CEO Masterclass review: How to build an authentic African business

May 3, 2019
By Rowan Belchers

The first CEO Project Masterclass was a highlight of my career.


The topic was “How to build an authentic African business” and it proved to be the first instance of two of my great loves – Africa and the business community – merging into one conversation.

Below are some key concepts that came up in our conversation for you to contemplate:

“In your eye-line”: 

What you choose to see or pay attention to in your business is a choice. For some CEOs, this topic (belonging, diversity, transformation) is a priority, for others, it’s not. What’s in your eye-line is an important choice to make as it shapes the type of system that you’re building. It’s better to be clear with yourself about your intentions around building a business where all people can belong.

“The potential is as dense as the problem”: 

It is important to positively reframe reform. The upside of cracking this problem is creating a place of belonging where everyone can find their best form and contribute optimally to your business ‘mission’. The narrative in South Africa is generally a negative one where it concerns belonging, coated as it is by our difficult social history. But the benefits – at the end of the day – are far greater than the risks.

“Human experience design”:

This is the fundamental issue we are dealing with here: what is the experience of ALL the humans in your business. Is it optimal? Is it just? Is it right? Is it creative? One CEO who was present runs a very demanding meat processing business and spent the evening being thoughtful about how to optimise the incredibly trying conditions (working in minus 35 degrees Celsius all day) that his factory workers endure. The answer is not easy, but the point is he was being thoughtful about the problem and the eventual solution.

“Move yourself out of your bubble”:

Bubbles are pleasant because they are safe and curated by ourselves. But they are a direct route to developing blind-spots that can damage. It requires clear intent to move out of our bubbles and to engage in the tough issues – knowing that the businesses who solve these tough issues have an automatic and immediate advantage.

“Engage the heart”:

None of the above is possible without working and thinking at the level of humanity. It’s easier to ignore the issue and your head will help you do this, such is our ability to think away our hard problems. This is where our heart is a clearer and more reliable guide with which to navigate this issue. It will open up thinking, reveal more and greater truths, and bring the best out of your own humanity.

Our incredible guest Julie Nxadi, Director of the Centre for Being and Belonging, can be contacted through Lockstep should you wish to continue this conversation with an expert on the topic.

The next Masterclass features Casper Oelofsen leading our dinner dialogue on the topic of Complexity.  This conversation is a ‘must-see’ in my opinion for any CEO who wants to operate in the current business environment.

Contact Simone Meyerowitz at for registration to attend the next CEO Masterclass.

Rowan Belchers

Rowan Belchers

Rowan is the founder and CEO of Lockstep, a business leadership consultancy. Lockstep works with CEO’s, executive teams and future leaders globally, partnering with clients who seek customised leadership solutions. Rowan is a highly respected advisor to CEOs with over two decades’ experience in guiding businesses and their leaders towards reaching their fullest potential. Rowan leads The CEO Project, a Lockstep initiative.
Share this article

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Contact us

For CEOs who wish to develop their CEO craft.