relationships in the workplace, and seeing leadership positions as more about making a difference in the lives of others, including personal goals¹.

Dr Mmope said that rekindling humanness, or the spirit of ubuntu, in the workplace could “perhaps be considered one of the most significant contributions of professional black African women to organisations to improve the effectiveness of leaders and thus enhance organisational performance”.

The authentic relationships resulting from genuine ubuntu-infused leadership remind leaders that people are human beings, not just human ‘doings’ for the achievement of organisational goals.

“The authentic relationships resulting from genuine ubuntu-infused leadership remind leaders that people are human beings, not just human ‘doings’ for the achievement of organisational goals. People want to experience a sense of community, a sense of belonging,” Dr Mmope said.

She said the value of understanding ubuntu from a practical management and leadership perspective – the ethical aspect and the notions of interconnectedness, being part of a collective, making decisions with a view to both individual and collective well-being – lay in the ability to develop organisations “where people enthusiastically align themselves with organisational goals without feeling the need to sacrifice their own individual goals”.

Similarly, the power of #BlackGirlMagic lies in uniting black women and giving them a collective voice, fostering a spirit of solidarity, and encouraging and inspiring others to persevere despite the odds.

Leaders who practise these principles of ubuntu and Black Girl Magic connect employees, promote team spirit and enhance employees’ involvement in their work.

“Leaders who practise these principles of ubuntu and Black Girl Magic connect employees, promote team spirit and enhance employees’ involvement in their work. Employees experience a sense of meaning, significance, inspiration and pride in their work, and that in turn translates into improved organisational performance,” Dr Mmope said.

Dr Mmope’s recommendations for organisations to capitalise on the power of #BlackGirlMagic include contextualised leadership development and mentorship programmes that foster a welcoming environment for professional black women to apply their ubuntu-driven leadership style and be their authentic selves rather than having to assume behaviours and identities to cope with discrimination.

Training and development opportunities should focus more on using existing studies on ubuntu as a management concept, to ensure that these programmes are culturally and contextually relevant in the South African business environment.

 

About the Women’s Report

The 2020 Women’s Report focuses on the rise of the black woman: Celebrating black women’s excellence. The report is compiled in association with the South African Board for People Practices (SABPP) and sponsored by the University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB). The Report is available to download from www.womensreport.africa


¹Ngunjiri, F.W. (2016).  “I am because we are”: Exploring women’s leadership under ubuntu worldview.  Advances in Developing Human Resources, 18(2) 223-242. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/301275349_I_Am_Because_We_Are_Exploring_Womens_Leadership_Under_Ubuntu_Worldview

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Rightsizing the Goldilocks dilemma

Rightsizing: the ‘Goldilocks dilemma’ for business under COVID-19 pressure

USB News

Rightsizing: the ‘Goldilocks dilemma’ for business under COVID-19 pressure

Rightsizing the Goldilocks dilemma
Credit: Alexis Fotos, Pexel

  • July 30
  • Tags Press release, Importance of rightsizing, Coronavirus

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Downsizing may present a short-term solution to survival for businesses under the pressures of the coronavirus pandemic, but rightsizing – checking the relevance of value propositions, repurposing resources and filling gaps in customer needs – should not be overlooked as a route to longer-term sustainability.

“We all know the fairytale where Goldilocks is faced with three steaming bowls of porridge – they all looked appetising but on closer inspection, one proved to be too hot, one too cold and only one was just right.

For business, these challenging times call for creative solutions to cost and relationship management… – Sonja Cilliers

“For business, these challenging times call for creative solutions to cost and relationship management that are neither too hot or hastily imposed, nor too cool and distanced from the customer, but just the right size,” says University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB) managerial accounting senior lecturer Sonja Cilliers.

“There cannot be a blanket assumption that business will return to normal post-coronavirus, and without strategic thinking and planning, a real danger exists that short-term solutions to alleviate the pressure cooker of the present may negatively impact medium- to long-range decision making,” she warned.

