The glamorous world of private jets is no longer the domain of the super-rich. Private aviation is set to soar in Africa as business keeps checking in.
Well-heeled women glide in and out of an opulent mansion in a leafy suburb in Sandton, Africa’s richest square mile.
The champagne-colored granite of the stairway meets the elegant tips of their Manolo Blahnik stilettos.
This is a medical aesthetic and holistic wellness center called Anti-Aging Art in the posh suburb in Johannesburg.
It is a home-turned-medical center belonging to Reza Mia, a doctor and co-owner of the clinic patronized by the rich and famous. Mia also happens to design jets, as the founder and CEO of Pegasus Universal Aerospace, an aviation company based in South Africa with the sole purpose of creating innovative aviation solutions.
Between surgical facelifts and building sophisticated jets, Mia finally makes time for an interview at 5PM on a Friday afternoon.
Dressed in navy blue scrubs, he sits on a luxurious leather sofa as he tells FORBES AFRICA about his connection with aviation.
Mia is currently designing a vertical take-off jet that he says will add to the convenience of private travel.
The aesthetic surgeon has been developing the Pegasus One Vertical Business Jet (VBJ1) since 2012, which he says will be completed in three years.
It’s an attempt to revolutionize luxury air travel in South Africa.
“It can land and take off like a helicopter anywhere a helicopter could, in fact more places because it doesn’t have a spinning rotor blade and it is quieter especially for built-up areas and neighborhoods. It can accelerate and fly at the speed of a business jet which is almost 800km/h so that is about four times the speed of a helicopter,” he says.
Cool-air fan technology allows the jet to take off and land anywhere, he adds, which means it’s less hassle for customers.
Privacy and convenience count as currency in this business.
Business aviation company, ExecuJet Aviation, currently operates and manages four bases for private jets in Africa.
The Johannesburg base is located at Lanseria International Airport, about an hour’s drive from the city.
The flashy cars in the parking lot speak about the kind of travelers taking off from here.
Staff meander in and out of the private terminal on this busy day, yet there is no millionaire in sight in an expensive Armani suit jetting off for his next business trip.
You never see them, they are that discreet about client privacy.
On a global scale, the company manages and operates about 260 aircraft and is also in Kenya and Nigeria, with the newest entrant in Seychelles.
With almost three decades in the aviation industry, the company has kept a close watch on the rising market of business aviation in Africa.
Stationed on the apron is a white Bombardier Challenger 300 worth about $26 million.
The nine-seater aircraft boasts a bathroom and features glossy cherry-wood surfaces.
This gloss is all-pervasive and there is not a speck of dust in sight.
The soft, plush carpet is a shade lighter than the grey leather seating decked with comfy cushions that enhance the elegance.
ExecuJet’s Africa Vice President, Gavin Kiggen, says despite the demand and increase for private travel on the continent, perceptions of the industry can be misleading from both a business and client perspective.
“The margins are extremely low and the competition is very strong because you have new entrants who are trying to get market share.
“The perception is that it’s lucrative because of the kinds of tools and services we offer but it is a tough industry to be involved in,” he says.
As a developing region, Africa needs to prioritize infrastructure while attracting sales to uphold the competitive edge in the global business aviation market.
This can be achieved through innovative ideas. Promoting the economic benefits of the market will lure investors from all over the world.
Time waits for no man, and Africa’s elite, exclusive travelers know that only too well.
According to a review by Mordor Intelligence, Global business jet market – growth, trends and forecast (2018 – 2023), the exclusivity of private jets has ceased to be the domain of the extremely wealthy.
This change is owing to time-share and fractional ownership of aircraft.
ExecuJet reports Africa has 481 registered private jets and the year-on-year growth for the business aviation industry in Africa is 44%.
Private aviation is still a growing market in Africa in comparison to the regions where it is fully developed.
Approximately three quarters of the sale of business jets is in the west, mainly in North America and Europe.
Predictions are that India and China are well on their way to become market leaders by 2020.
With continued industrial growth in Africa, consequently, there has been a rise in business travel.
Despite the lag in competitiveness on a global scale, private aviation in South Africa, which is Africa’s second-largest economy, has the potential to take the continent to new heights as business keeps checking in.
Private jets are commonly used by high-net-worth individuals, business executives, sports teams and government officials.
