Emerging markets are often characterized by dysfunctional institutions resulting in excessive transaction costs and high levels of uncertainty and difficulty. Emerging multinational enterprises (EMNEs) have been portrayed as aggressively seeking new markets and resources such as brands and technology. The research suggests that this forms part of the process but highlight the complexity of the decision-making process to go abroad and the importance of understanding the home country institutional conditions as part of this development. It explores this by examining the case of South Africa using time series longitudinal data. The internationalization of South African MNEs shows distinct phases which cannot be encapsulated in single explanations about EMNEs and we suggest different facets emerging at different phases depending on home country developments. Whilst there are certain unique features about the South African experience we would argue that there are poignant similarities with other emerging markets and that it carries import for our understanding of FDI patterns and the rise of MNEs from emerging markets.