Business survival top of mind globally
Business survival is top of mind worldwide, with daily announcements of leading companies in trouble – multi-national corporations such as car rental giant Hertz, $18-billion in debt, and retail chain JCPenney ($4.2-billion debt) filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the USA in May alone. Locally Edcon filed for business rescue in April, with revenue losses of R2-billion, Comair followed in May (R3.4-billion in debt), and Massmart announced earlier this month that up to 1 800 employees in its Game stores could be retrenched.

Challenges facing organisations
The challenges are clear in the second Stats SA survey of the impact of COVID-19 on business, published in mid-May, indicating that 9% of the 2 182 businesses surveyed across various sectors had already closed down permanently by 30 April, almost half had “paused trading” in under Level 5 lockdown in April and 30% said they would not survive a month without any turnover.

Although the follow-up survey  published at the end of June showed that pressure had eased slightly under lockdown level 4, mounting cash flow problems still appeared to threaten survival, with only a third of businesses confident that they had the financial resources to continue operating through the pandemic, said Cilliers.

“If the issues faced are of temporary nature and the company finds itself in a position in which it cannot meet its financial obligations, then a process such as business rescue may be a viable option.

“For those companies that have some leeway in terms of cash management and therefore the luxury of time to plan, it would be sensible to consider two aspects: First, to deal with the immediate threat to continued operations and, second, critical analysis of the sustainability of the business model and the continued relevance of the value proposition to the customer.”

While an application for business rescue or bankruptcy protection doesn’t mean a company will necessarily be liquidated, and corporations such as General Motors and Delta Airlines have regained profitability after bankruptcy reorganisations, she said, “the challenge in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic is to determine whether the business model followed by a company is still valid”.

…where possible, organisations should aim towards a rightsizing rather than a downsizing orientation. – Sonja Cilliers

She said cost-cutting measures to deal with immediate cash flow problems should be done with a clear view to the direction in which the company is headed, and “where possible, organisations should aim towards a rightsizing rather than a downsizing orientation”.

Call for creative solutions
“Rightsizing requires that resources be repurposed to where the needs gap is manifesting currently. It may very well be that rightsizing the organisation may lead to increased activity in certain aspects of the business, for example products that fulfill basic needs of customers may see an increase in demand in these times.  The challenge then becomes how to repurpose resources, which may range from redeployment of the workforce to the reorganisation of a production plant,” Cilliers said.

She pointed to the example of US supermarket group Whole Foods which has turned some of its physical store locations into “dark stores”, repurposing them into semi-warehouses for online order fulfilment to meet a massive increase in demand for grocery deliveries and curbside collections as customers seek physical distancing.

“The customer needs gap is filled while also providing the store with a greater margin of control over the current bottlenecks and delays suffered by delivery services,” Cilliers said.

She added that relationship management throughout the value chain will be a critical success factor to ensure the survival not only of the company, but the entire value proposition to the end user.

The loss of key supply partners “may prove to be as catastrophic to the business as is the loss of customers”, she said, pointing to the Stats SA survey1 which indicated that 53% of businesses had been unable to obtain the materials and supplies required to continue operations.

The pandemic environment means companies will have to revise forecasts and adjust budgets on a rolling basis… – Sonja Cilliers

The pandemic environment means companies will have to revise forecasts and adjust budgets on a rolling basis, even though assumptions about future revenue that underlie budgeting are particularly challenging with customer spending patterns impacted by decreased income, changing needs and physical impediments to purchasing.

“Revenue assumptions drive production or service costs and in many cases, these costs are fixed over the short term. Even where costs are seemingly locked in, managers will have to think about renegotiating terms, repurposing and rescaling activities.  If businesses can access their relationship capital without resorting to a formalised business rescue exercise, they may be able to garner a larger amount of control and flexibility as to the way forward,” Cilliers concluded.

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Carrots and Sticks USB news

Substantial increase in sustainability reporting regulations around the world, new report finds

USB News

Substantial increase in sustainability reporting regulations around the world, new report finds

Carrots and Sticks USB news

  • JUL 22
  • Tags Report, Sustainability, Policymakers, Insights, Sustainable Development Goals

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Upward trajectory for ESG disclosure requirements

A new report assessing the regulatory landscape for sustainability reporting has found that environmental, social and governance (ESG) disclosure has never been more pervasive globally – and is now firmly in the mainstream of disclosure on organisational performance. As the market implications of certain ESG topics become more evident, interest in the quality of disclosures is also sharpening.

