Bruce Whitfield on business in SA

26 June 2018

“If one invested just R1000 in 1967, it would be worth R7.5 million today”. This, says Bruce Whitfield, is the power of the South African economy. Addressing members at a South African Council of Shopping Centres (SACSC) Gauteng Chapter Networking Breakfast, radio stalwart Bruce Whitfield highlighted the undeniable strain that the South African political and economic landscape has experienced over the past few years.

Even in these times of perceived chaos, there are a number of South African Companies that have and continue to succeed in the SA business landscape. Whitfield examined the factors that made some of these companies financially succesful. “Many of these companies, saw beyond the chaos, continued to build and in doing so, things became a lot clearer,” he said.

Whitfield has spent nearly two decades interviewing CEOs and studying the companies they have created. “South Africa might seem to be an unlikely breeding ground for globally competitive companies, but it has produced a range of extraordinary success stories. Just four of the top 40 companies listed on the JSE today were on that list the day Nelson Mandela was released from prison. At least half did not exist or were in early start-up phase and have grown, in most cases, far beyond their founder’s own expectations. Considering South Africa has been through eight recessions of varying intensity over the past forty years, what would have happened had the founders of great South African companies had sat on their hands and waited for certainty? They didn’t. They got stuck in,” he added.

Whitfield has been named Financial Journalist of the Year three times in the past decade by independent judges in the annual Sanlam Awards and has received recognition for his work on the economy, companies and personal finance.

“The retail and shopping centre industry is definitely a challenging space at the moment but if we all look beyond all this perceived chaos, we can all succeed. We can learn from these companies. Are a disproportionate number of SA companies able to box above their weight globally because they come from South Africa or despite the fact that they come from South Africa.

How is it possible to leave a Manchester pub where four beers produced by SABMiller are on sale, to stand on a pavement to see a Bidvest food services truck trundle past only to be marvelling at the co-incidence to see a Nando’s logo glistening in the early evening light. That actually happened and is the inspiration for this talk.

The country’s fractious politics is intertwined with sentiment, but those who have succeeded have navigated the noise,” he said. Those interested in attending an SACC event and for more information call 010 0030 228 or visit

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