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Visit to Israel provides new perspective for Khumalo

Andile Khumalo, chief investment officer of MSG Afrika, the media and communications group he co-owns with business partner Given Mkhari, has recently returned from a weeklong trip to Israel that opened his eyes to the country’s remarkable innovation as well as the complexities of the political situation.

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VANESSA VALKIN

Power businessman impressed

Khumalo also says that members of the South African Jewish community have played a seminal role in his business career.

MSG Afrika today has interests in radio (Power FM & Capricorn FM), TV production (Quizzical Pictures), PR and event management (The Communications Firm), print (The Quarto Press), and outdoor (Continental Outdoor Media), and operates in more than 14 African countries.

Khumalo AndileKhumalo himself hosts a show on Power FM called Power Business, which covers international markets, entrepreneurship, self-development and investment and hosts CEOs of major companies making the news.

The trip to Israel last month which included 25 of South Africa’s most promising entrepreneurs under the age of 40, was organised by the South Africa-Israel Forum and funded by entrepreneurs Jonathan Beare and Morris Kahn.

“I did the trip because I wanted to experience the ‘start up nation’, says Khumalo in an interview with Jewish Report.  “My experience of the trip was very little to do with the politics, although we were there on the day of elections and we did go to the West Bank and through the checkpoints… if anything we received quite a balanced outlook on things.”

The presentations that he and his fellow travellers were exposed to, made him realise that although there are a lot of Israel critics in South Africa, when one is “on the ground” there, ones sees “the fear and intimidation on both sides”. 

“The trip opened my eyes to how complex the situation over there is,” he remarks.

While in Israel, Khumalo attended an investor conference for start-up technology businesses who were pitching to venture capitalists. He was amazed at the sophistication of the “tech start-up scene”, he remarked.

“It was unlike anything I had seen before;” Israeli technology funders are prepared to invest large amounts of money in a few different ventures because the returns on just one success will more than make up for losses on the less-than-lucky picks. The South African tech industry has not yet reached that level of maturity, he believes, and is more averse to risk.

Khumalo now intends to fund another young entrepreneur to go on the next SAIF tour to Israel.

Some of the major turning points in his own business career, says Khumalo, have been through connections in the South African Jewish community.

After finishing accounting articles at Deloitte, he worked at Investec for two years with the legendary Andy Leith and Stephen Koseff.

“It was the steepest learning curve of my life,” he recalls. A junior analyst in investment banking is usually pushed into the back office but that did not happen for him. “I was in at the furnace of the deal negotiations.”

At Investec, people invested in their jobs as if it was their own business, and were well rewarded for this.

“As a young black person, you are very suspicious of corporate South Africa,” says Khumalo. “But I never felt like the black guy in the white team… everyone just put in a lot of effort.”

Investec played another key role for Khumalo when, having gone out on his own, he attended a screening of a football match at the bank’s Sandton offices during the 2010 World Cup. It was there that he met his partner Given Mkhari, who was just building the MSG Afrika group.

Investec had just acquired a stake in MSG and wanted Mkhari to find a partner with a finance background and so, with the support of Investec, Khumalo became the third partner. The two have since bought Investec’s stake, but still have close relationships there.

For Khumalo, a key to success in business is being passionate about what one does. “I have always tried to stay away from businesses I don’t feel strongly about,” he says.

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Shabbat Around The World beams out from Jozi

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More than 75 devices around the globe logged in to Beit Luria’s World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ) Shabbat Around the World programme on Friday, 15 January.

Whether it was breakfast time in California, tea time in Europe, or time to break challah in Johannesburg, participants logged in to take part in Beit Luria’s Kabbalat Shabbat service.

Among those participating were Rabbi Sergio Bergman, the president of the WUPJ; chairperson Carole Sterling; and Rabbi Nathan Alfred, the head of international relations. Singers Tulla Eckhart and Brian Joffe performed songs from a global array of artists, along with Toto’s Africa to add a little local flair to the service. After kiddish was said and bread was broken, Rabbi Bergman thanked Beit Luria for hosting the WUPJ. The shul looks forward to more collaborations with its global friends in the future.

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UJW Sewing School graduates model creations

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The outfits modelled by graduates of the Union of Jewish Women’s (UJW’s) Sewing School were all the more spectacular for the fact that some of their creators had never seen a sewing machine prior to the four-month course.

They were modelled at the school’s graduation ceremony at Oxford Shul on 15 December to much excitement and applause.

