How U.S. Business Students See Sub-Saharan Africa

April 02, 2015

AFK Insider

Students from the University of Denver Daniels College of Business traveled to Botswana and South Africa as part of their studies toward earning master’s degrees in business administration.

The goal was for the students to experience business opportunities unlike any they have seen in the U.S. They chose sub-Saharan Africa because it’s home to six of the world’s 10 fastest-growing economies, according to a report in University of Denver Magazine.

This international education adventure pushes students to interact intimately with an emerging economy, according to the report. Students collaborated with local business leaders, nonprofits, and NGOs, focusing on the challenges and opportunities that characterize the business environment. They also met Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu.

Stacy Cason is co-owner of Corona Cap, a real estate development group based in Denver, Colorado. International experiences are important for business students in the 21st century, Cason said.

“We live in a global economy, and you can no longer do business in isolated bubbles. To be able to experience and learn this lesson with my classmates and our professors in Africa was invaluable. We learned that business relationships are best nurtured in person.”

Cason said business is vibrant and optimistic in South Africa, despite daunting governmental regulations. “Business leaders seem to have more of a societal focus there, as opposed to the individualistic approach in America,” Cason said.

The U.S. students visited project Velokhaya in Khayelitsha township, where cycling programs engage underprivileged children from age 7 up. The idea is to use the sport of cycling to teach life skills and involve kids in positive after-school activities.

In Gaborone, Botswana, they visited SOS Village in Tlokweng and played with children who are victims of the HIV epidemic in Africa. “They simply wanted to play and live as normal children,” Cason said. More than 20 percent of the population lives with HIV/AIDS, according to SOS Village.

Cason said the U.S. students were well prepared to get out of their comfort zone. “We collectively made an agreement to push ourselves to the limit to maximize our experiences on this trip.”

Cason’s overall impressions? “Business is alive and vibrant in South Africa, despite the historical turmoil of apartheid and governmental restrictions today.

“South Africa has an effortless cool, reminiscent of Europe, fantastic weather like California and an unparalleled beauty in its diversity.

“Botswana is slower paced, but hopeful for new business opportunities. The country’s government is quite wealthy, and its people are very educated, contrary to stereotypes of sub-Saharan Africa.”

Cason plans to return and has volunteered to chaperone the next group of students.

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