The Director and Head of Wits Business School, Maurice Radebe has a long history in business, notably as the Executive Vice-President of Sasol’s energy division. He obtained a BSc. degree (Applied Mathematics and Physics) as well as an MBA, and attended the General Management Programme at Harvard Business School in 2007. He was recorded live at the 2021 Ziwani launch. You can watch the full video here or listen to the podcast here.
I am privileged to be part of the Ziwani launch – it is a timely initiative, and I think it is an important one. I have been asked to speak on the theme of ‘God-honouring business in Africa’, and I want to focus specifically on ‘redemptive business’ and what that means.
Let us read from the Word of God, because it applies to all of our lives, and that includes business. Be impacted by the Word, be inspired to bring God’s redemption through business – because business is a platform for ministry. Some people have been called to serve God in church, and I have been called to serve God in business. I want to emphasise this marketplace calling before we even start, because some people think ‘calling’ only applies to preaching on a Sunday. They use the word ‘full time’ for when a person goes to Bible school and becomes a minister. No. All of us are in full-time ministry, and the only way we can have a redemptive spirit in business, is when we understand that we have been called.
So, let us read Genesis 1:26–28 (NKJV). “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image’”. I want to replace the word ‘man’ here with ‘businessman’ or ‘businesswoman’. “Let us make Maurice in God’s image. He is a businessman, with the DNA of a businessman, inspired by his grandfather who was a businessman. Let us make him with his unique talents and gifts in our own image.” I want you to know that you are made in the image of God. Businesspeople are often vilified, and in our churches, businesspeople are not really given the spiritual mentoring and spiritual nurturing that they require. You have been made in the image of God. You have been called to this ministry.
Not only that, but you also have a mandate when you are in business – a mandate that God has given in verse 26: “Have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” I want to clarify that ‘dominion’ does not mean you must be autocratic – it simply means that you must play a leading role. And we need God-honouring leaders in these sectors!
First, we need to play a leading role in the marine industry, the shipping industry, the fishing industry. How many of us have a stake in this sector, know how it works and understand its intricacies? God has given us the mandate to redeem the sea. Secondly, God has given us the mandate to redeem the birds in the air. Who is dominating and leading the aviation industry? Where are the God-fearing leaders who can creatively and cost-effectively run these businesses, that have been devastated by COVID-19? We need to redeem the aviation and tourism sectors, because they connect people, they connect the world. Thirdly, God has given us the mandate to redeem the cattle on the continent, and ‘every creeping animal’. There was a time when Zimbabwe was the breadbasket of the entire southern Africa. Why do we have to import food when we have such fertile land? God is calling us to be farmers. When Caleb and Joshua returned from spying out the land of Canaan, they had to carry a single cluster of grapes on a pole between them! That is what God wants – to redeem agriculture, agro-processing technology, commercial farming, and game farming. I am urging you, charging you, to apply your mind – God has given you the mandate to lead in your sector.
“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him, male and female he created them” (verse 27). Let us talk about women empowerment. If you are a God-honouring businessperson running a company, you do not need the government to tell you about empowering women. You do not need the gender activists to tell you about gender equality. We already know we need to promote diversity and include women in the marketplace. Women have a different way of making decisions, which can be very helpful – many times when I am stuck and cannot find a solution to a business problem, I just ask my wife and she tells me exactly what I need to do. Let us be in tune with the Word of God and make sure ‘women empowerment’ is not just a slogan.
God created us male and female, to be co-creators with him. We need to redeem our mothers, our aunts, our sisters from poverty, from virtual slavery. On this continent right now, 600 million people do not have electricity. Who suffers the most? The women, because they are the ones who wake up in the morning to go and collect wood, to make fire, in order to cook. They are the ones not going to school, and we are losing so much talent. Let us encourage women to take their rightful place in business. I promise you, if women were running this continent, there would be fewer wars, because who suffers the most when there is a war? The women and children.
Verse 28 reads, “Then God blessed them”. If you are a child of God in business, you are favoured by God, and you are supernaturally empowered to solve problems. I have been in business meetings many times where things are going horribly wrong, and suddenly God deposits an idea into my mind that I would never have thought of. I would suggest it, and it would solve the problem and we would move forward. I call them ‘marketplace miracles’. We think miracles only happen in church. No. We need to release the power of the Holy Spirit, we need to “be transformed by the renewing of [our] mind” (Rom. 12:2) to be able to do things for God in the marketplace.
Note that this blessing specifically calls us to “be fruitful”. Being fruitful means we have to innovate, we have to be creative, we have to produce. Right now, Africa cannot manufacture its own COVID-19 vaccines – we are begging from America, from China, from Russia. We have to import so much, and yet God has blessed us to be fruitful. I therefore challenge you as a businessperson to invest in manufacturing, in research and development, and in innovation.
This blessing also calls us to “multiply”. Part of our mandate is to start small businesses, and then multiply them. Consider KFC – Colonel Sanders started one business, a second one, a third one, and now KFC can be found all over the world. Consider McDonald’s – they are everywhere because they know how to multiply. Let us learn the principle of multiplication, because it will redeem our continent. The next part calls us to “fill the earth”. We must have a global mindset when we start a business. During my time at Harvard, I read so many case studies where even when someone started only a small florist business, they were already thinking about how they can ‘make it’ globally. Brothers and sisters on our continent, I am asking you to “fill the earth and subdue it” with the ingenuity and the capability that God has already given us.
In conclusion, I want to challenge you in two areas. First, we need to be co-creators with God in the redemption of the African continent, and that includes redemption from corruption. In any corruption case, there is always a corruptor and a corruptee – and normally the corruptor is a businessperson who wants to corrupt officials in government for their own benefit. So let us rise up and deal with the scourge of corruption on this continent by making sure we as businesspeople are God-honouring, value-based, servant leaders. Secondly, let us produce, let us beneficiate our natural resources. We export our raw materials, only to import the products. This contintent needs men of peace, men who love God, who can run big businesses well, so that there is stability and prosperity, and that people can finally come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Thank you.