Time efficiency is the core reason why these jetsetters prefer private aviation over commercial planes. Greater control over flight schedules and operation of the aircraft forms part of the package.
Add privacy and a dash of luxury and the high-flyer is ready for take-off.
The Jet Traveler Report 2018, the global perspective on who flies privately and how, by Wealth-X, categorizes high-fliers into three types to make a comparison based on their flight preferences. These include owners, members and the wider ultra-high-net-worth audience.
Unsurprisingly, 35% owners of private jets are worth more than $500 million as per The Jet Traveler Report.
The majority are over 60 years old. ‘Members’ are frequent fliers on membership programs.
Private jets have now also become more accessible and appealing to the wider executive population.
The report states that on-demand private fliers are the youngest and least wealthy ultra-high-net-worth individuals.
In comparison to the wealth of members and owners, these jetsetters have average wealth of $67 million.
Editor and publisher of SA Flyer and FlightCom magazines, Guy Leitch, says although the South African market is showing signs of recovery, there are shortcomings.
“Poor on-the-ground infrastructure for aviation, poor access to aircraft finance and the lack of aircraft does not ensure adequate support for development,” he says.
The same can be argued for the rest of Africa.
According to the Mordor Intelligence review published in April, lack of infrastructure is one the biggest limitations that affect business jet sales in South America, Africa and the Asia-Pacific.
The costs of building the much-needed infrastructure are so high operations may not be feasible.
Regions like Europe and North America with higher private aircraft demands have lower costs. Flying privately in the regions is charged on a one-way basis, therefore costs are reduced as opposed to Africa where charges are doubled.
“In those regions, there is always an aircraft available that’s going to your destination and you can pay a reduced rate because it is considered an empty leg. Our industry is unfortunately not that far ahead yet,” says Kiggen from ExecuJets.
Industry data by Global Jet Capital released in 2017 indicates that 2025 will witness more than 25% growth in the market.
The influx of new aircraft on the continent is forecast to have a value of $3.9 billion, or just under $500 million per year.
The emergence of the “African affluent” demographic on the continent has become an important emerging segment for the private aviation sector.
These individuals are younger than their European counterparts and are on average 40 years old, according to a report by ExecuJet called The Evolution of Charter Into Africa 2018.
Smartphones and technological mobility make it easier for young flyers on the go, and as a result, gives the market more visibility and mileage.
“Social media has also brought a phenomena called the influencer; these are rich kids or media personalities who document their travel through social media (Instagram, Facebook and Twitter),” says Kiggen.
These jetsetters snap the glitz and glamor of private flying and share it with other influencers. This also makes it easier for private charter companies in Africa to attract clients from different spheres of life, thus changing the perception that jets are only used by the ultra-rich and famous.
In addition, an increase in enquiries for hiring the jets, from even car manufacturers for their marketing events, shows the market is paving the way for more diversified business.
Jeremy Nel, the CEO of Luxury Brands, a South African luxury marketing group based in Cape Town, argues that although high-flyers use their mobile devices to source best rates and most direct routes, the reputation of the private charter as a brand is something potential clients continue to look out for.
“The branding of the aircraft is also aligned to be the best fit, most clients who outright purchase an aircraft will take the plethora of advice as to the most suitable model for their needs and then choose from the best breed of operators,” says Nel.
Inner-circle referrals and the relationship the client has with the company, in addition to the preference of a specific pilot, can further influence decision-making.
Back in the richest square mile of Africa, Sandton, in a modern office adorned with waterfalls and earthy décor, a tall man dressed in a blue shirt walks in.
When he is not flying over the shimmering turquoise waters of the Maldives, South African pilot Jack Coetzee is the Managing Director at Quintessential Aviation.
With over 1, 500 flying hours to his credit, Coetzee has seen private jet passengers with requirements ranging from Egyptian cotton linen to Kentucky Fried Chicken on the flight.
“It is aircraft-orientated; they like a specific type of aircraft.
“[The customer] knows how the seats work, he knows the pilots invariably that are flying the aircraft are competent,” he says.
As for aspiring owners, Leitch emphasizes they understand the importance of the technicalities of owning an aircraft, to avoid losing money.
The first step is to determine what it will be used for, and then take the size, range and price parameters into consideration.
