Sim Tshabalala – What we can learn from African Management

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„People in the world have more in common than we realize”, says Sim Tshabalala, Group CEO, Standard Bank Group. However, looking at Africa and with all the danger of generalising too much, two things stand out:

  1. „African people are more connected to their families, their communities, their histories, and, indeed, to the cosmos than many other people.“
  2. „Africans care very much about dignity“, their own and those of other people.

That is why African businesspeople generally believe in a corporate purpose, which has something to do with the world outside their companies. “Africans always thought that companies are an organ of society“.

Here Sim Tshabalala explicitly referred to Peter Drucker, the highly respected management thinker. Already in the 1970s Drucker had pointed out a major misunderstanding: the assumption that profit maximisation can be seen as the purpose of a business. The purpose must lie in society, it is about a social contribution. Profit results from this social contribution, and not the other way round.

Sim Tshabalala outlined his thoughts during his opening keynote address at the East Africa Management and Innovation Forum.

EAMIF – East Africa Management and Innovation Forum

The first EAMIF took place online on 6 April 2022. Zia Manji and his team at Career Connection hosted the event in Nairobi. Career Connections is one of the leading executive search and management consultancies in East Africa. They organized the forum in partnership with the Global Peter Drucker Forum (GPDF) from Vienna.

Zia Manji at EAMIF - East Africa Management and Innovation Forum

I was one of the initiators. Our aim was to bring together African management practitioners with world-renowned management thinkers. Thanks to the great interest among African companies and thanks to GPDF, Zia and his team succeeded impressively.

Besides Sim Tshabalala, who heads a company group with 50.000 employees, the CEOs of East African Breweries, Davis&Shirtcliff, M-Pesa, I&M Bank, Twiga Foods, Stanbic Bank Kenya, African Leadership Group, AzamPay and others attended. They all run companies that are successful in Africa’s difficult but fast-growing markets.

These African leaders encountered, among others, Tal Ben-Shahar (Happiness Studies Academy), Michele Zanini (Co-author, Humanocracy), Curtis Carlson (Innovation Pioneer), Hal Gregersen (MIT’s Sloan School), Rahaf Harfoush (Digital Anthropologist & Author), Tendayi Viki (Innovation Expert). Don Tapscott, the well-known blockchain expert, held an impressive closing keynote.

The full program of the event you find here. Video recordings will follow.

EAMIF - East Africa Management and Innovation Forum

Learning from African Management Practitioners

From a European point of view – the Western management world can learn a lot from African management practitioners. In African countries, a huge need is increasingly transformed into a demand. In this process, companies play a decisive role. From them we can see and learn much more clearly what it means to innovate and create value for customers and thereby generate new markets and additional income. In the spirit of Peter Drucker, they “create a customer”.

To be successful, a company needs, implicitly or explicitly, a clear sense of its corporate purpose. And as Sim Tshabalala pointed out in his keynote, African business people never had to be persuaded that their companies are guided by a higher purpose. A purpose more important than profit-seeking.

Hans Stoisser at EAMIF - East Africa Management and Innovation Forum

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