UJW executive member and Sewing School Manager Ariane Heneck expressed her gratitude to Chido Tsodzo, the school’s superb teacher, and the event ended with a much appreciated lunch for graduates and their invited guests.

The self-empowerment Sewing School for unemployed men and women was started by the UJW 10 years ago. It now has a small production team of ex-students, and some of its graduates have been employed in factories, while others are selling their own creations.

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Israel Rugby 7s to camp with the Blitzbokke

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The thrill-a-minute Rugby 7s have captured the hearts of fans around the world. The Blitzbokke, South Africa’s national Rugby 7s team, ranks second in the world, and is among the most exciting, formidable, and feared of 7s teams.

Exactly 9 191 km away are the Israelis, an emerging rugby nation that has talent, determination, and a world-class coach in South African Kevin Musikanth. Now, these two squads will meet. The Israeli 7s side will be travelling to the SAS Rugby Academy in Stellenbosch to train with the Blitzbokke.

The Blitzbokke will have the opportunity to prepare for the coming 7s rugby season by measuring their skills of play against the Israelis. And the Israelis, well, they will be rubbing shoulders with, and learning from the best in the world and honing their skills for their coming European Rugby season.

“It’s an opportunity for our boys to learn from the world’s best,” says Musikanth. The SAS Rugby Academy is run by the legendary Frankie Horn, a technical expert whose coaching guidelines and methods are second to none in World Rugby 7s.

Musikanth took over as Rugby 15s head coach in Israel in 2018, and in October 2019, he became director of rugby for the Israeli Rugby Union and head coach for the national programmes of both the 15s and the 7s.

Horn visited Israel last December at the behest of Rugby Israel and its supporting Olympic body and since then, the partnership has continued to grow. The upcoming training camp will begin in Israel, where Horn, together with Phil Snyman, the former Blitzbok captain and multiple world champion winner, will spend a week with the players and coaching staff at Wingate, Netanya, the home base of Rugby Israel. They will then all travel to Stellenbosch for a week’s camp with the Blitzbokke.

“We’ve already seen the difference through our partnership with Frankie. Two of our players were spotted by him on his previous trip to Israel, and have been training at SAS on the off-season,” says Musikanth. The two players are Omer Levinson (scrum half) and Yotam Shulman (lock).

Horn, technical advisor to Rugby Israel’s 7s, says “It is a great opportunity for both teams to derive positive benefit from the camp.”

Israel Rugby has been making considerable professional strides since Musikanth took over the reins. Israel 15s played their 100th test match against Cyprus and celebrated with a 34-22 victory.

“We’re in the top 25 in Europe in 15s and in the top 16 in 7s, the toughest, most competitive continent in world rugby,” says Musikanth, “and I can realistically see us setting our sights on the Top 15 and Top 12 respectively in the future.”

Currently, there are three eligible South Africans who are on the Israeli national squad: Jayson Ferera as flanker (Pirates Rugby Club), Daniel Stein as fly half (studying in Israel), and Jared Sichel as prop (Hamilton’s Rugby Club, Cape Town). Eligibility to play for a national team in rugby is stricter than in other sports. One does not qualify just because one has a passport. One has to have had a parent or grandparent that was born in that country or one has to have lived in the country for at least three years.

“With so much Jewish rugby talent around the world, we would be able to put a world-class Israeli national team together if not for the measures that restrict eligibility to national call ups,” says Musikanth.

The Israel Rugby development project was accelerated thanks to Musikanth initiating Bridges through Rugby. This project is the collective effort of a few South African Jewish businessmen who appreciate the long-term vision of Israel becoming a stronger rugby nation. They have come on board to assist with this most opportune tour. National financial support is fixed and, as such, is limited. While the strong players and national coaches will be attending the training camp in Stellenbosch, there will be some that will, unfortunately, have to stay behind.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our players and coaches. To get to see the best upfront and feed off their knowledge is going to be incredible,” says Musikanth. “Everyone is eager to go, of course, but there is a cap to the support we have in place. We would like to take a development u20 squad as well as coaching staff who would carry the benefits of this into the future. A rugby visit to Stellenbosch can change rugby lives in many respects. Stellenbosch is rugby utopia!”

Rugby aside, with the Israelis and South Africans camping together, the question of what will be for dinner after a gruelling day’s training may be a matter of contention. A tussle for whether to serve boerewors or shwarma may result in a scrum in the SAS dining hall to determine the outcome.

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