Afrikaners showed Why SA needs a state-owned bank

2010-12-30 00:00

IT may have come as an intrigue to some, but if you have an economic strategy, you definitely must have a bank — your bank, writes SIPHO ­NGCOBO.

That is clearly why, amongst a number of proposals in his New Growth Path (NGP), Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel is planning the establishment of a state-owned bank.

Minister Patel’s is a big and brave plan — five million jobs over the next 10 years? That’s big. You need creativity and a strong heart accompanied by a solid integrated strategy with the right elements in the right places.

You see, because of their traditional mandate, commercial banks are not a fit to a developmental economic planning approach like Minister Patel’s. It would even be unfair to ask a Standard Bank, an Investec or even an IDC to play a role here. It’s outside of what they know.

Let’s contextualise this.

Supposing a massive agro-processing plant is set up in some remote part of northern KwaZulu-Natal with funding from the state bank and with the main purpose of job creation. The plant’s enterprise development strategy would not only be bringing local farmers into the economic mainstream, but would also create credible employers in their own right.

The plant will have given rise to other economic activities to help close the gap between an affluent industrial city and its rural domicilium.

This is just one example of how the state bank’s would help to foster economic development. Flexibility is the word. You need non-traditional commercial funding mechanisms in order to conquer the scourge of poverty. China is doing it for itself and its citizens.

In fact, the template is right here in South Africa and it has been here for many years. But we have chosen not to see it.

How blind we are! Afrikaners have the template. One of the things, amongst many, that the Afrikaner intelligentsia identified was the critical importance of agriculture and related industries. They established Volkskas Bank for the volk, and the rest is history.

Such an eclectic approach to leadership means managing an economic policy within a political system. It used to be a staple topic of ex-Robben Islanders at pre-democracy public symposia in the early 1980s. This simply means that you look at your own material conditions on the ground and then steal what is good for the benefit of your people.

There is a lot that we can steal and apply according to the dictates of our material conditions.

South Africans who are obsessed with raw free market systems always howl at the top of their voices trying to convince us how we must follow the Western examples of economic management.

I do not have to remind you what the West did in the past couple of years, dragging everyone else into a horrible recession.

Please, please do not tell me what the West is doing. Tell me what you are doing. Afrikaners have the template.

*Sipho Ngcobo is former deputy editor of Business Report and ex-managing editor of Enterprise Magazine.

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