The world sees our magic. Why don’t we?
Recently, a friend went on an investor road show to the US. She spoke to money managers and analysts who have ploughed trillions of dollars into emerging markets all over the world.
These are men and women who have the long view. As they said to her regarding Nenegate: “Finance ministers in a democratic country are politicians, so they come and go all the time. We want to know that our money will be safe in the long run.”
My professor at the Graduate School of Business at the University of Cape Town, Tom Ryan, used to talk about what he termed the “Bus Theorem”, which said: “If a bus hits a manager, and the company gets hurt more than the manager, then that company is in infinite trouble.”
Likewise, if the South African business regime is dependent on an irreplaceable individual, then our country is infinitely deep in a cow-dung abyss.
Outsiders compare us to other emerging markets, and their global eye sees beyond our myopic, navel-gazing, prejudiced, self-critical eye.
As my friend realised, “we are the monster in our own worst nightmares”.
“I agreed to meet with you,” said one of the US fund managers, “because your country has some unbottleable magic that produces great companies like De Beers and Bidvest, to mention only two.
“It has also produced amazing entrepreneurs like Elon Musk of Tesla Motors, the electric-car manufacturer for the masses, and Space X, which is revolutionising space technology. And I am sure it is producing black entrepreneurs who may not yet be known around the world.
“South Africans,” he continued, “are innately entrepreneurial and know how to run good businesses. In addition to that, your country has produced great statesmen.”
What was most important to investors, she found, was strategy and the management team that will ensure the company continues to deliver great returns over the long term.
Our country, outsiders are telling us, is a winner, and we need to accelerate our winning ways. We need to give access to far more people, and give them the opportunity to be the new talked-about entrepreneurs.
This year South Africa ranked number 73 out of 189 economies on the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business list.
It has gone backwards compared with last year, when we ranked number 69.
The country relies on the departments of trade and industry and finance, respectively, to turn around this situation.
The aim should be to make South Africa feature in the top 10 in the next 10 years.
Accompanying that should be the vision to completely eliminate illiteracy by the year 2025, because an uneducated workforce is unable to build great businesses.
By the time our people are comfortable in reading work manuals and the works of art, we will be well on our way to eliminating unemployment.
We will also remain a reliable supplier of the world’s entrepreneurial class, thereby continuing to make the world a better place.
As my friend hung up on the phone, I was reminded that South Africa is a great country, punching way above its weight in world affairs.
It has produced great businesspeople, who have fed and clothed millions of families around the world. It has produced artists and musicians who have fed our souls.
Gripped by apartheid, it became the symbol of disgrace in the world, but later emerged as our star of hope that gives us the right to be optimistic, knowing that it is in our nature as human beings to triumph over adversity. Kuzwayo is the founder of Ignitive,
an advertising agency