“New or used [aircraft], it doesn’t matter. Make sure you can crew it, maintain it, afford it and then order it,” he says.
Much like commercial aviation, owners and private charter companies must comply with air laws and the strict regulations set by the civil aviation authorities.
Odette Basson, Charter Manager Africa, at ExecuJets, says some laws are airfield dependent.
This is based on where you are traveling in and out of, so compliance is critical.
“Yes, you can be an owner of a private aircraft but it doesn’t mean you can just do what you want. There are laws that govern the flying,” she says.
In addition to overseeing operations above the ground, regulators keep a close watch on the hours the crew fly, which aircraft they are flying and how frequently they go for training.
“Your crew must be trained specifically, the aircraft must be maintained specifically and according to the operator’s specifications. You must have a commercial license to operate and you must have an air service license. It is actually very well-regulated and governed to death,” says Kiggen.
And thus it is that millions of dollars fly over the richest and poorest cities of Africa.
The sky is a commodity. How much are you willing to splash out for a piece of it?
Highest-Paid Country Acts 2019: Lil Nas X Debuts; Luke Bryan Tops List
The Country Music Awards are billed as Nashville’s biggest night, but this year’s event buried the genre’s most significant breakthrough of the past 12 months, offering up just one nomination for 20-year-old musician Lil Nas X, whose “Old Town Road” spent a record 19 weeks atop the singles charts.
That run helped Lil Nas X notch a different honor, debuting on the Forbes list of top-earning country acts this year with an estimated pretax income of $14 million. The Atlanta native claims the No. 18 spot thanks to the fiendishly catchy country-rap track he released through indie music service Amuse in December 2018. The song clocked 1.8 billion spins by summer despite being booted from the Billboard country charts. The snub—and a bevy of remixes—helped “Old Town Road” broaden the genre’s audience more than any track in recent memory.
“It was on viral charts in countries where no country song has ever positioned itself,” says Amuse cofounder Diego Farias. “Everything from Southeast Asian markets to eastern European markets. I mean, I’m talking about places that you don’t necessarily associate with cowboy hats and boots.”
Lil Nas X isn’t the only high earner to come up short at the awards ceremony: Luke Bryan claims the top spot on our list for the second consecutive year with $42.5 million but didn’t receive a single nomination. That’s mostly because the Georgia native, who favors baseball caps over cowboy hats, hasn’t put out a new studio album since 2017. Instead, he spent his time grossing more than $1 million per tour stop and serving as a judge on American Idol.
The genre-bending Zac Brown Band ranks second, pulling in $38.5 million on the strength of 50 live performances and a new album, The Owl, which peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 album charts. Other crossover acts on the list include Canadian songstress Shania Twain (No. 7 with $29 million) and hip-hop-tinged duo Florida Georgia Line (No. 8 with $26 million).
“Country’s more of a lifestyle,” the group’s cofounder Brian Kelley told Forbes in 2015. “The music’s always going to evolve.”
“It was on viral charts in countries where no country song has ever positioned itself. Everything from Southeast Asian markets to eastern European markets. I mean, I’m talking about places that you don’t necessarily associate with cowboy hats and boots.”
Plenty of the CMAs’ stars did make our list, including performers Eric Church (No. 6, $30 million) and Miranda Lambert (No. 20, $13 million), as well as two of the hosts—Dolly Parton (No. 15, $17 million) and Carrie Underwood (No. 14, $16 million). A third host, Reba McEntire, narrowly missed the cut.
Overall, the top ten acts in country earned $311.5 million, up 2% from last year’s $304.5 million. Our list of the genre’s top earners measures estimated pretax earnings from June 1, 2018, through June 1, 2019. Fees for agents, managers and lawyers are not deducted. Figures are generated with the help of numbers from Nielsen Music, PollstarPro and interviews with industry insiders.
Although our rankings typically reflect country’s woeful lack of diversity at the top, this year’s list offers at least a glimmer of hope that things are changing. There are 6 women in the top 20—the least lopsided ratio in the seven years Forbes has published the list—and Lil Nas X is both the first openly gay act and the first person of color to make it.
Though he declined to comment for this story through a representative, Lil Nas X is clearly taking his role as a trailblazer seriously, regardless of how much CMA hardware he takes home. As he told the BBC earlier this year: “I feel like [I’m] opening doors for more people.”
