SONA, do I have an opinion?

2017-02-11 16:07

Someone asked me to formulate an opinion on the State of the Nation Address (SONA). It is with hesitance that I now venture to do so. To aid me with my treatise I would like to share the following five factors that are definitive of the State of South Africa despite all else:

We had 38 million people in South Africa in 1994 compared to 53 million today. Thus 15 million South Africans are born in the freedom years of SA. This is 50% population increase in 23 years. This has also resulted in a society with a 65% portion of the population living at R 710 or less a month (Poor).

Our public human capital development institutions have maintained a consistent capacity if you consider that the additional capacity developed in tertiary institutions also includes replacing the capacity for nurses and teachers colleges lost after 1994.

The NDP which is the purported route map to an inclusive economy is not an action plan, and thus sets goals from which programmes should be developed. These programme where they exist in pockets, there is a long list of disjointedness in advancing towards the goals.

Our economy is too small with very bad elasticity and cannot foster the development of 65% of the population

South Africa is not a clever global player and our foreign agenda is very reactive.

Now that that’s out of the way, what do I make of the SONA:

I found the use of the word radical to be ambiguous and placing it on any old policy does not change the reality. The concept of Radical Socio-Economic Transformation (RSET) means absolutely nothing in light of the real state of the country as pondered above.

Radical through knowledge of 23 years of ANC policies does not mean retributive judgement. In fact the ANC had an opportunity in 2004 to pass retributive policies and they walked a high line that espoused business and alienated the poor mass.

Radical does not mean aggressive improvement of levels of access to higher education and /or skills programme by the poor masses. If this was the case a mention of a recovery programme for failed SETA’s, which continue to be placed under administration yearly would have been of a priority mention. SETAs should be a funded platform to sustain the skills needs of the country, and yet we still fail to place our FET graduate into experiential learning opportunities for lack of collaborative agreements between business and government

Radical also does not mean accelerated empowerment of small business. Building funding tools for vendor level businesses by poor people needing micro loans at favourable rates to build basic retail businesses remains a dream. In fact, the fact that National Credit Regulations are still an impediment for would be small business vendors is mind blowing.

Thus in the absence of a fully functioning skills development and enterprise development for the poorest 65% of the population, any intervention would be a band aid to a festering challenge. Hence my submission is that RSET should exist in a framework that’s less sensational and more pragmatic. The following ideas would have been my additions to the SONA.

Technology Inclusiveness: Our poor South Africans are disadvantaged for lack of many resources from have proper school infrastructure to having access to information. Thus the 15 million born free should all have a perfunctory access to technology and the internet. This was once an expensive exercise, but all over the world cheaper solutions are being exercised including government sponsored WiFi systems and laptop distributions. The one laptop per child movement has even venture further to build a unit fully loaded with the right empowerment technology for poor people.

University Licensing Community Colleges: I get it that not all of us will get to study at the University of Cape Town, but if I can develop proper work ethics, and study independently, how come there is no system to support my development. Now if we take Industry level assessments that every South Africa can access with Prometric and Pearson VUE, which essentially are Computer based assessments, on behalf of industry and international universities. South African universities can accommodate more members of society by extending the same licenses to their programmes to these institutions. Even further they can also license tutorial level institutions at a community level and build a community college sector which if it thrives would be a welcomed addition to the economy. This makes education both affordable and accessible without fearing the mass exit of the rich as it was suggested around fees falling.

Small Business fund managed and distributed at a Post Office level: That said if the post office has institutional capacity to deliver the banking solution, outsource it to PSG (Capitec). The Job fund has a different agenda and its achieving its goals differently. I would however venture to test the success of the Jobs fund against a programme giving vendor level loan to the unskilled masses of the country who are frustrated for lack of a first port of call. Loans not bigger that R 10 000 given to assist the young and the poor to create commerce amongst themselves.

Land is not an immediate gain as opposed to education: Holding a dialogue with experts and consulting broadly even internationally on careers of the future and the route map to employing a wide public is a challenge. This conference is such a crucial outstanding forum, to explore future opportunities. I get the impact of the SKA and its possible impact in artisan jobs but the SKA is a heavy academic platform and it will be exclusionary in the long run for the lesser skilled. IT proved to be a success for India in that it got the country to stay ahead of the world in how the sector grew. SA needs a skills niche in high growth sectors and there is no late starting date. I appreciate the 10 000 plumbing programme but I am thing 15 million born frees.

I pause here, I will do an article on SA and its position in the world in line with foreign policy pronouncements from the SONA

Be Inspired SA!

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