TCU MBA students gain global perspective through trip to South Africa

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    With trips to Chile, the Dominican Republic, China, Italy and South Africa, the university's study abroad programs for MBA students are designed to increase familiarity with some of the world’s key emerging markets.

    Students said this year's trip to Cape Town, South Africa helped them understand the nature of business in Africa and the U.S.

    “We got to learn about many of the complexities of doing business in South Africa and working with the government," David Klein, a Professional MBA student who went on the Cape Town trip, said. "And we got to hear about experiences of doing business in the U.S.”

    He said African businesses have a hard time penetrating the complex U.S. market because of the extensive competition.

    During the first part of the trip, students worked together to lay concrete in the muddy and underdeveloped areas in some of South Africa’s townships.

    Alexandra Austin, a Professional Accelerated MBA student who went on the trip, said learning about entrepreneurship in Africa was fascinating, but the experience of laying cement for Abahlobo Crèche, a children's center, made the trip worthwhile.

    The children of this center had little to play with other than a few of pieces of wood, yet there were still heart-warming smiles on their faces, she said.

    For the second portion of the trip, students interacted with successful local organizations and businesses such as Lerato’s Hope, Woolworths and Silulo Ulutho Technologies.

    Garry Bruton, professor of management and avid world traveler, said South Africa’s emerging market foreshadows the success of providing services to the people of Africa as a whole.

    “I think the future of business is not going to be in mature economies,” Bruton said. “I would be looking at Africa, where there is a huge level of economic growth and opportunity that will impact the way people live.”

    South Africa is quickly becoming a business center because it is a premium gateway to the rest of Africa and its growing population, he said.

    “If you look at a company like Wal-Mart, it just bought a major retailer there, and the plan is to use it as a platform to spread all throughout Africa,” Bruton said.

    South Africa is not the only place in Africa where the economy is flourishing.

    In Zambia, visible indicators of wealth are emerging, such as the installation of escalators in malls, Bruton said.

    “The time to be in Africa is now,” he said.

    However, the trip to South Africa was not entirely devoted to business.

    Students and faculty also enjoyed activities such as cage diving with great white sharks, climbing Lion’s Head mountain, tasting local wines and visiting a game reserve, Klein said.

    Klein and Austin both said the overall experience was eye opening and that it gave them a greater appreciation for the United States.

    “When you see kids smiling and having fun, even with the prospect that 25 to 30 percent of them will die of AIDS and never live outside of this poverty, it really makes you realize how amazing life in America is,” Klein said.

    Update: This story was updated at 4:37 p.m.