来宾大都是和我一样的媒体人，其中包括新媒体的领军人物、健康学投资人埃瑟•戴森（Esther Dyson），美国国家广播环球公司（NBC Universal）女性及生活时尚娱乐网总裁劳伦•扎拉兹尼克，《财富》杂志中国分社社长比尔•鲍威尔，成都市委宣传部部长何华章等。
Back to Africa (Part Four)
As I wrote in my previous three posts, I came away from the 2010 Global Forum in Cape Town with a head full of impressions, a notebook full of facts, and a pocket full of business cards.
As usual in life, whether business or otherwise, it is the stories people tell which we remember, rather than the charts and graphs in their presentations. We’ve become far too dependent on Powerpoint-type presentations, which are convenient and colorful but appeal mainly to the head rather than the heart. As a result, they are mostly superficial in impact, and quickly forgotten.
One very impactful story which I brought back from the Forum was told in the closing session by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who coincidentally announced his retirement from official duties a few weeks later. He announced that his guiding principle in retirement would be borrowed from fellow retiree Nelson Mandela: “Don’t call me; I’ll call you.”
In the final session of the Forum, the Archbishop told of boarding an aircraft in Africa many years ago, and noticing to his great surprise that the two pilots in the cockpit of the plane were black like him. At the time this was very rare, and for him, a first. His initial reaction was naturally one of pride at the progress of his fellow Africans, in education and career advancement.
The plane took off, and shortly afterwards, encountered some stomach-wrenching turbulence. In a moment of anxiety, his pride turned to fear as he wondered whether the two African pilots were up to the task of safely getting them through the storm.
As he tells the story, he makes two points.
First, what a terrible shame that his upbringing and education during the colonial era lead him and his fellow Africans to doubt in their own capabilities and talents, as evidenced by his reaction on that airplane. And second, watch out for the younger generation of Africans today; because they do not suffer from such a burden, and are full of pride and confidence in themselves.
When we think of “networking” in the context of a business conference, it usually consists mainly of meeting new contacts during the coffee break between sessions, around a crowded luncheon table over a hurried meal, or at a cocktail reception. The evidence that “networking” has taken place is a pocket full of name cards, and an incoming mail box a few days later with sales offers for insurance, property, investments, etc. All well and good, but frankly a lot of it is wasted time and effort because it is not targeted or well matched.
One program organized during the Global Forum in Cape Town was a series of dinners for delegates in the homes of prominent South Africans. This provided a relaxed and welcoming environment in which to get to know hosts and other guests alike, and constituted networking at a very high and valuable level.
I was invited to a dinner hosted by Mr. Antonie Roux, CEO, Global Operations, of South African media giant Naspers Group. Guests numbering less than 20 were seated at a long wooden dining table in his well-appointed dining room with beautiful wood floors and a hearty fire in the fire place (the winter weather was a bit chilly).
Most of the guests were media people like myself, and included leading new media and health sciences investor Esther Dyson, President of NBC Universal’s Women & Lifestyle. Network Lauren Zalaznick, FORTUNE’s China Bureau Chief Bill Powell, Chengdu’s Minister of Information Mr. He Huazhang, and others.
Mr. Roux is no stranger to China, having been there hundreds of times and having lived in Bangkok for 5 years. He and Naspers are far-sighted indeed, having bought a significant shareholding in China’s Tencent nearly 10 years ago, when the company’s meteoric success was far from a sure thing. He is a gracious, thoughtful, and very well-informed host.
Typical perhaps of the new era of social networking, several guests pulled out iPads during the conversation after dinner to illustrate a point.
As we were departing after a most enjoyable meal and conversation, someone complimented Mr. Roux on his lovely two-story home. Without a hint of arrogance he thanked the guest but clarified that we were not in their home, but his wife’s “cook house” (ie a place specifically for entertaining guests).
This will be my last post in the series on my first, unforgettable trip to Africa. In closing, especially as someone who is not a regular fan of football (or soccer as we still refer to it in the U.S.), I would like to nominate one truly global star of the 2010 World Cup Finals, a star who was not eligible for the finals and is not even able to play football, but made a lasting impression on fans from Tianjin to Tripoli.
My nomination would be: Paul the Octopus. Long Live Paul the Octopus!
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