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Young leaders celebrated at Henley Africa

Young leaders were celebrated at a function hosted by Henley Business School Africa on Thursday 28 September 2023, with the support of the UK High Commission in South Africa and the British Chamber of Business in Southern Africa, to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the Mandela Rhodes Foundation.

THE FUTURE of South Africa is in good hands, despite what the naysayers and prophets of doom might believe, because of the calibre of its young leaders waiting in the wings, says Justice emeritus Edwin Cameron.

“My generation has had our chance and we screwed it up,” he said. “We've got young people who are willing and able, who are eager to take the lead in our country, who are eager to do what our generation failed to do.”

The country was gifted, he said, with a strong judiciary, a vibrant and independent media and a very powerful and passionate civil society sector. “We've got so much; we've got the constitution. We need to implement it, not revise it. It is a generous constitution that promises social rights, that promises great equality, that promises to fund social justice.”

The former constitutional court jurist was delivering the keynote address at a function hosted by Henley Business School Africa on Thursday 28 September, with the support of the UK High Commission in South Africa and the British Chamber of Business in Southern Africa, to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the Mandela Rhodes Foundation.

Created in Britain on the centenary of the Rhodes Trust which awards students from across the world scholarships to study at Oxford; the Mandela Rhodes Foundation awards African students scholarships to study for postgraduate and doctoral degrees in their field and in leadership at South African universities. To date 622 scholarships have been awarded to students across 35 disciplines drawn from 33 African countries.

Some of the Mandela Rhodes fellows were at Henley Africa to share the story of their journeys and how their lives had been transformed by the experience. Speaking on behalf of the assembled Mandela Rhodes scholars, Zumafuse Ngcobo said being awarded the fellowship had opened “tightly locked doors” for her.

“It has won me seats on tables too highly pitched for a short black woman like myself, it has given me a bold voice to make so silver foxes in suits sit up and listen. I've come to realize that being a Mandela Rhodes Scholar encourages the world to see me not just for my colour, my gender, or any other prejudice. Instead, the world can now see me for what I am actually capable of, and what I'm able to contribute.”


The biggest gift though had been courage: “Courage to dream, courage to endure, courage to make possibility into reality, courage to stand in the face of struggles, because God knows there's so many and most of all courage to be me and authentically pursue my vision for this continent.”

British High Commissioner to South Africa Antony Phillipson said bringing together the names of Cecil Rhodes and Nelson Mandela two decades ago had closed a historic circle. Quoting from King Charles III’s hosting of President Cyril Ramaphosa on a state visit last year, Phillipson said it was vital to understand the consequences of a shared past to be able to exploit the opportunities of a shared future. British Chamber of Business in Southern Africa president Leon Ayo said it was fitting that Henley Africa was the host since the school prided itself on developing leaders for the continent.

It is a sentiment that Henley Africa dean and director Jon Foster-Pedley, who also chairs the British Chamber of Business in Southern Africa, wholeheartedly endorsed. Reflecting on the foundation’s 20th anniversary, however, he said: “The Mandela Rhodes Foundation is a wonderful – and highly successful - melding of the power of business with the vision and compassion of statesmanship.

True leadership

“At Henley Africa, it is an article of faith that businesses build Africa, but building the leaders that will build those businesses requires more than a crude understanding of the bottom line. True leaders build sustainable businesses that endure, that create an immediate and lasting impact on the people that they employ and the communities in which they operate.”

The need for this kind of business leader, he said, was becoming more and more pressing in a world increasingly beset by man-made crises and especially in a country such as South Africa with its appalling Gini co-efficient. The Mandela Rhodes scholarships had done so much to address this over the last two decades and it was a great privilege for Henley Africa, as an incubator for business leaders and as a business school with proudly British origins to partner with the High Commission and the British Chamber of Business in South Africa to honour the Mandela Rhodes Foundation on their historic achievement.

“We need the courage and the passion of the new cohort of leaders, as expressed by Justice Cameron and Zumafuse to step forward now and take the baton from the ‘silver foxes’; to take charge and inspire all of us in the process to really start creating the kind of future that Madiba wanted us to have.”

Photo - CEO of British Chamber of Business in Southern Africa, Leon Ayo along with Justice emeritus Edwin Cameron, the UK High Commissioner Antony Phillipson and Mandela Rhodes alum, Zumafuse Ngcobo.

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