The fifth edition of Carrots & Sticks (C&S) provides an analysis of the latest trends in reporting provisions, covering 614 reporting requirements and resources (a substantial increase on the 383 assessed in the previous report in 2016) across over 80 countries, including the world’s 60 largest economies. A new addition in 2020 is insights and context gathered through interviews with policymakers, who give their views on good practices in phasing in ESG disclosure requirements.

Carrots & Sticks is an initiative of the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) and the University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB), with contributions by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

Key findings of C&S 2020 include:

  • As a global list of key material topics for our planet, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have become a global reference for sustainability reporting policy. While explicit reference to the SDGs in disclosure requirements remain limited, they are often implied through the themes addressed. Links to responsible business, employment, and accountable institutions (SDGs 12, 16 and 8) are widespread. Reference to public health and education (SDGs 3 and 4) is low, something anticipated to change following the COVID-19
  • Europe continues to drive the ESG disclosure agenda, accounting for 245 reporting instruments, while the Asian markets (174) are increasingly active. North America has a low number of reporting provisions (47), a fact that in part reflects the lower number of national jurisdictions in North America. At country level, higher numbers of reporting provisions, including reporting requirements and resources, was found in countries such as the UK, Spain, USA, Canada, Brazil, Colombia, Japan, China, India, as well as South Africa.
  • Most reporting provisions are issued by governmental bodies, rising by 74% since 2016 to almost 400, while engagement by financial market regulators including centrals banks has also grown significantly. Provisions targeting the private sector, and in particular large and listed companies, account for around 90% of the C&S 2020 listing. Provisions that apply to SMEs and the public sector are largely unchanged since the previous C&S stock take of 2016.
  • Alignment in the sustainability reporting field is still falling short, with greater collaboration needed between standard setters, reporters, information users, regulators and policymakers, to streamline requirements and improve the quality of disclosure. Related to the reliability of data disclosed, the overview by C&S 2020 illustrates that agreement on the preferred disclosure venue or format, for example a certain type of report or other, is still lacking.

Dr Cornis van der Lugt, Senior Lecturer Extraordinaire at the USB, said: “Stock exchange and central banks are becoming more active in pursuing non-financial reporting requirements. This shows how the economic and market implications of diverse ESG topics are becoming more evident. The obvious example is climate-related disclosures. After 2020, the systemic implications of public health and infrastructure weaknesses is likely to receive more attention as well.

“The regulatory landscape both reflects and drives perceptions of what are key material themes. Related is the question of target audience, one also heavily debated in South Africa. The landscape continues to display confusion about where best to disclose information and who is supposed to be using different types of information,” he said.

Peter Paul van de Wijs, GRI Chief External Affairs Officer, says that as the pandemic focuses the attention of policymakers on how to achieve resilient and climate-friendly economies, the importance of measuring the impacts of companies and encouraging sustainable practices increases.

“It is positive therefore that both the range and depth of ESG reporting provisions around the world has grown substantially. Yet questions remain on how to address gaps, particularly in the context of the SDGs, and improve coordination to support more consistent disclosure. To address this twin challenge – spreading the practice of disclosure and driving up the quality – needs strengthened reporting requirements, for which GRI will play an enabling role,” he said.

Download the full report here

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Grief during covid-19

Society is grieving: How can we make meaning of it?

USB News

Society is grieving: How can we make meaning of it?

Grief during covid-19

  • JUN 17
  • Tags Opinion, Society, Meaning, COVID-19, Values, Emotions, Pandemic

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This opinion piece was written by Prof Arnold Smit, Associate Professor of Business in Society at USB, and was used as an exclusive on Fin24.

In a gripping poem, Warsan Shire[i] narrates how, one night, she was sitting with an atlas on her lap with her fingers running across the world while she whispers the question, “where does it hurt”. In return, the atlas answered “everywhere, everywhere, everywhere”.

Since discovering Shire’s poem I used it as a lens on people’s experience of the current context we are in. Not a day goes by without an update on the statistics of the Coronavirus sweeping wildly through countries, communities and households. Nor can we avoid the scenes playing out in hospitals, the mourning of the bereaved and the preparation of graves for what is yet to come. Where does it hurt? Everywhere.

