Stephen Robert Morse




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By Stephen Robert Morse

My 5 Key Learnings From The Oxford South Africa Elective

Stephen Morse Trek 2

I recently returned from the Johannesburg elective, taught by the amazing Mthuli Ncube. Over the course of a week, the 40+ participants immersed ourselves in all things Africa. From site visits to Standard Bank and the Nelson Mandela Foundation, to meetings with leading South African businessman Mark Alberti of Massmart and Colin Coleman of Goldman Sachs, to meetings with politicians like former South African president Kgalema Motlanthe, the week was a non-stop deep-dive that taught me so much. Here are five key learnings from this trip:

1. There are significant opportunities in Africa, because even today, much of the continent lags so far behind not only the Western world, but also other parts of the developing world. At last three speakers on our trip referenced this photo:

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*Note: this photo is from 2000, but the sentiment is still very much alive.

2. Trade > Aid for Africa. No, non-profits are not the way to get people out of poverty. Jobs are. For Africa to have a sustainable future, it must be just that, sustainable, and the only way to                 achieve this is for long-term commitments in the form of businesses, not non-profits that pop in and out of the picture as needed. Reference: Dead Aid.

*Note: Yes, in the most impoverished places on earth as well as after natural disasters, non-profits still may be needed to kickstart the basics such as food and shelter,

3. Socio-economic progress in Africa has improved dramatically in recent years, but not in all areas. For example, Mthuli has noted the bad and the good in his slides:

The Bad:

  • Agriculture productivity has not improved.
  • Youth unemployment is high.
  • There is a shortage of skills.
  • Primary school completion rates are flat.
  • Negative impact of climate change is visible.

The Good:

  • Under-5 child mortality has fallen.
  • The number of fragile states has dropped.
  • Time required for business start-up has fallen.

4. Africa has the ability to leapfrog other continents because of its lack of development. M-Pesa is a company that best represents this: because so many Africans are unbanked, it becomes easier to get them to skip to mobile banking, avoiding the costs and pitfalls associated with traditional banking.

5. There are jobs for MBAs in Africa – and MBAs will be needed to kickstart the economy. Management skills are in short supply, and it will take an army of thousands to get Africa up to speed with the rest of the world. There’s no better time to head to Africa than now.

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