20. Miranda Lambert, $13 million (tie)
20. Lady Antebellum, $13 million (tie)
19. Rascal Flatts, $13.5 million
18. Lil Nas X, $14 million
17. Faith Hill, $15 million
16. Carrie Underwood, $16 million
15. Dolly Parton, $17 million
14. George Strait, $17.5 million
13. Tim McGraw, $18 million
12. Dierks Bentley, $20 million
11. Toby Keith, $21 million
10. Jason Aldean, $23.5 million
9. Garth Brooks, $24 million
8. Florida Georgia Line, $26 million
7. Shania Twain, $29 million
6. Eric Church, $30 million
5. Kenny Chesney, $31 million
4. Blake Shelton, $32 million
3. Keith Urban, $35 million
2. Zac Brown Band, $38.5 million
1. Luke Bryan, $42.5 million
– Zack O’Malley Greenburg
Analysis: The Values That Make A CEO
As part of FORBES AFRICA’s ongoing eighth anniversary celebrations, we present a CEO Rhetorical Analysis by Anahita Negarandeh, a Harvard University Extension School student, on FORBES AFRICA’s founder and publisher, Rakesh Wahi. The CEO Rhetorical Analysis researches and analyzes the rhetoric — the effective messaging or speech — of a CEO and global business leader. The values chosen to explore in the CEO’s rhetoric are a key part of this article.
This rhetorical analysis examines the messaging of Rakesh Wahi, Founder of CNBC Africa and FORBES AFRICA. By consulting with approximately 10 executives from Wahi’s global team, this rhetoric examines four of his leadership values such as courage and determination, collaboration, passion for education, and equality.
Courage and determination
Wahi is a well-respected global businessman based in Dubai and South Africa who has been involved with approximately 20 corporate development projects. He continues to grow his establishments in more than 25 offices around the world. As a leader in media, IT, telecoms, and education, Wahi has built companies in 22 countries, employing over 1,000 employees. Prior to moving to the UAE, Wahi served in the Indian Armed Forces for approximately nine years and was awarded the Vishisht Seva Medal by the President of India in 1985 for distinguished services to the country in peacetime. During his army service, at age 23, he was part of India’s second base establishment in Antarctica where a near-death experience changed his life.
“But I realized at that age that life is not something you take for granted, therefore, whatever you want in this world, you have to set out to achieve it. At the end of the day, you are either there or not there; if you are not there, and if there are unfulfilled dreams, they will always be unfulfilled.” (Wahi)
READ MORE: 5 Minutes With Rakesh Wahi
Wahi’s executive team members, who have known him for approximately 20-30 years, believe this statement. Based on four personal interviews conducted for the purpose of this analysis with Wahi’s global leadership team, Wahi “lives this statement in his everyday life” (Martin). Many acknowledged that he is continuously determined to fulfil his dreams. Lars Jeppesen, Wahi’s Co-Founder of Tech One Global, states that “Wahi dreams and then puts all efforts to pursue the dreams… he is still building universities, creating new businesses, and pursues his dreams” (Jeppesen). Wahi is known to thrive on challenges and never gives up on achieving his goals even when faced with obstacles and challenges.
A leader’s personal life experiences and adversities play a major role in one’s values and ethics. In Wahi’s case, facing death at a young age motivated him to pursue his dreams to become realities. This is an admirable value for entrepreneurs, especially the younger generation. As a role model, Wahi teaches them to never give up despite challenges.
Collaboration & Importance of People
Wahi has learned valuable business lessons from his experience in the army, most importantly, the core lesson taught in the military about the importance of people and looking after them. His 2016 autobiography, Be a Lion, dedicated a section to The Importance of People. Books have had a great impact on Wahi, specifically the philosophy of reason from Ayn Rand while he was fighting for his life from the military life-threatening incident. As an advocate in the influence of others, he reiterates in his book, “That it is difficult to achieve anything without the involvement, commitment, loyalty, and assistance of others. When you come across a person with whom you can see a future, you must grasp the opportunity and mutually make the most of it.” (Wahi Ch. 1, location 173, par. 4)
Wahi executes his philosophy in numerous examples throughout his career, especially one with Daniel Adkins who is now CEO of Wahi’s Transnational Academic Group Middle East. When asked to describe a situation reflecting Wahi’s collaboration with and valuing people, this quality has directly been experienced, Adkins states, “I am probably the best possible example of this philosophy.” (Adkins). He describes his hiring experience entering the organization in late 2009 and rise from the most entry level position at one of Wahi’s Dubai-based universities, Murdoch University, to now CEO for the Middle East operations.
