Maurice Radebe. Picture: Supplied
Maurice Radebe. Picture: Supplied

It’s a stop-start world in the business education market, says Wits Business School (WBS) director Maurice Radebe. First, there was face-to-face classroom teaching. Covid put a stop to that and forced everyone online.  In response to a clamour from students, the school reinstated some face-to-face sessions, only to have to shut them down again almost immediately.  “The future is uncertain,” says Radebe, with a hint of understatement.

What is certain, he says, is that WBS is finding its feet again after a period marked – from the outside, at least – by lack of strategic clarity. Radebe, the former Sasol executive who took the WBS reins in January, doesn’t deny it.  His priority has been to convince staff, students and the business world that the school once again has a clear strategic vision.

The signs are positive. He says there is broad support from all corners. Some ideas have had to be “contextualised” to meet real conditions, and special attention has been paid to school administration, which was “very weak”.

He adds: “We are reshaping and rethinking. Coming from the business world, it’s been a learning experience for me, but I’m very proud of what has been achieved.”

Academic director Logan Rangasamy says:  “We haven’t fixed everything, but the vision gives us a sense of purpose and direction, as well as a culture of accountability.”

External relationships are also growing, says Radebe. Given his career background, it’s no surprise that he wants WBS to expand its presence in the energy sector. Besides becoming the go-to education centre on the subject, he wants WBS to contribute to the development of SA energy policy – an area where the government is finally showing some signs of coherent thinking.

That doesn’t mean less emphasis in areas, such as digital, where WBS is already a thought leader, but the school has to broaden its areas of specialist expertise, says Radebe.

His ambitions extend far beyond SA. In his quest for WBS to be a leading global business school, it is developing more relationships with overseas schools. Logan hopes collaboration will allow WBS students to undertake degree programme electives with these schools. 

Radebe also wants WBS to be a significant voice and education partner in Africa. It is already seeking accreditation with the African Association of Business Schools. Susan Benvenuti, the school’s head of academic quality assurance, says: “We want to work with them.  They will be a powerful player on the continent. We are enjoying the collaborative spirit.”

Radebe says, however, that WBS must show restraint in its activities across the continent. Deservedly or not, some SA business schools – like many of the country’s corporations – have a reputation for arrogance in their dealings in other African countries.

“We must get away from the idea that SA and Africa are different entities,” he says. “We must go in as equals rather than colonisers.  It’s about humility, humility, humility.”​

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