“I think that what the world looks at South Africa with envy, actually, thanks to Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Tutu. They managed to embrace the people who had been their enemies at one stage and unite the country and it’s an example to everybody in the world of forgiveness,” said Virgin group founder Richard Branson.
“South Africa is by no means perfect but in the last five years most countries in the world have struggled in an enormous way. Portugal has 50 per cent unemployment amongst young people, Spain nearly 50 per cent unemployment among young people, so the problems are all over the world.”
Branson is currently in South Africa for the One Young World Summit, which runs from 2 to 5 October. The summit aims to encourage young leaders to create positive changes in their countries and communities.
He added that the Virgin brand plans to expand its presence in South Africa, as well as provide support for young Africans through the Branson School of Entrepreneurship.
The poorly performing rand has however cast a dark cloud over the South African economy and exacerbated the negative growth outlook for the country. Virgin Active health clubs in South Africa still continue to do well.
“Some of our biggest and most successful clubs are in Soweto. There are more and more people coming out of poverty levels in South Africa and we’re opening big successful clubs in the townships. I think that’s an indication that slowly and surely more and more people are managing to stand on their own two feet,” said Branson.
Virgin has over 110 health clubs in South Africa and the brand plans to increase its presence in the continent. Despite the Westgate Mall attack in Kenya in September, Branson explains that it won’t be a deterrent from expanding in the region.
“Something that I dislike intensely is if there’s a terrorist attack in America, Brits will fly to America to show support. You don’t get travel advisories not to fly to America after 9/11,” he said.
“If there’s a terrorist attack in Kenya suddenly the [US] government are foolish enough to put travel advisories up and it does enormous damage to a country like Kenya. I think it’s very important that we show solidarity with countries that have terrorist attacks.”