2013: A year for cau­tious op­ti­mism

Finweek English Edition - - ADVERTORIAL -

South Africa is fac­ing a num­ber of ex­traor­di­nar­ily com­plex chal­lenges that can’t be solved in a sin­gle moment with sim­ple so­lu­tions. How­ever, a num­ber of de­vel­op­ments in­di­cate that there’s cause for op­ti­mism in the year ahead, a panel of lead­ing rep­re­sen­ta­tives from busi­ness and civil so­ci­ety told the au­di­ence at a re­cent GIBS Fo­rum.

Pro­fes­sor Adrian Sav­ille, chief in­vest­ment of­fi­cer at Can­non As­set Man­agers and a vis­it­ing pro­fes­sor at GIBS, said that while 2013 would be a dif­fi­cult year eco­nom­i­cally and more tur­bu­lent and volatile po­lit­i­cally, South Africans must be cau­tious about what he termed “Bi-po­lar­ity: We of­ten for­get to cel­e­brate our suc­cesses and world­class el­e­ments, and to de­velop them.”

In­ter­na­tional sce­nario ex­pert, fu­tur­ist and au­thor Clem Sunter said that in­stead of look­ing for a great leader to emerge, we have in­cred­i­ble pock­ets of ex­cel­lence that are not ac­knowl­edged: “We need to cel­e­brate the un­likely lead­ers.”

Ed­i­tor in chief of City Press, Fe­rial Haf­fa­jee, echoed th­ese sen­ti­ments and said that she hoped 2013 brought South Africans a sense of per­spec­tive: “All of the BRIC na­tions face the same chal­lenges that we do with low em­ploy­ment and nearly flat eco­nomic growth. We need to be more so­lu­tions-ori­en­tated. We know what is wrong with our coun­try; we now just need the po­lit­i­cal will to fix it.”

Chair­man of the SA De­fence Re­view Com­mit­tee, Roelf Meyer, said that in po­lit­i­cal terms, 2013 would largely be a year of prepa­ra­tions as Government read­ies it­self for the 2014 na­tional elec­tions and that there will be an at­tempt by Government to “make de­liv­ery hap­pen” ahead of 2014.

The low-wage econ­omy was high­light- lighted by many on the panel as one of f the lead­ing causes for con­cern in the ap­proach- ching year. CEO of FirstRand Lim­ited, d, Sizwe Nx­as­ana, said that the events sur­round­ing Marikana had cre­ated a sense of ur­gency and high­lighted the need to solve prob­lems in the re­la­tion­ship be­tween Government and busi­ness. “Marikana has shown us that we can­not ex­ist with our low-wage econ­omy much longer. That will be the big­gest chal­lenge for the new year,” Haf­fa­jee added.

Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor of the South­ern African Trust, Neville Gabriel, said that the lessons learnt at Marikana will largely shape next year and that the de­mand for a de­cent min­i­mum wage will be high on the pol­icy agenda. “The no­tion of SA’s ‘ priv­i­leged’ classes at war with the un­der­classes will be fur­ther ex­posed. Fault lines across our so­ci­ety are erupt­ing and the ques­tion is whether our in­sti­tu­tions of so­cial di­a­logue will be able to with­stand th­ese or will need to be trans­formed,” Gabriel said.

Sunter said that while there’s an ur­gent need to fix wages at a fair level in for­mal in­dus­try, this also meant that it wouldn’t be a job cre­ator for the next 10 years, which would place great pres­sure on the en­tre­pre­neur­ial sec­tor to ful­fil this role.

Dy­namic mar­kets will con­tinue to at­tract for­eign in­vest­ment, par­tic­u­larly Africa, whose im­age had “com­pletely changed in the past few years,” Sunter said.

How­ever, for­eign sen­ti­ment to­wards SA had be­come neg­a­tive af­ter the events at Marikana: “We are no longer seen as Africa’s pre­mier in­vest­ment des­ti­na­tion.”

Nx­as­ana said that on the African con­ti­nent, West Africa had proved to be more

“The Nige­rian econ­omy will be big­ger than South Africa’s sooner than was pre­dicted.”

ef­fec­tive at get­ting its act t to­gether than the SADC re­gion: “The “T Nige­rian econ­omy will be big­ger bi than South Africa’s sooner than th was pre­dicted,” he said. “Busi­ness fol­lows op­por­tu­nity and the op­por­tu­ni­ties out­weigh the neg­a­tives of liv­ing in those coun­tries. South Africa is los­ing its shine as a gate­way very quickly.”

Sav­ille added: “South Africa is no longer the gate­way to Africa; that has mi­grated north to Nigeria. While that may come as a re­al­ity check, we can still be the gate­way to South­ern Africa and the real op­por­tu­nity lies in build­ing bridges to emerg­ing mar­kets.”

Meyer said that there is too lit­tle un­der­stand­ing of the SADC re­gion and the op­por­tu­ni­ties the coun­tries within it present to SA: “Many from th­ese coun­tries are coming to trade in South Africa, par­tic­u­larly in Jo­han­nes­burg. The mar­ket op­por­tu­ni­ties this devel­op­ment presents are un­der­es­ti­mated at present.”

Sav­ille con­cluded that 2013 would re­quire hard work and lead­er­ship. While there will be on­go­ing calls for quick-fix so­lu­tions, such as na­tion­al­i­sa­tion, a weaker rand and lower in­ter­est rates, none of th­ese rep­re­sent a so­lu­tion to the coun­try’s prob­lems: “We must con­tinue to build on the plat­form of steady progress and step away from want­ing im­me­di­ate so­lu­tions.” Ap­pli­ca­tions for the GIBS MBA are cur­rently open. For more in­for­ma­tion, go to www.gibs.co.za/mba.

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