What does South Africa mean to you, asks CFO SA MD, Graham Fehrsen


CFO South Africa is a proudly South African platform, even with its Dutch roots. At the recent CFO Awards, we hosted a masterclass with leading CFOs on the topic of race and transformation. What would we say if we spoke openly about these issues and how would it reflect our values and attitude? It was one of the most powerful conversations ever hosted in the CFO South Africa space and attendees have all asked that we continue this conversation.

What this tells me is that CFOs and executives believe in the power of conversation and collaboration but often lack effective forums.

I am an unashamed patriot - proud to be South African because it is what I know and love deeply. I often wonder what keeps me connected to this country and why I feel so strongly about the future of South Africa. Patriotism washes over people in different ways. For some it is so strong that they feel it was wrong for two foreigners to win five of ten awards at the CFO Awards. Is this staunch patriotism a form of xenophobia? It certainly took me by surprise and the fact that it came from people I know and respect made it even more surprising. But ultimately, in this time where South Africans are looking for certainty and clarity around their future, perhaps it is understandable that we look at foreigners with a degree of skepticism or even cynicism.

But what of these foreigners - the Guptas aside - who contribute to the very fabric of South Africa? What do they find here? If it is not patriotism, what is it?

Perhaps it is simply a love of this powerful kaleidoscope of people, culture, beliefs and hope. Certainly, the Dutch founders of CFO South Africa fell in love with all these elements and not only visit regularly with their family and friends but are committed to building a business and contributing to the growth of the economy. Expat CFOs often talk about how much they love South Africa and all that comes with it.

What if you feel no connection to South Africa or its future? In a world where we are increasingly disconnected despite the ever-increasing connectivity, there is a good chance that more and more people feel less of a connection to the state or the borders that define one. A good number of South African CFOs have talked to me about educating their children overseas in what I interpret as hope that it will free them to live and work in a country of their choice. This is a global citizen's perspective and if you have the means why would you not give your children the best opportunities possible?

No matter how you feel about South Africa and its future, the truth is that your attitude and contribution will make a difference. This is true of the impact individuals can have on families, communities and countries.

CFO South Africa is committed to remaining a platform where you are able to learn and network for the good of your own knowledge and career, the broader finance community and South Africa as a whole. On 12 and 13 October, we will host the second Finance Indaba Africa - the continent's largest platform for accounting and finance professionals to learn and network together. We hope to see you there!

This article first appeared in CFO Magazine.

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