Relax! This too will pass

2008-02-12 00:00

Well, 2008 certainly started with a bang. The future was rosy on December 31, 2007, but suddenly everyone is buying candles and researching property in Perth.

A combination of recession in the United States, global equity market negativity, high interest rates, the National Credit Act and power outages have combined to create the perfect storm.

But don’t panic.

This is not the first time there’s been doom and gloom. Every few years the same thing happens. We experience massive economic growth, everyone is optimistic and buying Nescafé Gold and holiday homes and Mercs. The positivity gets ahead of itself and the economy overheats and then panic sets in because the economy seems to be collapsing when in actual fact it’s simply making an adjustment back to a reasonable level.

It happened in 1989, when South Africa defaulted on its international loans and the stock market and rand crashed. It happened in 1994 when the ANC took power and everyone thought war would break out. It happened in 1998 when interest rates hit 25% and you couldn’t give away your house and it happened in 2001 when a fairly unstable guy by the name of Osama arranged for two Boeings to fly into the tallest buildings in New York.

On each of these occasions everyone thought it was the end of the world and that there was no light in sight. And on each occasion, believe it or not, the world did not actually end, it recovered and, in fact, things continued to get better.

I think 2008 will be a tough year, but I also see it as a great opportunity to seize the day while everyone else is whinging and get a front-seat on the inevitable boom that we’ll experience in 2009, 2010 and beyond.

Make sure you make a mental note of everything that is happening now, because it will happen again and again, and if you don’t recognise the symptoms you’ll be suckered into the same negativity and forget to look for the opportunities.

It’s easy to be negative. Subconsciously, you want to be negative. Whenever you open the papers they tell you about the goriest hi-jacking and the most corrupt politicians. Why don’t they dedicate more pages to the fact that Johannesburg is the world’s biggest man-made forest, or to the corruption-free achievements of the vast majority of public officials? Because bad news sells. Good news is boring.

South Africa still has the best weather in world. We’re lucky enough to possess a huge chunk of the world’s resources, ie, gold, platinum, coal and iron. The growth in India and China will continue to accelerate (India and China sign 10 million new cellphone customers every month) and so will their demand for our resources. The government has already embarked on massive infrastructure projects (some of them a tad late, ie, electricity), and this will pump money into the economy.

We are all lucky enough to be a part of the birth of a massive and all-encompassing industry. The Internet has and will continue to change the world. The enormity of its impact is up there with the wheel, electricity, TV, telephones and possibly man’s greatest invention, coffee. Not only does it open up an entirely untapped world of commerce, but it is also the ultimate disseminator of information and news. Apartheid would not have lasted 40 years if the Internet had existed. And you’re part of it.

I’m looking forward to another year of ASA complaints, IR issues, Plug and Wireless parties, BTS roll-outs, billing runs, irate customers, happy customers, orange bubbles, faulty elevators, etc, etc. The nice stuff makes me feel good and the challenges remind me why we can beat the competition. Most importantly, I’m looking forward to having fun and making memories.

So ignore the doomsayers, install a timer on your geyser, and buy Ricoffee for a couple of months.

• Allan Knott-Craig is CEO of iburst.

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