Exactly two weeks after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, I used it to open an online workshop on values. Not only did this group of men and women associate the poem with the rising tide of anger and grief across the world, for them it ripped open their own painful memories of what apartheid did to them, their families and communities.

Where does it hurt? Everywhere.

In a workshop with a group of executives from one of South Africa’s leading retail groups, I listened in on their narratives of coming to terms with the impact of COVID-19. The initial business projections for 2020 turned into a nightmare as budgets had to be revised while doing everything possible to soften the impact for employees, suppliers, tenants and customers.

Where does it hurt? Everywhere.

Dealing with students in a remote learning environment becomes a window into their domestic challenges during lockdown. For some, job loss is already a reality. Many have to cope with work, their studies and familial responsibilities at the same time. Some had to alter their wedding arrangements while others are dealing with bereavement in their families and social networks. For many it feels like a curtain has been drawn on their future plans.

Where does it hurt? Everywhere.

Life as we were used to, has been extensively disrupted, whether we look at it from an individual, relational, organisational or societal perspective.

COVID-19 was certainly not in our script for 2020. Suddenly it has become the code word for an all-encompassing experience of change and loss sweeping through everything that previously felt familiar, comforting and even predictable. Life as we were used to, has been extensively disrupted, whether we look at it from an individual, relational, organisational or societal perspective. It will not be an overstatement to say that we are a society in grief at the moment.

It hurts everywhere.

Tough as it is, it may do us well to make to make sense of what we experience at the moment. One way of looking at it, is from the perspective of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s model of what people experience around death and dying[ii].

Although her idea of a grief cycle as such has been criticised by many, there is sensibility in the five core emotions that she identified.

  • Denial is often the first response and expressed in the assumption that something is either not true, or as bad as reported.
  • Anger represents the desire for a scapegoat, the possibility that something or someone is to blame for the challenge that you are facing.
  • Bargaining is to look for a way, some sort of compromise, to avoid or soften the impact, to be able to continue with what you were always used to.
  • Depression represents a despairing realisation that the crisis will not dissipate, that circumstances will not change, that the change is permanent and that there will be no turning back to what was before.
  • Acceptance is about embracing either the loss or the inevitable change that is going to occur, making peace with what you cannot change, and focusing on that which you can influence or have some control over.

Making the COVID-19 connection with the Kübler-Ross framework is not difficult at all. Since the start of the pandemic, and especially since the announcement of lockdown, you may have experienced some or all of these emotions as well. You may have experienced some sort of sequence, going from the one to the other as if they represented stages in your experience. You might have experienced different ones at different times depending on what kind of COVID-19 related impact you have been dealing with. You may find yourself somewhat stuck with a particular one, due to a variety of challenges you have to deal with at the same time.

Applying the Kübler-Ross framework, we may say that we experience these emotions because of grief resulting from loss: loss of future certainty, loss of employees, loss of suppliers, loss of income, loss of normal connection and socialisation, loss of life, loss of freedom, loss of dreams.

Where does it hurt? Everywhere.

So how do we make meaning of the COVID-19 challenge?  David Kessler, a world-renowned expert on grief work, co-wrote with Elizabeth Kübler-Ross and added a sixth element to her framework, namely meaning. In this context meaning refers to coming to terms with and integrating the impact of the change or loss and finding new courage and direction for what may be yet to come. In discussion with a group of Harvard Business Review staff[iii], Kessler said that “acceptance is where the power lies”.

Once we have accepted what is, we can start working on a balanced approach in terms of what we think and do.

Once we have accepted what is, we can start working on a balanced approach in terms of what we think and do. We can take precaution for not getting affected, we can appreciate the things we still have access to, we can reach out to those who are sick or suffering bereavement, we can use technology to stay connected, we can share and help others as well to express the emotions that we are feeling.

