“South Africa faces a number of challenges and to be profitable in the current market requires a change in mindset,” says Leslie Sedibe, CEO of Proudly South African.
Most of us are pulling in our belts, focused on surviving an economic slowdown. But even given the significant challenges that the country faces, a change in mindset means a thriving economy is possible, says Sedibe.
those changes has to do with education. “I don’t believe we can build a
successful country with a 30% pass rate. The issue of skills is going to be
very important going forward if we are to be productive. Let’s fix this,” he
many challenges facing the country is competitiveness, particularly around
South African products, which are competing with highly incentivised products
from other countries.
Much of the
change that Sedibe advocates has to do is with home grown products. “We need to
create jobs, and one of those ways is to buy South African products and goods. When you talk about buying local, there is often an instinctive
reaction that you are being protectionist,” Sedibe tells finweek. “But we have to protect our own industries,
nurturing infant industries until they establish a base,” something he says the
US has done successfully by protecting its tariffs and infant industries.
Local support and localisation can boost an
economy says Sedibe. Take Korea’s giant brands like Samsung and Hyundai. Not
only big in their own country, they are also global giants and healthy
providers of jobs. According to Brand Finance, the two brands have a combined
brand value of over $100m and employ over 150 000 people.
Alas, SA brands do not enjoy any real
global status to boost the country’s coffers unless one counts multinational
brand MTN. The telecommunications company provides employment for 27 000, and
with a brand value of $4.7m is Africa’s most valuable brand reports Brand
Many countries that survived the 2008/9
economic crisis did so on the back of strong industries at home. “It does not
help the South African case to continue the trend of deindustrialisation. We
need to reindustrialise the economy and build and encourage trade within
Africa,” Sedibe says.
Detroit, which last year emerged from
bankruptcy - in large part due to policy implementation on manufacturing
revival - is a working example of how to revive an economy and provide jobs.
SA’s stimulus package might be based on the
principle that sourcing should come from within the country to build the
economy, but too often there is much pontification on policy with little follow
through on implementation.
“We have great laws and policies. They are
just not implemented,” says Sedibe. “Cape Town is an excellent model of what
can be achieved. What we need to do is ask the people of Cape Town how they got
“We have a trade deficit, an implementation
deficit and a trust deficit and these are the things we need to address. It’s also
about strengthening your messages for foreign direct investment. These are key
to growth and development of the economy.”