Mark 2017 as the year of ac­tion

CityPress - - Voices & Careers - Sango Nt­saluba voices@city­press.co.za

It may well be agreed that 2016 was an event­ful year in a num­ber of re­spects, par­tic­u­larly on the po­lit­i­cal scene. But if re­cent do­mes­tic and global po­lit­i­cal events, from Gam­bia to the US, are any­thing to go by, 2017 prom­ises to be yet an­other roller coaster ride.

The shock of Don­ald Trump se­cur­ing the US pres­i­dency set­tled into re­al­ity as he took the oath of of­fice on Jan­uary 20.

The fol­low­ing day, Gam­bia’s dis­graced and de­feated for­mer despot, Yahya Jam­meh, fled with his fam­ily into ex­ile in Equa­to­rial Guinea. This fol­low­ing a post-elec­tion po­lit­i­cal stand­off on Jam­meh’s part that threat­ened to pro­voke a re­gional mil­i­tary in­ter­ven­tion as he sought to hang on to power.

It sig­nalled the end of his 22-year reign of ter­ror. Fi­nally, his demo­crat­i­cally elected suc­ces­sor, op­po­si­tion leader Adama Bar­row, could re­turn home from Sene­gal to be­gin his pres­i­den­tial term of of­fice.

While these im­por­tant events will have di­rect and in­di­rect con­se­quences for South Africa, we have our own burn­ing do­mes­tic is­sues to pri­ori­tise.

I have al­ways be­lieved that if black peo­ple in South Africa put in the req­ui­site ef­fort to ob­tain a qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion, busi­ness op­por­tu­ni­ties and mar­ket ac­cess would nat­u­rally fol­low.

I also used to be­lieve that if they worked hard at their cho­sen ca­reers, they would ex­pe­ri­ence up­ward mo­bil­ity.

How­ever, I have come to re­alise that eco­nomic progress is not a nat­u­ral out­come of the fruits of the black per­son’s labour in South Africa. In this coun­try, progress is only pos­si­ble on a large scale if cor­rec­tive mea­sures are taken to ad­dress the le­gacy of apartheid-era pri­va­tions.

Ed­u­ca­tion is, and will al­ways be, the ba­sic re­quire­ment for any so­ci­ety to get ahead. We must de­mand that govern­ment of­fer qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion and proper in­fra­struc­ture to all the coun­try’s schools and ter­tiary in­sti­tu­tions.

We must also de­mand that young peo­ple ap­pre­ci­ate the value of hard work and strive to be the best in their cho­sen aca­demic spheres.

We must en­cour­age en­trepreneurs to make the nec­es­sary sac­ri­fices and stay in the game.

And we must en­cour­age peo­ple who are cur­rently in the priv­i­leged po­si­tion of hav­ing a job to put their best ef­forts into their work.

If we all did the above and played our part in con­tribut­ing to South Africa’s devel­op­ment, the prob­lem would then lie solely in busi­ness and govern­ment’s in­abil­ity to pro­vide more op­por­tu­ni­ties for its cit­i­zens. Far too many re­main un­em­ployed and ur­gent ac­tion is needed.

It is patently clear to me that, un­less those in power – in­clud­ing busi­ness own­ers, board mem­bers and ex­ec­u­tives in the pri­vate sec­tor – recog­nise the fact that the al­lo­ca­tion of re­sources and op­por­tu­ni­ties is skewed, and that mar­ket forces alone will not cor­rect the sit­u­a­tion with­out de­lib­er­ate in­ter­ven­tion by this group, this blight will for­ever re­main with us.

The Na­tional Devel­op­ment Plan has less than 15 years to achieve its am­bi­tious tar­gets for 2030. While this must re­main our long-term plan, we need to bol­ster it with im­me­di­ate, short- and medium-term pro­grammes.

This year must stand out as one in which we re­ar­range the eco­nomic space to start ac­com­mo­dat­ing those who have done what needs to be done by get­ting ed­u­cated, ac­quir­ing work ex­pe­ri­ence, mak­ing sac­ri­fices in their busi­nesses, and so on.

We can no longer af­ford the lux­ury of analysing the fail­ures of BEE. It has be­come a clas­sic type of anal­y­sis paral­y­sis, to the ex­tent that peo­ple use it as an ex­cuse to main­tain the sta­tus quo.

The busi­ness com­mu­nity must also stop cre­at­ing the im­pres­sion that we are wait­ing for govern­ment to re­visit its poli­cies be­fore do­ing any­thing.

This is be­com­ing a lame ex­cuse. We can see that com­mu­ni­ties are ex­cluded from ac­cess­ing the mar­ket and we have the power to do some­thing about that. Swift, re­spon­si­ble ac­tion is needed.

Sadly, in South Africa we skate around is­sues and are ex­pert play­ers at the blame game. While govern­ment and the pub­lic sec­tor must shoul­der their re­spon­si­bil­i­ties, it is also up to us to de­mand ac­count­able lead­er­ship.

We can­not work in a lin­ear way, wait­ing for the politi­cians to get their act to­gether be­fore we start eco­nomic re­arrange­ment. The longer com­mu­ni­ties are ex­cluded from main­stream busi­ness op­por­tu­ni­ties, the poorer our coun­try will be­come.

Let us de­bate the is­sues by all means, but not at the ex­pense of de­layed im­ple­men­ta­tion.

Talking and plan­ning are all very well, but ac­tion is what is direly needed in 2017. Let us make things hap­pen now. Nt­saluba is co-founder of au­dit­ing firm

SizweNt­salubaGo­bodo as well as NMT Cap­i­tal, and chairman of WZ Cap­i­tal

PHOTO: LEON SADIKI

ED­U­CA­TION IS KEY Pupils at Boi­tume­l­ong Sec­ondary School in Tem­bisa re­ceived study tablets and in­ter­ac­tive boards as learn­ing tools in 2015. Roll-out of this pol­icy needs to take place at schools coun­try­wide to boost SA’s progress

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