It hurts everywhere. There is no use in fighting or denying it. But we can make meaning through how we deal with it. In a webinar[iv] aimed at leaders and managers in business, I shared the following guidelines:

  • Make sure that you have those things that provide the foundation of your organisation under firm control. Inasmuch as it is under your control, plan carefully, stay creative, spend wisely. You and your people need this for stability.
  • Make sure that you stay in touch with every individual, even daily if you can, so that you may know where they are, how they are, what they experience, what they can or can’t cope with. This is not just about their continued performance, but about their personal and relational wellness. They need to know and feel that you really care.
  • Do not try to talk people out of how they feel, or prescribe to them how they should feel, or sell them cheap comfort. If you do this, you only create unnecessary distance and resistance. You may have felt the same and now it is your turn to take them seriously and show them that you understand what they are going through.
  • Be prepared and available to be cared for by your team members as well. There may be times some of them may be better equipped to deal with certain emotions and experiences than you are. There may be challenges that some of them have already worked through that you still need to deal with. Allow them to be helpful.
  • Maintain the necessary safety disciplines, keep the workplace clean, make sure everyone wash their hands, wear masks, and keep the right distance. Keep the virus out; once it is in it is already too late.

It hurts everywhere. Life will never be the same again.

It hurts everywhere. Life will never be the same again. We will have to rebuild our dreams for ourselves, our communities, society and the economy. Inasmuch as we are hurting together, even if in different ways, we’ll have to learn how to rebuild together. While the pandemic, and its related effects, will leave us with an indelible collective sense of grief, it can also become the rebirth of imagination for a better, more balanced and more compassionate world.

References

[i] https://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/5431334.Warsan_Shire

[ii] Kübler-Ross, E. (1969). On Death and Dying. Routledge. ISBN 0-415-04015-9.

[ii] https://hbr.org/2020/03/that-discomfort-youre-feeling-is-grief

[iv] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W0QvxPvplHg&t=289s

About the author

Prof Arnold Smit is Associate Professor of Business in Society at the University of Stellenbosch Business School. His academic work is focused on the integration of ethics, responsibility and sustainability in management education and organisational practice. He also facilitates training programmes on values-driven leadership, sustainability management and director development. Prof Smit holds a Master’s degree in Philosophy and a Doctor’s Degree in Theology from Stellenbosch University. He is also a non-executive director of The Ethics Institute, a trustee of SEED Educational Trust and the immediate past President of the Business Ethics Network of Africa.

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Survival of NPOs – saving a weakened sector

USB News

Survival of NPOs – saving a weakened sector

  • JUNE 12
  • Tags Survival of NPOs – saving a weakened sector

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Head of Social Impact Dr Armand Bam says NPOs role in leadership should be recognised by government and business.

With the impact of COVID-19 rippling through the economy with disastrous effect, the livelihoods of non-profit organisations (NPOs) are under threat at the same time as demand for their support services is rapidly escalating.

Dr Armand Bam, Head of Social Impact at the University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB) says a world without NPOs is “unimaginable and untenable, particularly when we need to address issues of social justice and socio-economic inclusion”.

“We live in the most unequal society in the world and the COVID-19 pandemic will do much to entrench this divide.”

“The principles of dignity, equality and freedom to participate in all aspects of our society, as enshrined in the South African Constitution, are under threat. We live in the most unequal society in the world and the COVID-19 pandemic will do much to entrench this divide.

“We are pro-active as a nation when it comes to developing policies for upliftment, but we struggle to implement, monitor and hold to account the efficacy of these policies. While businesses act as suppliers of resources and government as a protector, it is NPO’s that are the proverbial glue that binds us and ensures delivery of social justice goals,” he said.

Along with the ups and downs of global and local markets and ratings downgrades, COVID-19 will further contribute to a rapid contraction in employment opportunities.

“The socio-economic inclusion of many citizens in our economy is already under threat…”

“The socio-economic inclusion of many citizens in our economy is already under threat and the coordinated effort between institutions and policies influencing productivity within our economy has been hit hard by the extended period of lockdown. Products and services from South Africa are less attractive than those in 59 other countries (The Global Competitiveness Report 2019) and as a result there will be less money available from the government through its tax collection efforts to support NPOs and promote socio-economic inclusion and justice for its citizens.”

He argues that since we live in a society, not in an economy, businesses and government should pay attention to what happens with the non-profit sector.

“Non-profits contribute to many African countries’ economies, yet we fail to recognise the multiple roles they play, especially that of intermediaries.”

