Let’s make it, not take it

2011-08-29 11:05

The economic debate is characterised by what we can take instead of what we can do for ourselves in order to contribute to sustainable growth.

The ANC Youth League has vociferously proposed that we take the mines, the banks and the farms.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu has proposed that we take yet another tax from the wealthy. More subtle and sophisticated players in the “take-game” speak of a “greater stake in the mainstream economy by the previously disadvantaged” and they, too, propose sophisticated time-staggered strategies called “charters”, yet again to take more shares from established white companies.

I’m not saying these proposals are illlegitimate because they are meant to level the playing fields and redress the imbalances of the past.

But they are not an investment in a more integrated sustainable economic future.

For me, these proposals no longer hold water.

I’ve watched and seen how only a few of the usual suspects and their ­fly-fishing, red-wine drinking and sushi-eating chommies are the real beneficiaries. Different questions must be asked and we must ask them unemotionally, ­non-coercively and frankly in order to arrive at more than cosmetic conclusions.

» What is our real contribution to the economic transformation of this country? In other words:

» What resources do we bring to the collective table?

» How are they quantified and valued?

» How are they to be funded and who will manage that investment?

» Do the requisite skills for entering the game exist among us?

» Is the return on investment one that is commensurate with our expectations? » Are the terms of engagement clearly understood by all stakeholders?

» Who is “us”?We may discover that we have a lot to offer, a lot to give, instead of take. With the appropriate focus and paradigm shift, the black-led taxi industry can transform and provide leadership in the transport sector.

Indeed, much must be done to improve the levels of service and image of this industry but I can say with pride that this is one industry that has never begged or screamed for hand-outs from anyone.

Real business collaborations with suppliers of motor spares and parts, fuel companies and so on is a real opportunity now.

This way, jobs will be created in a sector that is authentically black-owned and controlled, instead of encouraging rampant tokenism.

I whole-heartedly support the idea that the taxi industry should enter the aviation arena.

And the stokvel scene which exists in many of our communities has not been sufficiently investigated for its ability to raise capital.

I believe creative ideas could see a community-based banking system steeped in African principles emerging and being a real contributor to the economic advancement of our country.

This would not be a hand-out but a home-grown innovation, like the Sharia (Islamic) banks, taking root even in this country and servicing all our people.

The Ilima practice of communal African farming principles could contribute to a revival of an agricultural sector similar to the Israeli kibbutzim. We would be able to use existing tribal lands and vast unused government land without having to take from others.

So how about it: that we young people rethink what wealth means and move from a take-it, to a make-it, philosophy.

» Masango is a broadcaster and writer 

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