🔒 Boardroom Talk – Hersov’s pro-democracy stance draws enemies who should be looking to West Africa

By Alec Hogg

Rob Hersov’s superb opening address to Friday’s BizNews@10 conference hit a very sweet spot with our tribe. Within 24 hours, more than 80 000 people had watched the recording on YouTube, and more than 30 000 read the edited transcript on BizNews.com. Astonishing, considering it was published ahead of a public holiday.

The speech also stirred up debate on social media, including from malcontents critical of Hersov’s “pro-West” stance. This has become increasingly evident in South African society of late, where an entire army of self-proclaimed pundits praise China and Russia as paragons. Prigozhin’s troll farms have captured many minds.  


As a journalist devoted to democracy and free speech, I have a dog in this fight. BizNews would not exist had I been born Russian or Chinese. In the former, independent media is banned. Should Beijing grant you a licence to publish in China, all content must first be approved by an in-house State-appointed censor.  

It escapes local critics of “the West” that even their own comments would not be allowed in those nations they so admire. Or that “the West”, a simile for democracy, is a relatively recent concept in the modern era. The People governing The People was an experiment that only began in earnest in 1776 with America’s Founding Fathers. Autocrats love power. And hate those who threaten it. Democrats lead that pack.

Those who care to open their eyes can witness a real-life example playing out right now in Niger, a West African nation of 27 million. Last week, its democratically elected president was ousted in a military coup. Neighbouring democracies led by Nigeria want him reinstated or will send in soldiers to enforce the will of the people.

Niger’s generals have requested support from Russian private army Wagner – hoping to repeat the gold-mines-for-mercenary deal propping up nearby Mali’s military government. Moscow’s local fan club, however, ignores the Kremlin’s destructive impact on our own continent. Democracy is fragile. Especially, it seems, in Africa.