“Throughout this entire process, Wahi has provided both direct mentorship and mentorship by example and has made sure that I did the same for my entire team, which has produced fantastic organisational results including no turnover with regret for six years.” (Adkins)
READ MORE: The Most Defining Aspects Of Our Lives
As stated in Lancaster University Ghana’s Senior Management biography, Wahi’s “core focus is on long term corporate and leadership development through building strong management teams”. Adkins reiterates this statement in an interview: “Wahi absolutely lives this philosophy and demands it from his entire management team… the people are the business and there is nothing more important” (Adkins).
Wahi is known to have a special gift and skill to find loyal people and never hesitates to show appreciation to people’s loyalty. Wahi learned this quality from his role model parents, a father who was a military, corporate, and family hero and a mother who was not only Mother Teresa’s friend, but a genuine giver in life. In other words, Wahi is a “go back to your roots leader” (Al Abadilah). Wahi was brought up in a giving family and now gives back as a leader. Because of the people-oriented philosophies followed in his organizations, employee turnaround rates are phenomenally low. Everyone is treated like family and the principles presented in Ken Blanchard’s book, Gung-Ho!, are lived by management.
Wahi’s philosophy about collaboration and importance of people is truly refreshing in a CEO and business leader. In today’s individualistic world, leaders like Wahi who dedicate a major part of their leadership role to importance of people is a rare finding. Such values must be celebrated and promoted in all aspects of business worldwide.
Passion for education
As a sought-after speaker at educational institutions on leadership and entrepreneurship, Wahi received an Honorary Doctorate Degree of Science from the International University of Management by the Minister of Education of Namibia. He was also appointed as an IATF2018 Goodwill Ambassador by The Trade Finance for Africa. He personally learned and continuously teaches patience to other entrepreneurs in emerging markets. In an interview with CNBC Africa, The Entrepreneur’s Entrepreneur: Rakesh Wahi,about his book Be a Lion, Wahi shares he is “extremely passionate about education”. His vision is to set up educational centers of excellence across Africa incorporating new innovative industries such as online and hybrid aspects of education with traditional classroom environment. He has mentored many people in his leadership journey, but believes mentorship benefits both parties as he states in an interview with CNBC Africa: “Within a group, you always learn from each other. Mentorship is not a one-way journey, you learn every day from your peers, subordinates, seniors… If you are a student, you will remain a student all your life. You must be like a sponge, no matter your age.” (Wahi)
According to Adkins and Martin, executive partners at Wahi’s educational business sectors, Wahi lives his statement daily. Not only does he mentor his staff, he also learns from those on his team whether they are junior level or senior. Wahi has created a business culture amongst all sectors in a way that everyone learns from one another.
“There is no rank in the discussion. It is both intuitively understood and explicitly expressed that everyone’s ideas deserve equal consideration and we have made company-altering decisions based on input received from junior team members when those ideas turned out to be the best… It is absolutely the culture.” (Adkins)
Jeppesen, now Co-Founder of a tech enterprise with Wahi, states in an interview, “Wahi has been my mentor since we met 17 years back… Later, when we co-founded Tech One Global, he was leading our board and mentored me personally as the CEO.” (Jeppesen).
The culture of learning and mentorship from one another has saved the business in an example of a termination deal of one of Dubai’s university partnerships with a junior member of the team’s approach. This is proof that critical decisions are made, as a group despite rank levels. An important aspect of Wahi’s work is helping the leadership team rise to the next level.
Wahi’s decision to launch FORBES WOMAN AFRICA was to provide a platform for women entrepreneurs’ stories and the overwhelming waitlist of these stories in FORBES AFRICA.
