Dr. Kai-Uwe Wellner (International Management and Controlling, Augsburg University of Applied Science; Germany)

13.06.2010 - Interview conducted by Peter Hanley

Q1. The South African stock exchange ranks among the top twenty in the world, with the South African Rand currency emerging as one of the most traded currencies in the world. Do you believe there would be any benefit in this currency being regionalised within the SADC, along the same lines as the Euro? Or, would the disparities of GDP between the nations be too much?

Any closer relationship between the SADC countries in terms of economical and political union, in the same respect to the EU, is as an advantage for inter-regional trade. If you take a look at the EU trade and how it developed over the last ten years since 1994 and the introduction of the Maastricht Treaty and after the introduction of the Euro, trade in these countries increased heavily and the same would take place in the Southern African countries. For example, trade between Namibia and South Africa, with a close relationship between their respective currencies, the Namibian dollar and South African Rand, would allow for the integration of the currencies and therefore strong growth in tandem. It would also grow in other countries if there were a single currency, like in the EU.

Q2.  Do you agree with the statement ‘Africa needs is trade, not aid’? How would you assess the veracity of this statement? And, is the South African example a model for other Sub-Saharan countries, in terms of its foreign trade policy?

The point is that South Africa is special according to its geographical situation, mineral resources and its trade heritage with the British Empire, the Dutch and Portuguese trading companies. This combination means that South Africa is different in comparison to other African countries. If other African countries would be more open, stable, peaceful and less corrupt as South Africa has developed after the apartheid system as a new democratically oriented country, it would also increase the chances of economic development of these countries and also the prospects of intra-African trade. Trade between South Africa and other African countries would be the first step toward creating wealth, stability and prosperity throughout Africa.

Q3. With principle international trading partners such as Germany, USA, Japan and China exporting Gold and other precious metals, what are the challenges for the South African government in promoting strong economic growth, eradicating poverty and creating a more equal society? 

The point is in creating an equal society, a major aspect is education and also security in terms of stable possibilities and chances for all South Africans, despite of socio-economic standing, to gain an education. Education is the basis for a stable South Africa. The international trade with other countries leads to a more open mindset among the South African people and politics, and due to interdependency within the African continent, this openness will spread and increase prosperity and stabilisation in this country.

You spoke about multi-national corporations, such as BMW, expanding their interests abroad, whilst maintaining strong links with the company’s home nation, Germany. What role does understanding other cultures and cultural diplomacy have to play in maintaining standards and consistency throughout international business after companies expand?

There are actually two ways of using cultural diplomacy within a company, one being the internal that is within the corporations such as BMW, Volkswagen, GM and Toyota worldwide. Corporate identities of an international company have to be fulfilled worldwide. If IBM is working within Europe, Asia and America for example, the IBM corporate identity has to be the same and to promote the same product with the same identification, image and branding. On the other hand, brand identification has to be adapted to local markets. So you therefore cannot have a single strategy for the whole world. You have single brand identification among the employees, but the perception of the brand in different countries has to be different and must be adapted to different cultural aspects, societies and different economic needs in that given region. In light of this, BMW adapts their products to South African needs - in terms of advertising and financing. They therefore have a different advertising framework, even though the product is exactly the same as it is in England or Germany. The fact that the global marketing aspect and the local perception of the company due to different cultures gives you an indication that BMW is differently perceived in South Africa in comparison Germany.