“Non-profits contribute to many African countries’ economies, yet we fail to recognise the multiple roles they play, especially that of intermediaries. Together with government and business these organisations empower citizens and contribute much needed skills and infrastructure – the building blocks of any economy.”

Dr Bam said that “the new normal” had thrust NPOs into a crisis where expectations to deliver support to citizens and communities were escalating during lockdown, while many were left wondering where the support to ensure their survival would come from.

“As a result, something fundamental in the fabric of our society is being tested – the social contract that exists between NPO’s as project implementers, and business and government as suppliers of resources and grants. Traditionally this contract has been maintained through the moral agency of NPOs and their willingness to act at a cost well below what the market and government would deem viable for themselves. But this is now under threat as businesses across the country are suffering losses they had not anticipated, and invariably their support to NPOs will be curtailed.

“Self-preservation is an undeniable approach for businesses but must not be overtaken with self-interest.”

So, why should business and government care what happens to the sector?

“NPOs are important for upholding and ensuring democracy and social justice. Their recognition as a key partner alongside the public and private sectors must be acknowledged and supported. We need to ensure that the social contract that exists is maintained. Failure to safeguard this will inevitably destabilise our democracy.

“The resilience expected of the NPO sector and their ‘do good nature’ has been impacted in a similar manner to the private sector. Social distancing has played a role here. It is time for businesses and government to join hands with NPO’s and treat them not as beneficiaries but as part of transformational partnerships that move beyond the transactional.”

Dr Bam concludes by saying that business and government should include NPOs in a proactive and participatory way as we shape a post COVID-19 South Africa. “For this to occur we need to recognise the leadership roles NPOs can play in order to achieve goals which were not achievable before.”

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Entrepreneurship report reveals how startups can drive growth in a disrupted world

USB News

Entrepreneurship report reveals how startups can drive growth in a disrupted world

  • JUNE 11
  • Tags Entrepreneurship, South Africa, GEM Report, startups, entrepreneurs, economy, growth, social change

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USB launches Global Entrepreneurship Monitor South Africa (GEM SA) report in partnership with GEM SA and Seda.

The economic and social upheaval caused by the COVID-19 pandemic underlines the need for a collective, and robust national strategy to unlock entrepreneurship in South Africa.

Already before the pandemic, many aspects of the country’s entrepreneurial ecosystem needed a major overhaul. This is highlighted in the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor South Africa (GEM SA) 2019/2020 report.

The University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB), the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) and the Small Enterprise Development Agency (Seda) launched the report on Monday, 8 June 2020.

GEM’s research output is considered the world’s most authoritative annual report on the global state of entrepreneurship. USB is the new custodian of this research in South Africa. The study included a survey sample of 3 300 people, and the national expert survey involved the input of 36 experts from diverse fields.

Angus Bowmaker-Falconer and Mike Herrington co-authored the report. Bowmaker-Falconer is a research fellow at USB. Herrington, previously the executive director of the Global Entrepreneurship Research Association, established GEM SA in 2001.

The GEM SA report – titled Igniting startups for economic growth and social change – contains the hard facts, data and figures that highlight trends in entrepreneurship in South Africa. The results of the study reveal the fundamentals to consider when developing an informed response aimed at securing economic recovery.

Bowmaker-Falconer says: “The pandemic has intensified the country’s economic challenges. We know that earnings have been affected, that further job losses are likely, and that many small, medium and micro enterprises may not survive under these extraordinary high stakes.” Most local companies are small or medium-sized enterprises and many will battle to stay afloat after one to three months with no or limited trade and income. “Early-stage entrepreneurial startups (new ventures less than 3,5 years old) are likely to be ravaged,” he says.

The economic and social recovery could take several years. GEM’s research during the 2008/2009 global financial crash showed a significant dip in early-stage entrepreneurial activity across the globe. Entrepreneurial ecosystems took two to three years to reach pre-2008 levels after this event. The recovery curve was driven directly by country-specific economic policy and financial support responses.