“The main reason was that as a startup magazine, FORBES AFRICA was overwhelmed with a waiting list of stories from 49 countries in sub-Saharan Africa; by virtue of women having a late head start in the business world, the stories were largely dominated by men who had done great things to transform Africa.” (Wahi)
In a short period of time, the magazine has risen to be the material of choice for inspirational women stories, with fantastic content being produced. Equality is discussed in an article by FORBES WOMAN AFRICA, Celebrating Five Years with The Founder and Publisher: Rakesh Wahi.
“We have discussed the trials and tribulations of women in the workplace and become a champion for equality. The word ‘equality’ is a living value for us at the ABN Group and I am so proud that we have been able to personify our values through affirmative action.” (Wahi)
READ MORE: Equality As A Living Value
According to a partner of over 35 years, Rajiv Podar, “Wahi has always respected and admired hard-working women and a firm believer of equality at workplace and home… Most of his senior colleagues are women too” (Podar). In an example from a former female executive at one of Wahi’s first ventures 20 years ago in Dubai, Maha Al Abadilah discusses the value of equality she experienced as a woman working with Wahi. “I have never experienced anything that distinguished a man and a woman, nothing but full respect and treating us with our pure qualifications and titles.” (Al Abadilah.14:19).
Wahi repeatedly demonstrates his firm belief in his statements amongst his team members. When a decision is to be made for an important matter, all team members discuss as equals. “It is both intuitively understood and explicitly expressed that everyone’s ideas deserve equal consideration.” (Adkins). Evidently, not only the value of equality is present within his ABN Group amongst women in the workplace, but also amongst all employees. Gender and rank are clearly not considered in any team discussions and decisions.
Wahi’s leadership approach and personality embodies unique values such as a life-changing incident, the collaboration and importance of people, a passion for education, and equality. As he was personally approached for research purposes of this analysis, he promptly welcomed connections with over 10 executives and partners of his global team who were all eager to help. Research results and personal interviews with warm responses from his team members and partners portray all qualities examined in this analysis positively. Wahi lives his statements and is a true people-oriented leader.
Adkins, Daniel. “Re: Business Paper Inquiry – Harvard University.” Received by Anahita Negarandeh, 12 Dec. 2018.
Africa, Forbes Woman. “Celebrating Five Years With The Founder & Publisher: Rakesh Wahi.” Forbes Africa, 27 Sept. 2018, www.forbesafrica.com/woman/2018/09/27/celebrating-five-years-with-the-founder-publisher-rakesh-wahi/.
Al Abadilah, Maha. “Phone Interview, Rakesh Wahi Analysis” Voice recorder. 18 Dec. 2018.
Bandyopadhyay, Somshankar. “Military Lessons in Entrepreneurship.” GulfNews, 15 Mar. 2017, https://gulfnews.com/entertainment/books/military-lessons-in-entrepreneurship-1.1994221.
Bishop, Chris. “Re: Chris Bishop CNBC Africa.” Received by Anahita Negarandeh, 12 Dec. 2018.
CNBC Africa. “Rakesh Wahi Reflects on CNBC Africa’s Decade of Broadcasting.” CNBC Africa, CNBC Africa, 1 June 2017, www.cnbcafrica.com/videos/2017/06/01/rakesh-wahi-reflects-on-cnbc-africas-decade-of-broadcasting/.
CNBC Africa. “The Entrepreneur’s Entrepreneur: Rakesh Wahi.” CNBC Africa, 4 Nov. 2016, www.cnbcafrica.com/news/special-report/2016/11/04/be-a-lion/.
Jeppesen, Lars. “Re: Business Paper Inquiry – Harvard University.” Received by Anahita Negarandeh, 12 Dec. 2018.
Lancaster University Ghana. “Rakesh Wahi Chairman.” Lancaster University Ghana, www.lancaster.edu.gh/our-faculty-details.php?id=45. Accessed 8 Dec. 2018.
Martin, Gary. “Re: Business Paper Inquiry – Harvard University.” Received by Anahita Negarandeh, 12 Dec. 2018.
Naicker, Roberta. “Re: Business Paper Inquiry – Harvard University.” Received by Anahita Negarandeh, 12 Dec. 2018.
Podar, Rajiv. “Re: Business Paper Inquiry – Harvard University.” Received by Anahita Negarandeh, 12 Dec. 2018.
