In July last year the University of Johannesburg (UJ) opened the doors to a cutting edge initiative that is on trend with global educational trends; the formation of the College of Business and Economics (CBE).
The initiative sees the former Faculty of Economic and Financial Sciences and the Faculty of Management joining forces to provide students with a qualification that is multi-faceted, entrepreneurial and business orientated and will meet the needs of the future.
Prof Mercy Mpinganjira, Director, School of Consumer Intelligence and Information Systems, says the changing world of work demands a different approach. “We need to incorporate new technologies and the digitalisation of marketing into the programme. Bringing together the different departments under one roof is part of this move. We also believe that this will give us the synergies we need to provide a good and relevant qualification for our students.”
The move builds on ground breaking initiatives that have been part of the faculties for some time. One of these is the globally recognised partnership the university has with the Direct Selling Association (DSA) in South Africa.
The DSA-UJ partnership has received global recognition from the World Federation of Direct Selling Associations (WFDSA) and is seen as a trend setter for what is happening globally. So much so that the programme is being embraced by other DSA’s internationally.
Initiated 15 years ago the programme provides students with practical experience. “The programme is informed by the needs of the industry, and teaches students practical sales and sales management skills. The programme also assists the students to gain entrepreneurial skills and earn an income through the sales of products,” says Prof Mpinganjira.
She says that going forward we would want to expand the programme with more DSA member companies coming on board. “The programme is a very important part of our course, but apart from the skills that they learn, the programme inspired them to achieve. It shows them that they can do it themselves; that they have the ability to take ownership for their life. The entrepreneurial spirit that it fosters is invaluable.”
Table Charm has been part of the programme since shortly after its inception and has seen it grow and develop to become the world-class programme it is today. “The programme is recognised worldwide and that is because it changes lives” according to former Sales Director, Belinda-lee Bellagarda.
The Millennials have so much to offer, she adds. “They are smart, and use technology to their advantage. An added benefit is that the programme creates an opportunity for these students to earn an income; one they can continue with once they graduate and start working.”
The programme has grown a life of its own, says UJ’s Dr Marius Wait, Head of the Department of Marketing in the School of Consumer Intelligence and Information Systems at the UJ College of Business and Economics.
“It gives students practical skills. The diplomas they are enrolled in are three years in length and of these, two include practical experience. The nature of the course is vocational, so the practical experience is a very important component of the qualification.”
Recently the top performing students in the programme were recognised at a breakfast function held at the UJ School of Tourism & Hospitality, Bunting Road, Auckland Park.
They all agree that the skills the programme has taught them are invaluable. Motsannape Matsepe, who was third placed Top Achiever for Tupperware SA, says the experience gained from this programme has prepared her for the future and the direction she would like to take in her career, while Joel Ngalula, third placed Top Achiever for Avon Justine, says managing stress and communication are the two biggest lessons he is taking away with him.
“It was difficult in the beginning”, say’s Petunia Hlaka, the second placed Top Achiever for Avon Justine, “but once I got to know the process and the money started to come in, it was great. My friends and family were a wonderful support. It was nice to make some extra money and the incentives are great.”
“My love of marketing was a real help to me as it helped me in my interactions with people and to provide a good customer service,” says Naledi Diphoko, first place Top Achiever for Avon Justine. “The process taught me patience and I learnt to adapt to different personalities. My takeaway is how important customer service is. My advice is to enjoy the selling part and do not stop till you are proud.”
The UJ College of Business and Economics will, though private and public sector management education and research, engage issues relating to poverty, inequality and inequitable economic access challenging the African continent.
Results presented at the annual Direct Selling luncheon indicated that the Direct Selling industry grew by 18% in South Africa in 2016. According to DSA chairman Cornélle van Graan, “this is testimony to the fact that our member companies provide quality products through a professional distribution channel of skilled entrepreneurs, truly impacting change in Africa.”
The 34 member companies that belong to the DSA South Africa generated R13-billion sales in the same period. Globally the industry generated US $182-billion in 2016. While Africa remains a small part of this, it is recognised as the next big frontier and is one of the fastest growing regions in the world.