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The Graduate School of Business‘ Wine Business Management course, a new specialisation in the Postgraduate Diploma in Management Practice, kicked off in May, filling a critical need for “vacant” skills among leaders in an industry embedded in emerging market conditions.

This might surprise you: Africa is rated as the world’s third most attractive market for wine business growth, in the wake of North America (number one) and Asia, ahead of Europe, the UK, and even South America.

Jonathan Steyn

Old industry, new skills: Jonathan Steyn convenes the Graduate School of Business’ Wine Business Management postgraduate diploma course, a first for South Africa. Going beyond oenology and viticulture, it covers distribution channels, modern wine-making techniques, and international sales and marketing.

Two years ago South Africa was rated the world’s eighth largest wine producer, accounting for 4% of global output. Export levels grew by 26% between 2012 and 2013.

The numbers are indicative of the industry’s massive growth since 1991, coupled as it has been to the unbundling of co-operatives and a growing, aspirational middle-class. One only has to look Platter’s South African Wine Guide to see the proliferation of wineries since it was launched in 1980.

That’s all good news. But we’re lagging at the business end of the industry, says the Jonathan Steyn, convenor of the Graduate School of Business’ new year-long Wine Business Management diploma which represents a first for South Africa.

Traditionally, the local wine industry has focused on oenology (the scientific knowledge of winemaking), and viticulture (grape cultivation), but it missed the pairing with context-driven business knowledge.

“Leaders often emerge from the production side of the wine industry without the necessary business acumen or skills to be effective in a tough global arena,” said Steyn. “This course equips wine industry leaders operating in emerging markets with the skill-set necessary to build more competitive, innovative and transformative organisations.”

The wine industry faces many challenges: the impact of climate change on wine -producing regions; the growing temperance movement and restriction of alcohol advertising; a need for greater inclusivity as an industry; the growth of new global markets and competitors; and changes in consumer sensibilities.

International knowledge, trends and networks

As such, the diploma reflects the GSB’s three main foci: values-based leadership, social innovation and entrepreneurship, and emerging markets.

A former wine columnist for GQ and co-owner of Belthazar Restaurant and Wine Bar, (touted as the biggest wine bar in the world), and now PhD candidate at the GSB, Steyn has been exposed to wine education around the globe.

To ensure participants are exposed to international knowledge, trends and networks, the GSB has drawn on its academic resources, partnerships and alumni in the South African, African and international wine industries to forge a programme Steyn believes is unique in its depth and span.

“Unique” is also linked to the “in situ” conditions; the economic and social factors that influence the business of wine. These are as diverse as energy and labour costs, labour unrest, increases in regulations and taxes, and fluctuating exchange rates.

Though historically and culturally well rooted, the South African wine industry is also embedded in an emerging market business environment, reflecting high levels of uncertainty, complexity and inequality, adds Steyn.

‘The industry must grow its own timber’

The course has been designed to guide wine executives through this terrain, integrating systems thinking and action learning and applying this to aspects of wine business management at critical points throughout the wine value chain.

“The industry must grow its own timber and not second skills from other industries,” noted Steyn. “The wine industry is very particular in the sense that you do require knowledge, passion and immersion in the industry to really understand its subtleties and complexities, especially in a country like South Africa where you have a backdrop of social problems.”

Importantly, the diploma includes an action research project in wine business management. To facilitate this process, delegates will join the South African module of the visiting International Master of Science in Wine Management group of the OIV (International Organisation of Vine and Wine), offered through Montpellier SupAgro.

The pilot course, which ends in January 2015, includes a class of 12, two of whom are Kenyans. (Kenya, Morocco, Algeria and Tanzania all have flourishing wine industries.)

“As the programme has a strong international focus and network, we want to attract foreign and African students to study here,” said Steyn.

“It’s a huge opportunity for South Africa to make an indelible footprint in this growing industry.”

Article issued by UCT. To view their profile on SAstudy, click here.

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