Hard work will pay off for Brand Africa

2014-01-26 14:00

On a cold and frosty Davos morning, Team South Africa’s programme at the annual World Economic Forum kicked off with robust and engaging discussions on South Africa 20 years after democracy.

Very soon thereafter, the discussion shifted to the continent.

Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan set the tone for a panel discussion featuring Monhla Hlahla (chairperson of the Industrial Development Corporation), Nku Nyembezi-Heita (chairperson-designate of the JSE), Jabu Mabuza (Business Unity SA) and Colin Coleman (Goldman Sachs).

The resounding message was that South Africa had made significant strides towards addressing challenges inherited from the pre-1994 period.

It was argued that soon after the onset of democracy, strides had been made towards unifying a divided society, using one of the most progressive constitutions in the world to navigate our way through this challenge.

Gordhan highlighted that since 1994, South Africa’s economy had grown more than two-and-a-half times with more than 10?million South Africans climbing up and over the LSM?5 ladder. He also reminded us that Nelson Mandela had left behind an ethos that can best be described as resilience and a willingness to conquer.

The country’s initial investment in redressing its social disparities had paved the way for the development of an economy that is today worth more than $400?billion (R4.3?trillion). Most importantly were the strides made in the past 20?years that have paved the way for implementing the National Development Plan (NDP).

There was a strong view that the NDP must be implemented by all stakeholders working towards the same objective –?a real economy and sustainable growth.

The challenge was to ensure that we worked towards greater productivity and created more jobs. Economic growth should not only be confined to growth in the gross domestic product. We should see it in more holistic terms –?an improved quality of life, accessible healthcare for all and increased social cohesion. In addition, South Africa’s membership in the Brazil-Russia-India-China (Brics) grouping has yielded positive results in, for example, increased intra-Brics trade, skills exports and the New Development Bank.

In a changing world economy, South Africa’s national developmental goals can only be achieved if business, government and society become more creative in their responses to the accelerated rate of change in the global and domestic environments.

The NDP was referred to as South Africa’s “economic constitution” that would allow all stakeholders to coalesce around improving social conditions and creating a more competitive economy.

Gordhan also highlighted the issue of negative perceptions related to emerging markets. But this negativity is unfounded due to continued growth in key markets like China, with projections for this year showing a much more positive outlook.

At the same time, the sub-Saharan African market was the second-fastest growing region in the world last year. This means the debate on the economic outlook of the developing world should remain central to how South Africa and its people position themselves to exploit increasing opportunities within Brics and the rest of Africa.

South Africa is also the largest source of foreign direct investment into peer African markets.

To expand these opportunities, South Africa and its peer nations are focusing on regional integration, infrastructure corridor developments and other policy interventions to make trade easier and to facilitate deeper social and economic interaction between African societies.

Government and business representatives articulated in great detail the road the country has travelled in the past 20 years, while clearly communicating to the international community that there is no doubt about where South Africa is going in the next 20 years of democracy. We will be guided by the NDP, with its call to action for South Africans to play their part in creating leaders like Nelson Mandela.

South Africa is part of a dynamic, fast-growing continent. It, along with Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana and all African states are part of Brand Africa. Growth in Africa is positive for all its countries and citizens as the more positive development the continent sees in individual states and subregions, the better it is for the African collective.

As always, South Africa’s journey is tied to that of Africa. More work must be done to create the Brand Africa message of a continent that is actively engaging with its own challenges while becoming one of the most important expanding markets in the global economy.

»?Ntshingila is the deputy chairperson of Brand South Africa

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