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Higher Education Company news South Africa

In conversation with Cassim Motala: The role of business schools in shaping SA

Cassim Motala (MBA, 2003; RMB private equity) speaks about the role of the UCT Graduate School of Business in creating a better South African economy and corporate environment, one MBA at a time.
In conversation with Cassim Motala: The role of business schools in shaping SA

What are some of the biggest challenges facing SA corporates today, and how can the GSB help us solve them?

We have a serious emigration issue in South Africa’s corporate leadership landscape. But when it comes to the people who want to be engaged citizens, who want to stay in South Africa and make a difference – I think that the GSB has a hugely important role to play. In developing and shaping the productive capacity of the nation.

For me, that is one thing that the GSB is doing is doing right, but we should be doing a ton more! We should be reaching into every single one of those corporates, and saying: hey, let us help you get to that next level. Let us create that grounding and that network and improve your competencies and expand your capacity. And provide the people who can mentor that process.

And as an alumnus, you are happy to be part of that process?

We’ve all been there. I helped run a business managing R10bn of private equity investments. I’ve often sat in someone’s chair and said: Hey, I’m not sure what to do here. Can you help? And that help came from a fraternity of people, and who were accessible to me by virtue of that network. And I am fortunate enough to draw on that, and the GSB should continue to provide that because they have access to hundreds, if not thousands of people in a myriad of sectors, in different locations around the world and at differing stages of their careers and lives, providing rich perspective.

What are some of the most valuable skills the GSB can offer corporate South Africa?

The fundamentals still run true – so if you are in a generalist position and you are thinking about the next breakthrough then the MBA will still give you the skills and the frames of reference to make sense of what you are going to see if you take a step back and look at the bigger picture. So for any leader, I think that’s valuable.

What are some of the most valuable lessons that it has taught you, personally?

Having grown up in Lenasia, in the south of Jo’burg, growing up there were 70,000 people living in there, just beyond Soweto, my reference point was actually quite small. I lived quite a myopic life. And it’s different now because people have access to the internet, can travel and live in different areas but when you arrive at an MBA and you meet people and live through their experiences, it broadens your world. It certainly broadened my world and my level of curiosity on many topics even outside of business that I didn’t know I was interested in, or even that they existed. You also gain a real perspective of the world and how our challenges are similar to other emerging markets and learn about how the choices they have made and what impact it has had (for better or worse). I think the MBA is a powerful catalyst.

It’s a tough degree!

It’s the volume! It’s putting you into stressful team situations to see how you react. You learn about your leadership styles. You learn about yourself, about your likes and dislikes, about who you are.

I love that learned so much about myself beyond the business. And it also shifted my understanding of the concept of abundance,. of generosity. And that made me think about what I could do as acts of gratitude in my career. And there were a lot of things that I ended up doing because I could see the impact that you could have.

Click to find out more about the UCT Graduate School of Business, it’s MBA programmes, and its values.

UCT Graduate School of Business
The University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business (GSB) is recognised as one of the best business schools in the world. Its innovative approaches to teaching and learning and commitment to relevance and social impact set it apart from most.
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