Continue taking WEF ideas forward
AS DURBAN bids farewell to our delegates who visited our shores recently for the World Economic Forum, we now begin the task of getting to work to take discussions, agreements and partnerships to the next level.
As mayor, the event afforded us an opportune platform to engage with relevant stakeholders, heads of states and chief executives of global corporations to showcase what we have to offer some of the world’s largest investors.
We grabbed the opportunity and held robust, fruitful discussions on the many projects and investment opportunities. Central to these were discussions on the much-touted topic of radical economic transformation.
It was important that we address the confusion and concern around this. Investors were reassured that the policy was one to embrace and not fear as it was not aimed at threatening economic investment but creating inclusive growth.
It was also important to highlight the fact that inclusive growth should not only be a priority for government but also the private sector as owners of the economy.
In addressing our position on radical economic transformation to delegates at the WEF, we also outlined our city’s framework, which placed emphasis on promoting small, medium and micro-enterprises and black-owned business through the municipal procurement system.
Implementation of the radical economic transformation policy is not a Zandile Gumede, oneperson project, as some critics have suggested. It is a policy which will be implemented nationally and with clear guidelines.
Ethekwini has already rolled out its radical economic policy by ensuring black-owned SMMES and businesses are key beneficiaries of our programmes.
The city also presented a number of key catalytic projects to the WEF which are set to transform the economy of Durban.
We drove our investment package opportunities and invited those interested to continue discussions with us beyond the forum to ensure we continue to build on their interest in our city.
It was heartening to note the positive feedback from delegates we engaged. All were encouraged by our investment opportunities in the different sectors and wanted to ensure that projects seek to better the lives of lower income populations on the fringes of our city.
In his address to the Black Business Council round table at the start of the WEF, Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba emphasised that Africa must first be prepared to invest in itself.
During a visit to key infrastructure projects in our city, such as Dube Tradeport, Bridge City, and a 500-bed regional hospital being built to serve Cornubia and INK (Inanda/ntuzuma/kwamashu), the minister expressed excitement about the developmental possibilities of Kwazulu-natal as a logistics and industrial hub, connecting South Africa with southern Africa and Africa, and Africa with the world.
However, he also raised concern that poor infrastructure on the continent continues to undermine intra-continental trade, adding that the continent’s infrastructure backlog is estimated at around $100billion (R1.334 trillion) a year.
Gigaba praised the city’s infrastructure projects but also questioned whether the previously marginalised communities of Kwamashu and other surrounding areas had benefited.
Innovation also emerged as an important topic at the WEF, with emphasis on digitisation of the youth. It was stressed that it is important to allow the growth of technology as it will lead to a net result of more jobs and higher wages.
There was a general acceptance that while blue collar workers may be gradually phased out due to automation, this will make way for an era of “new collar workers” – high school leavers who are able to design apps and are digitally skilled.
Thomson Reuters Labs also held a side event on innovation, together with the Maker Space and the Durban Innovation Hub, featuring innovation demos and talks on how to achieve beneficial innovation in the African context.
The World Economic Forum Africa Competitiveness Report 2017 was launched at the summit and emphasised the need for structural reforms to boost productivity within sub-saharan Africa.
In a number of side events and dialogues:
• The government partnered with the WEF Internet for All project to accelerate the connection to the internet of 23million more South Africans by 2020.
• The Africa Skills Initiative agreed to make business commitments in six areas, namely internships and apprenticeships, developing future-ready curricula, foundational educational delivery, retraining for unemployed youth, research collaboration, and expanding basic IT fluency to one million people by January 2018.
Durban entrepreneur Darlene Menzies of Finfind was one of the top six winners of the Women in Technology award.
The hosting of WEF Africa was undoubtedly an exciting and inspiring turn in the city and country’s economic planning.
With key resolutions being set by the continent’s decision-makers, it’s now up to us as implementing agents to continue the momentum for inclusive growth and radical economic transformation.
It presents an exciting era of opportunities for our city and needs all of us, as a collective, to make it a success. Let us embrace it, not fear it; only then can we build a city we can all be proud to live and work in.
I would like to encourage all residents, businesses and investors to talk to us. Don’t fear the unknown. Let’s engage with each other so that we understand our vision as a city. It’s our city.
• Gumede is the mayor of the ethekwini Municipality and chairs the ANC ethekwini region.