Tribalism is notoriously the bane of Africa, as narrow ethnic networks keep out others so as to grab the riches of national economies for themselves through corruption and patronage. In SA, Steinhoff provides a prime example. Historically, it was far less diverse than the government, the ANC or even many other big businesses — and that provided fertile ground for mismanagement and fraud. While Steinhoff was an extreme example, the broadly uncritical support it enjoyed before the fall illustrates how tribalism still shapes much of SA’s economic discourse. When a closed group has power, it often sees diversity as lowering standards rather than bringing in new ideas, traditions and standpoints. Yet a host of studies show that, from academia to the boardroom, diversity ensures better results because it makes people think outside the box, see more opportunities and manage risks better. Steinhoff’s closed management reflects some core challenges for SA business, ranging from market concen...

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