Sunday, September 8, 2013

Made in South Africa?: A Trip to the Farm

Here at UB I am in the Faculty of Business (or College of Business).  Aside from Tourism and Hospitality (THM), the other departments in my Faculty include Marketing, Management and Accounting & Finance.  We also offer an MBA as well as a Ph.D. in Global Entrepreneurship. A significant part of my job here is to develop the curriculum for a Masters in Tourism and Hospitality Management.  In theory that shouldn’t be particularly difficult since I already spend a lot of time with graduate education back in Texas.  But there are two challenges associated with this task.

First of all, THM has a heavy focus on natural resources, environmental preservation and wildlife.  For instance, we offer a course called Safari & Camp Management.  I sit in on a lot of courses taught by other professors in my department because tourism here is unlike anywhere else, so this gives me the opportunity to learn.  Yesterday’s Safari & Camp Management lecture dealt entirely with elephant watering, safety, and precautions.  Perhaps I should write another blog post about that class because it was truly fascinating!  You could NEVER imagine what you need to know about keeping the guests in your camp safe from elephants. Hint: Don’t have a swimming pool, because elephants will be attracted to the water and show up in camp to drink it.

The other major difference between the course of study here and in my previous HTM departments is the focus on entrepreneurship.  The Ph.D. program here is called Global Entrepreneurship, but it really focuses on entrepreneurship here in Botswana.  There are a lot of government initiatives here to encourage local ownership and management.  Due to the high price point of the tourism operations here, most are owned, or at least heavily invested in, by foreigners.  Attempts are being made to shift away from foreign investment and ownership to Batswana-run businesses, hence the Global Entrepreneurship Ph.D.

A few days ago the doctoral students went on a field trip to one of the government-subsidized entrepreneurship ventures.  I decided to tag along.  We went to a farm just north of town. As you can see here there were lots of greenhouses:

Currently the farm is growing tomatoes and collard greens:

The visit lasted about two hours and was quite interesting.  However, while our host was telling us about the tomato production I began wandering around and looking at things on my own.  I stumbled across a giant pile of bags on a table.  The bags were plastic and said “Tomatoes” on the front.  As I picked up the bag our host told the group, “Oh yes, this is where we bag the tomatoes…” and began an explanation of that process.  I turned over the bag and printed on the back was the statement, “Product of South Africa.” I was shocked.  This was an outrage!  False advertising!  Leading the consumer astray!  If it is a local product people need to know this!  WHY WOULD YOU EVER PUT BOTSWANA TOMATOES IN A BAG THAT SAYS ‘PRODUCT OF SOUTH AFRICA!’??!!

Alas, my curiosity got the best of me and I asked our guide.  His response, “Well, of course it is a product of South Africa.  The plastic bag was manufactured there.”

Yes, of course. I suppose in that case we really are talking about Global Entrepreneurship.

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