Most people going to South Africa in late June went for the World Cup, but not all of them. My reason for going was to take part in the FORTUNE Global Forum. It was an international gathering of business, government, and NGO leaders. Most attendees came from China and North America and, of course, the African continent.
The China representation wasn’t surprising, since that country is one of the biggest investors in Africa. The continent’s natural resources are one reason. Here’s another: the rate of return on foreign investment, according to a McKinsey Global Institute report, “higher in Africa than in any other developing region.”
Even with the problems African nations face, their economies are developing fast, almost as fast as the BRIC nations. To keep development going requires innovative thinking. I was privileged to be part of a panel discussion on “Innovation by Design.” We discussed how design can make products, buildings, and even villages better. I shared my thoughts, as did architects Frank Gehry, Rodney Harber, and Luyanda Mpahlwa.
And speaking of innovation, we were able to feature Herman Miller’s latest innovation, the Embody chair; 400 of them filled the main conference room, along with our classics and Setu chairs in the lobby, thanks to the efforts of our local dealer, AllOffice. All in all, it was a great experience, although I didn’t get a chance to buy a vuvuzela.
Photo via David Rogers/Getty Images