Last week we saw a lot of TV footage of ecstatic learners celebrating success in their matric exams.
As happy and excited as these learners were, I couldn't help feeling pity for them - pity, because relatively few of them will now find employment, or perhaps even find employment in their whole lifetimes!
In SA, we naively think that the country's economic woes will be solved by simply educating our youth - we proudly announce improved matric pass rates and, with that, talk about us leaping onto the train of the "Fourth Industrial Revolution" (how few even know what the "Fourth Industrial Revolution" even means).
Yes, proper or good education certainly is vital to the economy but, by itself, is of little use IF our learners/graduates can't get jobs.
And, of course we'll also simply miss that Fourth Industrial Revolution train.
To create jobs, we need capital and lots of it.
Yes, we need that which is provided by the "hated" capitalists (I say hated, because the country’s labour movements, and many in government, dislike capitalists with a passion).
Some Economics 101: It costs money (capital) to create jobs. Depending on the type of job, this can range from a few hundred thousand rand (per job) to a few million rand (per job).
Unless someone provides such capital (upfront), there are no jobs. It's simple.
Unfortunately, the state has a limited capacity to create jobs - it's already regarded as being in an over-borrowed position and has a colossal monthly interest bill to pay its lenders (paid with our taxes), so it can't do much now.
And of course creating jobs in the civil service will, in almost all cases, not add to the GDP of the country, but simply add to the tax burden of the relatively small number of South Africans taxpayers.
The bottom line is that we must encourage investors (the capitalists), both foreign and local, to invest in SA.
Let investors make profits, and be happy when they do - after all, they're risking their money in SA and are creating jobs for our people.
Creating jobs means that those who then get employed can now provide for themselves and their families (and not rely on social grants) and can now pay taxes to the state (as do the businesses that employ them) which means more money for the State to spend on infrastructure, health etc.
On the subject of social grants, it was recently reported that the ruling party had announced, with great pride, that SA was paying 17.6 million social grants per month in 2018, and that it was wanting to see this grow in 2020.
Whilst there's the "good" side of achieving this high number of social grants, it's also something that a nation should not be proud of - that's because it's an admission of failure because high levels of social grants are only necessary in countries with a high number of poor/unemployed citizens – high levels of social grants mean that a vast amount of tax money goes to support the poor/unemployed (a humane, but unproductive purpose), and less that is available to spend on roads, railways, health etc.
Unfortunately, I believe that we have a number of obstacles to attracting foreign/local investment: BEE (not in principle, but as currently implemented); militant labour/trade unions; investor-unfriendly labour legislation; poor levels of productivity (expensive labour for what is produced); high levels of crime/corruption.
Also, continual threats of expropriating private land without compensation i.e. stealing citizens' land (investors won't be keen to invest in a country that doesn't guarantee the property rights of its own citizens because stealing property from foreigners is a simple law enactment away from stealing from one's own citizens).
As politically unpalatable as this may be (and these certainly would be), these obstacles to attracting investment must be addressed if SA is to survive in the global economy.
The pressing issue, however, is that time is fast running out.