Tuesday, May 30, 2006

SA companies in Africa : A force for good?

How do people feel about the intervention, or rather involvement, of South African companies in Africa? Or do most people see this as a means of pure self interest on behalf of the companies?

This has been one of my key interests for the past year and a half after I have completed a course in South African Corporate Foreign Policy. In the 21st century it has become crucial for business and state to sort out new challenges by figuring out how to work together in order to make their relationship work to benefit both the company and the state.

The responses to these challenges have to take into account the necessity to provide a better life for those who are living in the chosen country. The relationship between the state and the companies are ever changing, especially in Africa and specifically South Africa. Reminiscent of what I have learnt at the AICC, corporate governance are one of the aspects to make life better for those who are affected by companies. In other words, there is an increasing need or demand for companies and states to be more transparent, accountable and regulated. Of course there are global institutions that are there to provide information and regulations for companies to measure their accountability (like the World Trade Organisation), but this is a whole different area that I would rather not get into due to my lack of patience and enthusiasm with these types of global organisations. However this topic is definitely open for discussion if anybody wants to dare go there.

In this day and age it is unavoidable for companies not to think seriously about the implications of their actions on their own personal reputation. This brings me to the actual point I would like to make. The increase in activities by South African companies is heavily debated. It is beyond a doubt that South African companies play an enormous role in Africa. It helps with African development and increases growth. But most of all, this growth and development of Africa also serves the interest of South African companies.

Nepad might be the answer to improve the relationship between companies and states and how FDI can be generated when Africa becomes a safer investment zone. This is still a wait and see process. Some companies still face challenges while others have gained from these interventions. However, there is still the problem of some companies exploiting African nations and raking in the profits.

Consequently it is highly important for companies to assess their corporate foreign policy towards African nations. I feel the majority of South African companies are a force for good in Africa and that most African states, NGOs and other stakeholders should be open to their involvement in their countries. This will eventually show the rest of the economic world that Africa can be a safe environment to invest in. I do realise there are many other aspects to consider and not just the hope of generating more FDI, but shouldn’t this be the point of departure for the development of Africa? Am I being too ignorant and optimistic or is there some concurrence on this subject matter?

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Job Satisfaction

Just a quick note: The satisfaction of completing a task successfully is undescribable and very rewarding. And even if it might be the smallest of tasks, it still creates a feeling that makes me want to rush to work every morning to tackle the next one.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

My first month gone

A month has gone past and I’m dreading the time to pass over. Another two months left of my internship and its back to the drawing board. Today I had some extra time on my hands so I updated my CV. It’s a good feeling to add something to the experience section. The “chicken or egg” situation is seemingly brighter now.

This week started off in a rush. Traffic from Fourways to Sandton gave me the realisation that nothing can be worse than this so I knew it could only be a good day. I had another opportunity of helping set up a little function for our business unit. Even though it was small it was exciting to help organise. I was even invited to stay on for the festivities. Maybe events management should be my calling.

During this past week and month that have just flown by, I have made some mistakes in the workplace. Thank goodness they were little with no bad effects, but it is still sometimes embarrassing. But those who work with me took the time to point out my mistakes and give me constructive advice on how to fix it and how to go about doing it better next time. Examples of these mistakes were forgetting to fetch the printer cartridge from another department. The printer stood empty for a while until somebody needed to use it and nothing was there. Another example was helping set up interviews for potential employees. From double booking candidates to not booking a boardroom, you name it, I did it. But it took me one day to learn from my mistakes and I succeeded with the help from my colleagues. Now I’m settled and relaxed and things have been running smoothly ever since.

