Media reports about mass board resignations, early retiring CEO’s, plant shutdowns, mass retrenchments and growing qualified audit numbers are all reflections of a new reality facing South Africa. Our pivotal institutions are failing. Many large companies, public enterprises and government organizations are in trouble. They are in trouble because they are old. Their core technologies and equipment are old, their processes are old, their pivotal skills are old, their production plants and offices are old and worn out, their boardrooms are old and stuffy and last but not least their products had become unaffordable and obsolete. Read the discouraging stories about the mines, factories, SABC, SAA, Eskom and municipalities losing their abilities to perform and you will realize that we are in trouble.
Compare this situation with the expectations of a society of young people that is aspiring to build a new nation through active citizenry. A society that must nurture a new generation of outstanding leaders and must produce more engineers, accountants, scientists and doctors with hard skills and relevant experience, as ANC Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa had urged during an award ceremony recently. The two evolving scenarios are incompatible and incongruent.
What can be done about the gradual disablement and inconvenience of aging? Not much in the short term. It takes time and money to build new factories, power plants, mines, paper plants, farms and new modern enterprises responsible for electricity generation, entertainment broadcasting, air transport and essential public services. Even our biggest banks are suffering from old age and are reeling under the onslaught of younger and more virulent tech-savvy competitors. They are all shedding employees. Those employees fortunate enough to have escaped the first downsizing clean-outs remain behind sad, discouraged, traumatized, bewildered and disengaged. They miss the companionship, wisdom and engagement of the ones who had been axed.
Some of the sinking ships can be saved. Those enterprises and organizations that can fulfil a need in society by changing to new technology and products must find a way to re-invent and re-engineer their core business. It can no longer be business-as-usual. The shareholders, owners, leaders and employees of these organizations must realize that they will only survive if they can re-invent and re-engineer their services and infrastructure. They must find ways to reduce consumption and waste and to hang on to and exploit the pivotal skills they still have. There are millions of families and employees whose future engagement and livelihoods are dependent on the foresight, lean thinking and optimism of business leaders.
South Africa is at a turning point in its economic history and the journeys of the new ships and ships that are refloated through ingenuity will determine the new direction and destination that we will be heading to. It is sad to hear that Nigeria’s economy will become bigger than South Africa’s in the near future. We should send delegations to Nigeria to study and establish what drives their development. Is their education better? Do they have more unexploited natural resources? Do they invest more in infrastructure? Or are they just born and bred more entrepreneurial? We must find out before the reputation jolt from losing the prime economic position of the continent destroys our national pride and patriotism.
Disclaimer: All articles and letters published on MyNews24 have been independently written by members of News24's community. The views of users published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24. News24 editors also reserve the right to edit or delete any and all comments received.