Busi­ness is mak­ing a dif­fer­ence in the worst of times

The Star Early Edition - - OPINION & ANALYSIS - Ernest Mahlaule Ernest Mahlaule is pres­i­dent of the JCCI. Visit www.jcci.co.za for more in­for­ma­tion

BUSI­NESS is of­ten crit­i­cised for not do­ing enough to ad­vance trans­for­ma­tion of the econ­omy and the de­vel­op­ment of black en­ter­prise. The per­sis­tent trust deficit be­tween the pri­vate sec­tor and gov­ern­ment is partly to blame for this, and as a re­sult the con­tri­bu­tion made by busi­ness gets over­shad­owed in the eyes of those who be­lieve busi­ness is only in­ter­ested in serv­ing its own in­ter­est.

Granted, busi­ness has to max­imise the re­turns of ev­ery in­vest­ment it makes, but that does not mean that it then turns a blind eye to the so­cio-eco­nomic im­per­a­tives of cre­at­ing an in­clu­sive and sus­tain­able econ­omy that serves all South Africans.

The other pre­vail­ing per­cep­tion is that busi­ness is on an in­vest­ment strike, re­sult­ing in more than R700 bil­lion in cash bal­ances idling on cor­po­rate bal­ance sheets. This is the money that would go into new projects, ex­pan­sions, cor­po­rate takeovers or merg­ers and ac­qui­si­tions.

Such cor­po­rate ac­tiv­ity serves as a sign of con­fi­dence in the pre­vail­ing eco­nomic cli­mate. It also un­der­scores the de­sire by busi­ness to look into the fu­ture.

But even as busi­ness makes ev­ery ef­fort to be a cat­a­lyst for growth, job cre­ation and in­vest­ment, its con­tri­bu­tion seems to be eclipsed by the neg­a­tiv­ity that busi­ness has in­creas­ingly be­come ap­a­thetic. This is far from the truth.

To some de­gree, busi­ness has al­lowed this mis­per­cep­tion to fes­ter by not de­vis­ing ways to show­case the con­tri­bu­tion that the pri­vate sec­tor is mak­ing to keep the econ­omy afloat, even in the worst of times. But even so of­ten, busi­ness keeps mum about its con­tri­bu­tion. This has to change.

As a voice of busi­ness in key sec­tors of the econ­omy, the Jo­han­nes­burg Cham­ber of Com­merce and In­dus­try (JCCI) is work­ing to change this neg­a­tive per­cep­tion about busi­ness. To that end, we will be host­ing our an­nual con­fer­ence on Au­gust 3 in Jo­han­nes­burg to tell the other side of the story.

At this con­fer­ence, cor­po­rate South Africa will have the op­por­tu­nity to dispel the no­tion that busi­ness is un­pa­tri­otic or in­dif­fer­ent to our chal­lenges. The con­fer­ence will fea­ture a key­note ad­dress by Gaut­eng Pre­mier David Makhura, who will in­ter­act with busi­ness lead­ers and share his plans to drive in­vest­ment in Gaut­eng, which is South Africa’s key eco­nomic hub.

Makhura has called for a new part­ner­ship be­tween busi­ness, gov­ern­ment and civil so­ci­ety to drive in­clu­sive and sus­tain­able growth, with a fo­cus on re­vi­tal­is­ing the town­ship economies.

That call has seen the JCCI work tire­lessly to cre­ate a frame­work for busi­ness to iden­tify and part­ner with strate­gic en­ter­prises in de­vel­op­men­tal stages through which cor­po­rate South Africa can ac­cel­er­ate op­por­tu­ni­ties for em­ploy­ment.

Our con­fer­ence will see a num­ber of busi­nesses pro­vide a re­view of some of their high-im­pact en­ter­prise-de­vel­op­ment ini­tia­tives. One of those is by Growth­point, South Africa’s largest prop­erty com­pany, which runs a highly suc­cess­ful en­ter­prise and sup­plier-de­vel­op­ment ini­tia­tive, the Prop­erty Point Pro­gramme.

The Growth­point ini­tia­tive was founded in 2008 and has al­ready seen more than R600 mil­lion in con­tracts awarded to pro­gramme ben­e­fi­ciary com­pa­nies, and nearly 2 000 jobs cre­ated. It is but one of many ini­tia­tives that are im­pact­ing our com­mu­ni­ties in a pos­i­tive way.

Ini­tia­tives

We will also show­case the suc­cess of the Na­tional Tool­ing Ini­tia­tive Pro­gramme, which en­com­passes skills and en­ter­prise de­vel­op­ment. These ini­tia­tives and oth­ers rep­re­sent our best ef­forts to cre­ate a space in which busi­ness can share the suc­cesses of their de­vel­op­men­tal projects.

We would also look to help busi­nesses un­der­stand how to op­ti­mise their en­ter­prise-de­vel­op­ment fund­ing by cre­at­ing link­ages which should fos­ter strate­gic co-op­er­a­tion with black busi­nesses.

For far too long busi­ness has tended to see en­ter­prise de­vel­op­ment as space to com­pete, but our eco­nomic chal­lenges now make it nec­es­sary for busi­ness to iden­tify cross-syn­er­gies.

For ex­am­ple, noth­ing should stop mul­ti­ple busi­nesses from work­ing to iden­tify and ca­pac­i­tate small busi­nesses by cre­at­ing sup­ply-chain op­por­tu­ni­ties and set joint-project de­vel­op­ment cri­te­ria.

Only through work­ing as part­ners can cor­po­rate South Africa over­come the per­cep­tion that busi­ness is not pulling its weight. And as the cham­ber, we re­it­er­ate our po­si­tion that to build a more re­silient econ­omy we need all hands on deck.

Our con­fer­ence will also pro­vide a plat­form to chart the way for­ward. Busi­ness is very much part of this coun­try’s fu­ture.

The per­sis­tent trust deficit be­tween pri­vate sec­tor and gov­ern­ment is partly to blame for the no­tion that busi­ness is do­ing noth­ing to en­hance trans­for­ma­tion.

PHOTO: BOXER NG­WENYA

Gaut­eng Pre­mier David Makhura will be a key­note speaker at the JCCI con­fer­ence and will in­ter­act with busi­ness.

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