Live from South Africa

Hi! My name is Braden. I completed my MBA at IE Business School in Madrid and two of three semesters of my MALD (master of law and diplomacy) at The Fletcher School at Tufts University. Before graduating in December of 2014 I am spending this summer doing an internship in Jozi (as locals call it). I was fortunate enough to be awarded a Blakeley Foundation Fellowship to support my participation in Emzingo, a social impact leadership development program. Emzingo seeks to build socially responsible leaders by bringing together a group of MBA and policy students for leadership training, field immersion (i.e. being in South Africa), and social impact consulting.
We are a group of 17 people from 7 nationalities hailing from masters programs in the US, Europe, and Canada. This week was orientation and tomorrow we begin working on our projects; each project has a pair of students. I will be working on a project with a wonderful woman from the UK, Lavinia, at Endeavor South Africa, a high-impact incubator. It is an extraordinary program and this week has been a whirlwind of excitement – I will provide some of the highlights from the country and program.
We began by getting settled in our apartments located at University of Witswaterand, Johannesburg leading university. The apartments are like a large dorm room with a kitchenette, desk, bathroom, and are fully furnished. We also get a rental car for each team. The first night we went to a great restaurant to celebrate and get to know each other where we ate tons of great meat – what South Africa is known for. Throughout the week we had a range of events that include: a tour of the city, visit to the Apartheid Museum, seminar with a Wits Business School professor, leadership seminar, life-reflections group session, cultural awareness seminar, and lots of lunches at great places. Friday we spent the day with Coca-Cola Africa’s Director of Sustainability where we learned about some of their efforts to do responsible business. This included a trip to a school they built in a rural squatter camp. Saturday we toured Soweto where we visited Kliptown Youth Program, which won the CNN Hero award for its education program in the slum. Afterwards we went bungee jumping off Orlando Towers, a regeneration project in Soweto. Sunday a group of us went to a reserve about an hour and half out of the city to play with baby lions. All-in-all a pretty epic start to the Emzingo program.
Among all the cool events we took time to understand the history of South Africa, which I knew little of. It truly is a miraculous country with many lessons to share with the world. Mandela was a tremendous leader who guided the country through a transition that by if you had asked any political scientist should have been a civil war. It is also amazing that apartheid existed so recently, and reminds us of how real the threats are that still exist. Among all this it is striking how many black South Africans are rising up to be the middle class. Having spent time in Kenya I was struck at how the “bar” for poverty here is, on average, much higher than in Kenya. After only a week I can understand why South Africa is a lighthouse on the shores of Africa, guiding the continents way.
Thank you Mr. Blakeley for making this possible!