Executive MBA students investigate emerging markets in South Africa

Participants from two Executive MBA programmes at Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) travelled to South Africa for a study trip in July 2015. The week-long experiential learning project, which focused on the country’s emerging market business, took place at businesses, universities and townships in Johannesburg and Cape Town.

Participants from RSM’s Executive MBA (EMBA) Class of 2016 were divided into two groups; 60 EMBA participants plus 6 students from RSM’s Global Executive OneMBA programme travelled to Johannesburg, while Cape Town was the destination for a group of 53 EMBA students.

Entrepreneurs and community impact

This year’s RSM EMBA international study trip focused on emerging market business in South Africa. “I was inspired by the business skills, the strong code of ethics and the dense sense of community impact among entrepreneurs in South Africa,” said EMBA participant Tasos Karavalakis from Greece.

The study trip to Johannesburg was hosted by RSM’s partner school the Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS). During lectures, participants explored topics such as national economic, political and social policies overview; history of South Africa; and global competitiveness in South Africa.

Business in townships

To experience the country’s business first-hand, the Executive MBA participants visited Johannesburg-based companies across various industries: MultiChoice; SA Taxi Finance; Standard Bank; and mining organisation Anglo American. The EMBA and OneMBA participants also visited Alexandra township, one of the poorest urban areas in South Africa.

Participants who travelled to Cape Town visited medicine manufacturer Cipla, SAB Miller, ABSA Bank, and Villiera Wines. They also visited entrepreneurial incubator The Barn where participants networked with 62 female engineering entrepreneurs. The EMBA students also visited smaller businesses in townships, including a hairdresser, a grocery store, a cabinet maker, and a builder.

Comparing opportunities

In his MBA blog post, EMBA student Wissam Andary writes that the study trip to Cape Town changed his view on the daily comforts he always took for granted. “Different worlds are clearly visible in one city,” said the project manager at Vanderlande. “We always talk about seizing the opportunity when there is a chance, and that failures are there to learn from. But comparing the opportunities we have growing up in developed countries with chances people get when they are born in a township shows a very disturbing reality. Everybody loves the stories of successful people who started out with nothing, but ‘nothing’ has a different definition when you look at the situation outside of the developed world,” said Andary.

Diversity and transformation

The Cape Town study trip was hosted by The Graduate School of Business, University of Cape Town. Lectures included topics such as: the gateway to Africa and leadership in a society in transition; executive perspectives on business in South Africa; diversity and transformation in South Africa; doing business at the base of the pyramid; the impact of HIV/AIDS on business in South Africa; and transformation in the South African wine sector.   

Societal leadership

To experience South Africa’s role in regional and global business and to facilitate working in multi-cultural contexts, RSM organises study trips to Cape Town and Johannesburg for EMBA students each year. In addition to first-hand experience of business and society issues, participants are encouraged to practise societal leadership and expand their network by working closely in an unfamiliar and challenging environment.

EMBA participants Andary and Karavalakis both said the study trip was an exceptional bonding experience. “This trip was a unique opportunity for realignment of individual perception of things that we take for granted, a motivating experience to work as a team while inspired from the local businesses within our group, and a binding mechanism that brought the whole class together,” said Karavalakis.


Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) is a top-tier European business school and ranked among the top three for research. RSM provides ground-breaking research and education furthering excellence in all aspects of management and is based in the international port city of Rotterdam – a vital nexus of business, logistics and trade. RSM’s primary focus is on developing business leaders with international careers who carry their innovative mindset into a sustainable future thanks to a first-class range of bachelor, master, MBA, PhD and executive programmes. RSM also has offices in the Amsterdam Zuidas business district and in Taipei, Taiwan.


For more information on RSM or on this release, please contact Marianne Schouten, Media & Public Relations Manager for RSM, on +31 10 408 2877 or by email at

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