Unpacking the results
Here are some key findings from the report:

  • South Africa’s entrepreneurial ecosystem was rated one of the most challenging in the sample of participating economies in 2019 and has exhibited little sign of improvement over the past few years.
  • In 2019, South Africa ranked 49th out of 54 economies on GEM’s National Entrepreneurship Context Index, ahead of only Croatia, Guatemala, Paraguay, Puerto Rico and Iran.
  • Societal values regarding entrepreneurship show an upward trend from 2003 to 2019. Specifically, there has been an increase from 2017 to 2019 in the number of people who see entrepreneurship as a good career choice (from 69.4% to 78.8%) and one with high status (from 74.9% to 82.2%).
  • There has been a substantial increase (from 43.2% in 2017 to 60.4% in 2019) in the number of individuals who perceive that there are good entrepreneurial opportunities in South Africa and believe that they have the skills and capabilities to start a business. This number is relatively high compared to many other economies.
  • Yet fear of failure is high at 49.8% among South Africans. This factor – likely a deterrent for individuals to start a business venture – has increased significantly from 2017 to 2019.
  • Only 11.9% of respondents have entrepreneurial intentions. This means one in every eight South Africans are latent entrepreneurs who intend to start a business within the next three years.
  • There was a small increase in the total amount of early-stage entrepreneurial activity (TEA) in the country between 2016 and 2017. This momentum was not, however, carried through to 2019, which showed no real increase from 2017 at only 10.8%. This TEA rate was below the average of 12.1% for the other participating African countries in 2019.
  • South Africa’s business exit rate decreased from 6.0% in 2017 to 4.9% in 2019, but is still higher than the established business rate of 3.5%. This confirms that more businesses are being closed down, sold or otherwise discontinued than being started.
  • There is clear evidence of purpose-driven entrepreneurship taking hold at a grassroots level – an encouraging sign of a collective will for future business sustainability.

Changing gears, moving forward
Moving from startup to scale requires the right support from the government and the private sector alike. The report calls for interventions in terms of government policies and initiatives, market openness, entrepreneurship education and training, and the availability of and access to finance to foster entrepreneurship.

Bowmaker-Falconer says: “Government is an enabler and fully supports and understands the importance of entrepreneurial development for inclusive economic growth and social cohesion.”

“The Department of Small Business Development (DBSD) announced significant new measures before this crisis related to access to funding. These measures include harmonising funding applications across all developmental finance institutions and introducing a blended financing model to reduce financing costs for entrepreneurs. Overall, the focus for the government should now be on achieving policy and support initiative alignment priorities.”

The government’s economic stimulus package to help bridge COVID-19 is significant, and the impact thereof for SMME’s needs to be evaluated and made public. “Big business needs to partner with the government and play their part in opening markets and value chain participation for smaller enterprises,” Bowmaker-Falconer says.

“Financiers, together with incubators and accelerators, need to help better prepare and educate entrepreneurs on how to pitch their business ideas, how to approach funders, and to navigate what kind of funding is most appropriate to their specific enterprise. What is very clear is that a cohesive and collective response is needed to ignite economic development and social cohesion potential beyond this crisis we are now in.”

An underlying key requirement for managing South Africa’s economic recovery is data. Integrated and public information is critical in understanding and planning how best to stimulate and support the entrepreneurial ecosystem going forward.

Furthermore, there is also a need for more intense entrepreneurial education to engage with the opportunities offered by the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR).

As the sponsor of the study, Seda will now facilitate the implementation of the recommendations across the broader small enterprise development support system with its partners. One of the areas currently being pursued by Seda is identifying partners who can enhance its service offerings in research.

Bowmaker-Falconer concludes: “Entrepreneurship matters. Now, more than ever, startups, and specifically those driven by young entrepreneurs and women, need to deliver the innovation required to move us forward in a highly disruptive (and disrupted) world.”

Read the report here

About GEM
Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) is a consortium of national country teams, primarily associated with top academic institutions, that carries out survey-based research on entrepreneurship around the world. GEM is the only global research source that collects data on entrepreneurship directly from individual entrepreneurs. Visit www.gemconsortium.org for information.

About Seda
Seda is an agency of the Department of Small Business Development. It is mandated to implement the government’s small business strategy; design and implement a standard and common national delivery network for small-enterprise development; and integrate small-enterprise support agencies across all tiers of government. Visit www.seda.org.za for information.

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