In the past few days, the country has been on its toes, waiting anxiously to hear any news at all about the well-being of its hero. This latest hospitalization has sparked debate over whether the nation is ready to lose such an iconic leader or should hold on for dear life. A look back at how “Brand Madiba” has contributed to the prosperity and image of South Africa begs the question of how the business world will see the nation- post Madiba.
Go to any country on Earth and mention the name Mandela and you’re bound to receive thoughts of admiration, praise and awe- in many ways Nelson Mandela with his humility and self-sacrifice, helped to elevate the profile of the country with him.
Mr. Mandela didn’t just give the people of this nation hope and belief in themselves, he also gave it to the outside world. He showed the world that a country as fragmented and broken as South Africa was- could come together to build a nation strong and proud, multicultural and open to diversity and ethnicity. And no one can deny that his efforts and stand as a mere human with an extraordinary heart helped move South Africa along the road to becoming the melting pot of Africa, not just culturally, but also economically.
Foreign direct investments flowed in, confidence sky-rocketed and the economy grew, for many years Brand Madiba was brand South Africa… Oh, the glory days- new nation, new leadership, a new South Africa. Alas times change, leadership certainly does and with change comes a forgetfulness of the old things, the old systems and values and worse yet- the old hopes and dreams. The torch is passed on, whether it burns as brightly as it did for its predecessor- only history will tell, but it seems pessimism is high in the nation.
The country seems to be plagued by spates of racial violence, increased crime, corruption, industrial action and no one can forget how recent labour tensions in the mining sector, led to the tragic events at the Marikana Mine.
Foreign and local investor confidence has fallen and growth forecasts aren’t looking up. With the global economy still recovering- South Africa has had to fight its way through the chaos to remain standing- because South Africans are survivors. And no- one South African captures this like Madiba does, he is the father of the nation, the “Papa”, and in a world without his watchful eye or awe-inspiring presence- will his children still find it within themselves to make Papa proud?
Will they continue to build South Africa into the nation of his dreams? Not just on a social level, but on an economic and educational platform.
Will we want to build on his legacy and be honest and honorable in our business dealings?
Will we create opportunities not just for the minority, but for everyone that calls South Africa their home?
Will we honor Brand Madiba and build on it a future worthy of him- a legacy that will let him live forever?
Serious questions, for serious times, major soul-searching is being done as the world and South Africa braces itself for a future without the bright flame that is Nelson Mandela. “Business as usual” as an adage is affected by the people doing the business, by their hopes, dreams, fears, inspirations and frustrations. How “Business as usual” will be viewed as South Africa introspects is anyone’s guess. Though the outlook, might be pessimistic, there’s the strong possibility that the nation will rally. If not to honor Mandela’s life, then to build his legacy.
The South African soul won’t leave with Madiba- because even he was born from it. It is alive and vibrant and where the country needed Madiba to stand for it- to make the world believe in it- it will learn to do on its own.
The fear that seems to cloud the future of the nation at the consideration of Madiba going to rest, will give way to hope and inspiration- fuelling the drive of ordinary business people and employees. There is simply no way of going backwards from a future as bright as the one created by brand Madiba. And while economic and financial forecasts are useful indicators of a country’s future growth wise- they don’t account for the soul of a nation. And it is this soul, that will make South Africa continue to surprise the world.