Discovering South Africa

My experience with the Convergence Partners team was great. In month two, I had a better idea of the team dynamic and culture. I felt very welcomed; and integrated well with the diverse team. The level of humility displayed by the Chairman and Founding patterns amazed me as they treated everyone like equals and with respect. The work environment was professional, productive and fun at times. The team was young at heart and they all seemed very close, like a family. One of my observations that stood out the most was the passion expressed by the executive for ICT infrastructure development in Africa. I am very grateful for the knowledge they have imparted. Also, the firm offered me an opportunity to receive executive level training from SAVCA on PE and VC in Africa. The training was attended by private and public sector organizations.

Socially, I ventured out a little. I visited some places outside of ‘Sandton’ like 7th Street in Melville and the atmosphere reminded me of U St. in Washington DC. I also planned a short visit to Alexandria (Alex) Township. Prior to the visit, I heard intimidating stories about the place but once there,  I found that the people seemed peaceful and happy. Nevertheless, I was shocked by the disparity of wealth between Sandton and Alex; a short distance of less than 20min apart.

Another impactful experience occurred during a volunteer event with a portfolio company. Seacom held a Career Day at Tembisa Secondary High School, as part of its Corporate Social Investment program. Our goal was to provide information to Grades 8 – 12 students on career paths and give them advice on their éducation. Most of the students we spoke with had no plans for higher education mainly due to financial challenges and the disadvantages of living in a Township. Some students were determined to obtain a better éducation if and only they obtained scholarships. The only message that I could impart is my experience in the United States as a young immigrant child from a low-income household—no matter the obstacles, I didn’t give up and I often had to be creative to find opportunities for myself. However, I know I was fortunate to grow up in a country full of posibilities where student loans and employment were accessible. I told them the best decision I ever made was to take my studies seriously. I also advised the students that it takes lot of hard work, determination, and sacrifices to fulfill its dream; but they will see graduelle see results. There are many different paths to reach the same goalt; they just need to believe in themselves and have a solide plan. Finally, I advised students to reach out to people or programs that will connect them to professionals in their communities to learn  about their careers.

Emma Fofanah