Vettath, Malavika. “Global Entrepreneur Rakesh Wahi: ‘I’ve Been a Very Bad Personal Investor’.” The National, The National, 25 May 2018, www.thenational.ae/business/money/global-entrepreneur-rakesh-wahi-i-ve-been-a-very-bad-personal-investor-1.733606.
Wahi, Rakesh. Be A Lion. Penguin Books, 2016. Kindle eBook file.
Wahi, Rakesh. “Re: Business Paper Inquiry – Harvard University.” Received by Anahita Negarandeh, 12 Dec. 2018.
Déjà vu: South Africa Back to Winning
Our Publisher reflects on the recent Springbok victory in Yokohoma, Japan
By Rakesh Wahi, Publisher
Rugby is as foreign to me as cricket is to the average American. However, having lived in South Africa for 15 years, there is no way to avoid being pulled into the sport. November 2, 2019, is therefore a date that will be celebrated in South Africa’s sporting posterity. In many ways, it’s déjà vu for South Africans; at a pivotal time in history, on June 24, 1995, the Springboks beat the All Blacks (the national rugby team of New Zealand) in the final of the World Cup. The game united a racially-divided country coming out of apartheid and at the forefront of this victory was none other than President Nelson Mandela or our beloved Madiba. In a very symbolic coincidence, 24 years later, history repeated itself.
South Africans watched with pride as Siya Kolisi lifted the gold trophy in Yokohama, Japan, as had Francois Pienaar done so 24 years ago in Johannesburg. My mind immediately reflected on this extremely opportune event in South Africa’s history.
The last decade has not been easy; the country has slipped into economic doldrums from which there seems to be no clear path ahead. The political transition from the previously corrupt regime has not been easy and it has been disheartening to see a rapid deterioration in the economic condition of the country. The sad reality is that there literally seems to be no apparent light at the end of the tunnel; with blackouts and load-shedding, a currency that is amongst the most volatile in the world, rising unemployment and rising crime amongst many other issues facing the country.
Something needed to change. There was a need for an event to change this despondent state of mind and the South African rugby team seems to have given a glimmer of hope that could not have come at a more opportune time. As South African flags were flying all over the world on November 2, something clicked to say that there is hope ahead and if people come together under a common mission, they can be the change that they want to see.
Isn’t life all about hope? Nothing defies gravity and just goes up; Newton taught us that everything that goes up will come down. Vicissitudes are a part of life and the true character of people, society or a nation is tested on how they navigate past these curve balls that make us despair. As we head into 2020, it is my sincere prayer that we see a new dawn and a better future in South Africa with renewed vigor and vitality.
Talking about sports and sportsmen, there is another important lesson that we need to take away. Having been a sportsman all my life, I have had a belief that people who have played team sports like cricket, rugby, soccer, hockey etc make great team players and leaders. However, other sports like golf, diving and squash teach you focus. In all cases, the greatest attribute of all is how to reset your mind after adversity. While most of us moved on after amateur sports to find our place in the world, the real sportspeople to watch and learn from are professionals. It is their grit and determination.
My own belief is that one must learn how to detach from a rear view mirror. You cannot ignore what is behind you because that is your history; you must learn from it. Our experiences are unique and so is our history. It must be our greatest teacher. However, that’s where it must end. As humans, we must learn to break the proverbial rear view mirror and stop worrying about the past. You cannot change what is behind you but you can influence and change what is yet to come.
I had the good fortune of playing golf with Chester Williams (former rugby player who was the first person of color to play for the Springboks in the historic win in 1995 and sadly passed away in September 2019) more than once at the SuperSport Celebrity Golf Shootout.
Chester played his golf fearlessly; perhaps the way he led his life. He would drive the ball 300 meters and on occasion went into the woods or in deep rough. Psychologically, as golfers know, this sets you back just looking at a bad lie, an embedded or unplayable ball or a dropped shot in a hazard. For a seasoned golfer, it is not the shot that you have hit but the one that you are about to hit. Chester has a repertoire of recovery shots and always seemed to be in the game even after some wayward moments. There is a profound lesson in all of this. You have to blank your mind from the negativity or sometimes helplessness and bring a can do and positive frame of reference back into your game (and life). Hit that recovery shot well and get back in the game; that’s what champions do.
We need to now focus our attention on the next shot and try and change the future than stay in the past.
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