2013: A year for cautious optimism
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.