President Zuma Wow MCom Students at GSB
Published on: Mar 4, 2016
Transcripts - President Zuma Wow MCom Students at GSB
“Who are these people who want to change the world? I am curious, I want to know. I am
passionate about development and particularly infrastructure development,” said President Jacob
Zuma, as he gazed over the 2015/16 Masters in Development Finance class (MCom).
President Zuma was on campus for 48 hours as the UCT Graduate School of Business (UCT
GSB) facilities were being used by the ANC’s National Executive Committee for prescheduled
political meetings. Shortly after the president took some spontaneous “selfie” photos with a few
MBA students in the main courtyard of the school, Mr Zuma was persuaded by a determined
MCom student to come and meet the continent’s future development finance professionals.
“We promised him that he would see something unique happening in the basement of the UCT
GSB lecture halls: African students, taught by African professors at an African business school -
with a sole focus on development finance within the African context,” said Nicholas Avramis a
Canadian Masters in Development (2015/16) candidate.
In the early afternoon of Saturday 28 March 2015 the president’s advance team, security detail,
members of the media and various members of his cabinet entered basement lecture room 4
unannounced, in what would turn out to be a memorable one-hour plus open dialogue regarding
the future development of finance in Africa. As stunned members of the MCom class began to
appreciate that the President of the Republic of South Africa was right before them, they began
to welcome him with cheers and applause.
Mr Zuma wanted to know where members of the class hailed from and why they had chosen to
leave their jobs and families, and make the sacrifice to come to the UCT GSB to pursue a
Masters in Development Finance. With confidence, students from the UAE, Kenya, Ghana,
Mozambique, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, South Africa, USA and even one student
from Canada began to talk to Mr Zuma about concepts like responsible investing, micro-finance
lending and social, environmental and governance frameworks (ESG).
“It was clear that the president was impressed with the students' caliber. He saw up close what he
was promised the day before: meeting future development finance practitioners, set on solving
today’s challenges by seizing tomorrow’s opportunities,” said Avramis.
Fully engaged with the class, the president spoke about an issue close to his heart, the New
Development Bank (NDB) - a bilateral development financing institution that will be capitalised
and operated by Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa (BRICS). While the head office
of the NDB will be located in Shanghai, China, President Zuma told the class that he had
personally fought to have a second satellite office located in Johannesburg, South Africa.
President Zuma indicated that he was personally committed to making the African NDB satellite
office the hub for the innovation, creativity and collaboration to jump start development projects
throughout the African continent. The president was genuine, articulate and passionate of his
vision for the NDB’s Johannesburg office. He desires an office that will produce innovative
financial solutions, collaborate with local stakeholders and have a genuine appreciation of the
credit challenges facing African small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs). The president’s
fear is that the NDB will merely adopt the antiquated lending models of the developed world,
that are commonly condition based in structure and political in nature, which will create yet
another conservative lending institution.
After listening to the class’s thoughts, the president concluded aloud that the Johannesburg office
would be well served by recruiting graduates directly from the UCT GSB’s MCom programme.
Before his departure, he challenged the 2015 MCom class to put forth ideas as to how the New
Development Bank could propel Africa toward a sustainable future.