THE BRICS ROAD

Brics chair­per­son spear­heads drive to at­tract FDI to cre­ate jobs

The Star Early Edition - - BUSINESS REPORT - Iqbal Survé

WHEN you iden­tify an op­por­tu­nity grab it, steer it and keep it on course with ev­ery­thing you have. I be­lieve in steer­ing true north, and now we have an op­por­tu­nity to chart a new course for the great SAS South Africa. As the chair­per­son of the Brics – Brazil, Rus­sia, In­dia, China and South Africa – busi­ness coun­cil South Africa chap­ter; as an in­no­va­tive en­tre­pre­neur and busi­ness­man, and above all else, a South African, I have many con­cerns.

Our high un­em­ploy­ment rate, ed­u­cat­ing our youth, equip­ping them with rel­e­vant skills, build­ing in­fra­struc­ture, our gross do­mes­tic prod­uct (GDP) and at­tract­ing for­eign di­rect in­vest­ment are high on my agenda. There is no ar­gu­ment that we are deal­ing with one of the most im­por­tant de­struc­tive apartheid lega­cies, sec­ond­class ed­u­ca­tion – which led to a myr­iad of so­cial evils. The re­sults of which need more than just two decades to re­pair.

We have to credit our gov­ern­ment for re­al­is­ing the goal for SA to be a part­ner in this multi­na­tional fo­rum. The state con­tin­ues to amend poli­cies and laws to cre­ate at­trac­tive con­di­tions to draw in­vest­ments.

It was af­ter in­tense lob­by­ing with eco­nomic giants and wealth-cre­at­ing na­tions, Brazil, Rus­sia, In­dia and China, that we joined the part­ner­ship seven years ago. We set our­selves on a course and to roll back cen­turies of eco­nomic drought.

Brics gives us an op­por­tu­nity to cre­ate jobs, and work in tan­gent with the part­ner­ship to reskill and up­skill our work­force.

It is not up to the gov­ern­ment alone to fix this. The state is not a cre­ator of a lot of jobs. This is where the pri­vate sec­tor has a role to play, to work hand in hand with the gov­ern­ment. It is with­out ques­tion; for our econ­omy to grow, we need to cre­ate jobs for mil­lions of young peo­ple, SA has par­tic­i­pated in many multi­na­tional in­sti­tu­tions, such as the UN, the AU, and the G20. Our part­ner­ship with Brics is not meant to be at the ex­clu­sion of other in­vest­ment part­ners such as the EU and North Amer­ica. It is in­tended to aug­ment the part­ner­ship and draw in­creased in­vest­ment.

Pro­tec­tion­ism

But, pro­tec­tion­ism pol­i­tics from tra­di­tional trad­ing part­ners such as the US, and some Euro­pean coun­tries has had im­me­di­ate neg­a­tive eco­nomic con­se­quences for South Africa and the 1.2 bil­lion-strong African fam­ily. To keep the ship afloat we have to re­main in­no­va­tive and in tune with our al­liance. We must see Brics as a flotilla, able to sur­vive the head­winds and the storms. One of the op­por­tu­ni­ties Brics gives is to cut red tape and we have made some head­way in that. Even though our econ­omy is smaller than the rest of the Brics na­tions, we are equal part­ners when it comes to de­ci­sion-mak­ing and en­ter­ing into agree­ments with other part­ners.

Brics and the Brics Busi­ness Coun­cil – South African chap­ter, which I lead by ap­point­ment of the gov­ern­ment, over­sees and guides in­fra­struc­ture, dereg­u­la­tion, agribusi­ness, fi­nan­cial ser­vices, skills, man­u­fac­tur­ing and en­ergy and the green econ­omy work­ing groups. We are pre­par­ing to at­tend the Brics sum­mit in China. The high-level meet­ing takes place from Septem­ber 3-6.

The Busi­ness Coun­cil plays a cru­cial role. It is there to en­sure that as a coun­try we can chan­nel for­eign di­rect in­vest­ment from across the world, but mostly from Brazil, Rus­sia, In­dia and China.

Through Brics we have ac­cess to the global mar­ket, and ac­cess to cap­i­tal. Our gov­ern­ment debt is 51.7 per­cent of the GDP; most of the coun­try’s bud­get goes to ser­vic­ing that debt and in­vest­ing in in­fra­struc­ture. There­fore, be­cause we are con­strained we can­not in­vest in new op­por­tu­ni­ties to cre­ate jobs. But, our part­ners in Brics who have the cap­i­tal are able to in­vest to cre­ate jobs.

When we seek out for­eign di­rect in­vest­ment, we must en­sure that there are skilled jobs, in ad­di­tion to jobs in low-cost man­u­fac­tur­ing. We are aim­ing for in­vest­ment that needs a higher skill level, such as in car man­u­fac­tur­ing. The more skilled our work­force the more at­trac­tive we be­come for in­vest­ments.

The Brics Skills De­vel­op­ment Work­ing Group set up the Brics Skill Gov­er­nance Body to over­see the skills de­vel­op­ment for labour force, which in­cludes the learn­ings and chal­lenges faced in skills de­vel­op­ment. The year-on-year em­ploy­ment growth was driven by man­u­fac­tur­ing (145 000), con­struc­tion (143 000) and fi­nance (152 000). There is no doubt we are on a road made of Brics, ce­mented by the hopes and dreams of 3.6 bil­lion peo­ple. Dr Iqbal Survé is chair­per­son of the Brics busi­ness coun­cil – SA chap­ter.

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