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During the annual learning expedition to Cape Town, EDHEC’s Global MBA class saw sustainability from all angles. The week was a blend of integrated learning through EDHEC’s regional partner, Stellenbosch University, and real-life experience of visiting the country’s businesses and working with local entrepreneurs. Here’s a look into their international experience in South Africa.
FEBRUARY 10, 2020
Written in collaboration with Akanksha Bhatnagar, a Global MBA Candidate 2019, and her original LinkedIn article.
EDHEC’s Global MBA class left the French Riviera and travelled all the way to South Africa to gain a new perspective. This week-long expedition let students learn about the unique culture of the country and the businesses and industries that reside there. Sustainability is a large focus of the trip and EDHEC is one of the only MBAs to offer a focused, one-week immersion to Cape Town on the subject.
“EDHEC’s Global MBA has always been invested in helping our students learn about responsible business and sustainability,” said Sandra Richez, Programme Director of the EDHEC Global MBA. “The theme of sustainability seemed natural to us, especially given that sustainability will be important in EDHEC Business School’s 2025 strategic plan.”
During the week the group had an amazing opportunity to attend a study trip at Stellenbosch University, one of the world’s top universities located in Cape Town and a proud partner of EDHEC Business School. Here they completed a learning module on sustainability integrated with other topics.
The Stellenbosch University lectures included the opportunities and threats of the South African economy and the complexity of the African future. They were later presented with the major steps that South Africa is taking to combat climate change and later learned about the county’s unique social challenges for even simple necessities like running water and education.
After the insightful lectures at Stellenbosch University, the class had the chance to interact with local entrepreneurs in Khayelitsha, one of the largest and fastest-growing informal settlement communities in South Africa. They dove into the local, social entrepreneurship first-hand and met those who are trying to develop a sustainable township to “solve their daily-life problems with innovative ideas,” said Akanksha, a current Global MBA candidate and trip attendee. “The EDHEC MBA students were playing the role of advisors for their business and giving them ideas to grow and tackle their business problems.”
“For example, we spoke with Alfred Sonandi who was running a waste management business called ‘Addicted’ in Mfuleni,” recounted Akanksha. “He was running the business on his own and had a vision of expanding the business to protect the environment by providing more jobs for the community and finding new ways to recycle and reuse the waste.”
The trip also included company visits exposing MBA students to a variety of industries like pharmaceutical, media and communications, and investment banking. A favourite stop amongst the class was a startup who is revolutionizing the fin-tech industry with their methods to successfully manage borderless operations in global financing. These company visits allowed students to understand South African operations and business strategy.
EDHEC Business School is proud to be an advocate for sustainability and it applies this theme on campus and in many of its programmes, including the Global MBA where sustainability has a large presence. Sustainability is the theme of this specific learning expedition and leverages Cape Town. From local entrepreneurs to large corporations, sustainability is relevant throughout many businesses there.
“We learnt about the importance of drinking water in our lives,” Akanksha said. “We saw different practices used in Cape town to save water which we should all incorporate in our daily lives as well.”
One experience that highlighted this popular and important topic was a visit to a local vineyard that produces fairtrade wines and uses its proceeds toward community projects for children. They believe in empowering the local people through education and reinvention of their skills for true self-sufficiency.
“We visited the Fairview Wine and Cheese vineyard in Capetown where we learnt about the South African wine industry and its sustainability issues,” said Akansha. “Also, we heard about Mr. Charles Back’s long history of the wine industry in the South African market and how he started making goat cheese at his vineyard.” Charles Back is a third-generation South African wine and cheese producer and exporter and is regarded as a legend in the field.
Sustainability is one of the three core values of EDHEC Business School. It is explored during the programme, within the MBA curriculum, and on-campus like in the newly founded Social Impact Club.
“As educators, we have a responsibility to help future business leaders learn about ethical business, equality, sustainability, impact investment and fair trade, among other areas,” Sandra said.
This class trip is an outlet to grow MBA skills and apply them in a global climate, but this week-long journey is also an escape for students to explore a new place. Cape Town is an amazing city on the southernmost tip of Africa surrounded by mountains and sandy beaches. It offers a beautiful backdrop for plenty of unique activities the students participated in like a safari, visiting penguins, and touring the city.
Akanksha enjoyed the trip immensely and recalled one of her favourite moments of the week:
“We experienced a calm sunset at one of the seven wonders of nature - Table Top Mountain - which was around 1000m above sea level,” reflected Akanksha. “The silence of nature always lets you uncover different ideas and think beyond boundaries.”
South Africa is an annual expedition for EDHEC and this year’s journey made an unforgettable experience for many of this year’s Global MBA participants. What’s #YourMBAStory?
EDHEC’s MBA programme also includes a class trip based on the participant’s unique specialised track to either San Francisco, New York City, or Singapore. For more information about these learning expeditions or EDHEC’s MBA programme, visit our website.