Sfiso Buthelezi: The word radical may scare, but it's same as inclusive growth

Johannesburg – There is no difference between “radical economic transformation” and inclusive growth, said Deputy Finance Minister Buthelezi Sfiso.

Sfiso was speaking at the launch of the World Economic Forum (WEF) Africa 2017, hosted by IBM Research Africa, at the Tshimogolong Digital Innovation Hub in Braamfontein on Friday.

This is the 27th forum, to be held in Africa. Over 1 000 leaders in business, government, and civil society will meet to continue discussions presented at Davos earlier this year. These are issues of inclusive growth, the fourth industrial revolution and leadership.

The meeting is also an opportunity for government to engage with investors and partner countries, to promote South Africa as a key investment destination, said Buthelezi. Besides forming new partnerships, government will endeavour to deepen existing ones, he explained.

During a question and answer session following his address, Buthelezi explained that there was no difference between government’s policy of radical economic transformation and the goal of inclusive growth.

“Is there a difference between radical economic transformation and inclusive growth? The short answer is no,” said Buthelezi. “There is definitely no difference. If you look at the end result of radical economic transformation and inclusive growth, it ensures the majority of citizens get involved in economic activity.”

READ: White people in SA still hold the lion's share of all forms of capital

Buthelezi went on to explain that the use of the word “radical” might make people tense, when it in fact is the same as the phrase “inclusive growth”.

Speaking on what policies for inclusive growth might involved, Buthelezi said that this involves solutions for economic growth. He used the example of beneficiation of primary products to improve the value of exported goods, which also involves more South Africans throughout the value chain of production as a possible solution.

Buthelezi also pointed out the gaps in education. He said it is important that South Africans are educated and skilled in fields relevant for the economy.

He went on to say that South Africa is one of the most unequal societies with a Gini coefficient of 0.66. “It is an established economic theory that unequal societies.” This will impact the country’s ability to attract future investments, he said.

Elsie Kanza, head of Africa at WEF, emphasised the importance of inclusivity. “There is a lack of urgency. We need a sense of urgency which perhaps speaks to the radical part,” she said.

Kanza explained that the current status of inequality in Africa can not be sustained as it leads to instability.

Speaking on the fourth industrial revolution, Kanza said the major concern is not whether Africans can participate in it today, but rather the fact that Africans will be left behind if countries do not invest toward it.

Gateway to Africa

Answering a question on whether the recent downgrade to junk status may impact South Africa’s role as a gateway to Africa, Kanza added that South Africa has a lot “going for it”, and sets a number of important benchmarks. “Not all indicators are perfect,” she said, but South Africa has a sophisticated financial sector.

ALSO READ: Transnet launches R350bn locomotive ‘for Africans, by Africans’

She explained that the country was leading the charge in creating a Pan-African network important for industry. She used the example of the Transnet locomotive which is the first train design and built in Africa, to improve business across the continent.  

Kanza added that in terms of the fourth industrial revolution, the country has globally competitive institutions in the area of science and technology. 

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