In the end the function mentioned above was a success and everybody had fun. It gave the group an opportunity to relax after work and benefit from the care the company gives them. I have noticed that RMB finds it extremely important to keep the employees happy and satisfied at all times. They say one should assess a company on how they treat their employees. And its no shock that RMB has won one of the Best Companies to Work For as voted by the employees.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Traditional values, innovative ideas

Last week was quite an interesting and busy time. Together with completing our normal tasks each day, I had the opportunity of helping organise an induction for the new employees. What a fantastic day. I have met many people on that day, from those who have been working at RMB for a while to those who have just started. I also had the honour to sit in on the induction and listen to some of the presentations given my established employees of RMB. The presentations were very informative on the workings of RMB. I always had a broad understanding of what merchant banking is and what RMB does. And this was now an opportunity to learn even more.

I also listened to the presentation of Michael Pfaff. The culture of RMB came through strongly in his speech. He explained how RMB is a company who appreciates traditional values, and thrives on innovative ideas. It is everyone’s duty in RMB to care for an environment where intellectual capital can flourish and businesses can grow. Like Paul Harris, Director of First Rand Bank, says, “You owe it to yourself and the people around you to nurture and build the corporate culture, as this will ensure that this is a company you will be proud of and happy to work for”.

I made my own assumptions on what type of character belongs in RMB and what sort of character will get the job if applying for a position. Five aspects of a person should be strong and prominent: A person should be smart, competitive, hard working, a self starter, and a person with set values.

It is great to work for a company with those types of ideas of what they want. Personally these are aspects I deem very important in my life. I believe in empowering myself, being confident in what I do, and taking pride in every aspect of my work and personal life. And to sustain these characteristics, I believe in the importance of care, dignity, and respect of one self and those around you.

Monday, May 15, 2006


At the moment I am busy with a small creative task for the Project Support Office. And I’m having great fun playing around and testing things for this task. And I must say the help I’ve been getting doing my daily job have been fantastic. Even though I’m an intern everybody in the office is more than pleased to lend a helping hand or teach me how to do certain things. For the past two weeks I’ve had the constant feeling of growth and independence in myself. And RMB is a great area of opportunity where I can strengthen this feeling.

I have been asked the question by Lesley, my training course mentor, whether I have had any disappointments or anything that I am concerned about since I started my internship. My answer is simple: I’m disappointed that my internship at RMB is only a mere three months. It is definitely the type of company I would strive to work for permanently, as they treat their employees and clients like gold, and it’s an environment of constant learning and growing.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Gaining Experience

It has been two and a half weeks since I have stepped into the working world. Even though two weeks sounds minimal, the experienced I have gained so far is priceless.

I have been given some tasks to do around different divisions of RMB. Even though these tasks are straightforward, it is a great feeling to be trusted in doing something without someone looking over my shoulder to see whether I’m doing it right. The supervisors indicate what tasks we should do in such a clear manner that it leaves no space for vagueness.

The tasks that Mpho and I have been doing so far is fun, it is educational, and most of all it is a means of helping us understand more about Rand Merchant Bank. In the past two weeks we have had three different tasks to tackle. Firstly we started working in the Project Support Office where they have been working on change management and how this process effects RMB and its workers (www.change-management.com). Here we did the part that I know best: researching. Our main topic was change management. It was great to have Mpho by my side because she had quite a thorough background in this area and she helped me understand certain aspects of this topic. It was a great opportunity for me to learn new concepts in the business/corporate world. We still have to give our supervisor feedback on our research which I’m quite nervous and excited about at the same time.

Our second task was working in the Human Resources division of RMB. We have had a great time there so far. The whole division consists out of ladies, so it can only be fun. This was an entirely different experience from the previous week. We dealt with the recruitment side of HR where we had to help organise the incoming applications for RMB. It was quite interesting to see how the whole process works. We handled the entering of applicants’ data into the system, we had to decline applications or set up interviews for successful ones, and I even had to set up a video conference call. That was quite nerve wrecking seeing that there were some technical problems, but in the end it turned out very well.

It was great learning how to use new computer programs such as Lotus Notes and also learning how to use the technology for the video conference. And its good to know I’m walking out of the office every day having learnt new things…what a great feeling.