The world sees our magic. Why don’t we?

CityPress - - Business - Muzi Kuzwayo busi­ness@city­

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,

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