Two Great Days (Actually, Four Great Days)

As usual, great days in Johannesburg. This is about my 10th trip since the end of Apartheid in ’94. Lots has changed. No surprise, in ’95, my first trip, about 5% of my relatively senior business audience was Black. The number has consistently grown, to, I’d guess, about 60%.

While South Africa is still fraught with problems, the business community has remained vibrant. For instance, among the first 50 of the Africa 500 businesses, South Africa accounts for some 43. And the entrepreneurial class is really beginning to bloom.

One of the most amazing success stories in the new South Africa is a new college, serving thousands of kids mostly from the townships, in downtown Johannesburg called C.I.T.A. The founder, Taddy Belcher, and C.I.T.A. have won every S.A. “best innovator” award there is. I was delighted to be introduced by Taddy at the Global Leaders Africa Summit at which I spoke. Each of the “schools” at C.I.T.A. has a “patron.” And Taddy reminded me and the audience that he had created a school a couple of years ago so that I could be its patron. I’m Patron of the School of Miracles—if you don’t think that caused tearing up, you are nuts.

Again, Africa still has enormous problems, topped by HIV/AIDS, but there are also signs of emergence. (The Chinese mega-push for raw materials doesn’t hurt!) Both my Botswana and S.A. trips were heartening and enlightening—and fun. As usual the “making new friends” bit was the highlight. (I plan to take the Botswana folks who offered to show me some of the amazing parts of the bush and veldt up on their offers.)

Enjoyed a couple of Americans, too. Among others (Rudy Giuliani, Rev Jesse Jackson, Michael Porter) who spoke were Carly Fiorina and the Nike-Starbucks brand-builder-inventor Scott Bedbury. I spent a lot of time with both of them (and Carly’s delightful husband Frank). She is an amazing person with enough energy and intelligence to sink an armada of ships; ironically, ever so many of her cherished and controversial strategic initiatives at HP are now paying off Big Time. (I won a rather big smile when I told her that I thought that the Jim Collins Wall Street Journal Op-ed column trashing the then-prospective HP-Compaq merger was “one of the stupidest, ill-informed things that I had ever read”—which I did and do. In fact the HP-Compaq link-up is one of the rare BigCo mergers that I’ve ever supported. And, BTW, it’s mostly working.)

Flew all night last night to London. And will hike all weekend in glorious Cornwall on England’s matchless Coastal Path. Then an event here mid-week, back to the U.S.A. for another event, in MI—followed by a full month “on the Farm” in VT. (Coincidentally, my next time out after that is three S.E.Asia speeches in early August where Ms Fiorina and I will amuse and entertain—and perhaps occasionally enlighten—a few roomfuls of folks.)

Gotta go—walk in Hyde Park beckons, followed by my ritual visit to “world’s best bookstore”—Hatchards on Picadilly.