2010 Legacy: Dreams live on

2010-07-14 09:40

In four short years, from 1990 to 1994, the DNA of our society was

changed.

South Africa, as with many other divided societies, spent at least 300

years fighting about whose country this was.


In 1994 we decided the country belonged to all who lived here, and

that we would rather share it than destroy it. It remains a miraculous

transition.


What will our country look like 20 years after this

transition?


Between 1994 and 2008 the wealth of our country, as measured in

Gross Domestic Product per person, and after adjusting for inflation, rose by

some 30 percent, from R28 536 to R36 951.

This is a substantial improvement,

considering that this same measure was stagnant for the period 1970 to

1994.


Against these achievements, the economic circumstances of far too

many South Africans remain grim, with one in four work-seekers unemployed.

Youth

unemployment is much higher.

Levels of both poverty and inequality are

unacceptably high.

For many of the new South Africans, the New South Africa is

yet to arrive.


So as our country becomes a young adult, a new dream is needed.

This is the dream of a fully developed South Africa, when all 50 million

citizens have a decent life, live in vibrant communities, attend good-quality

schools, have access to effective healthcare and enjoy an existence where indeed

race does not imprison individual choice and achievement.


Is such a South Africa possible?


To do this, we will have to expand the markets for South African

goods and services.

A combined Southern African Development Community

(SADC, the Southern African economic community) and Common Market for

Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa), which unites 19 African countries from

Egypt to Botswana, will create a massive marketplace of 500 million people, and

US$800 billion of economic activity.

Such a bloc would take its place with the

US, Europe, China and India as an economic actor of significance.


Inside our country, poverty and inequality have restricted the

markets for goods and services.

We need new companies, new products, new

services that meet the needs of working class people in our cities, but also in

our towns and rural villages.

Capitec Bank is a good example of a company that

is redefining our financial services sector.


We also need to engage the talents and energies of all 50 million

of our people.

We need to unleash the skills of every employee: to expand

dramatically not only education, but also the conversion of knowledge into

skills and competencies in the workplace.


We have made some important progress in reviving a vital tradition

around the artisan. We need a similar rediscovery of vocational skills in the

technician and technologist.


The challenge of skills development is the challenge of business

and labour. They know best what skills are needed, and they together represent

the people who need to acquire these skills.


Our people have all the inherent talent needed to become not only

21st-century engineers, doctors and lawyers, but also 21st-century artisans,

technicians and technologists.


To achieve this skills revolution, we need an education system that

offers world-class knowledge. We also need workplaces, from global companies and

huge factories to township backyard workshops, that offer the opportunity to

turn knowledge into skill.


How much of this can be achieved by 2014?


Clearly some of the changes described above will take considerably

longer than the four years between today and 2014. But in each area of change,

important foundations can be laid, and progress should be evident by 2014.


Who needs to make this new dream a reality?


The nightmare of apartheid was not ended by politicians alone. It

was also ended by the people of South Africa: school kids, workers, township

residents – millions of black South Africans saying “no” and saying “enough”.

It

was also ended by millions of white South Africans voting in 1992 to share power

peacefully rather than continue their armed struggle.


A developed South Africa cannot be created by politicians alone.

It

will need real leadership from business, from the trade union movement, from

churches, mosques, temples and synagogues, from women and youth groups, from

community-based organisations of all kinds.

It will also need the effort, the

energy and the courage of ordinary citizens demanding more and better, both of

their government and of themselves.


It was just this energy that created the first miracle. We cannot

fail to find this energy for the second miracle.


» Godsell is chairman of Business Leadership South Africa and

co-chairman of the Millennium Labour Council

 

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