How to become a flourishing economy – Clem Sunter

Imagine instead of aiming for five million jobs as our 2020 objective, we aimed for one million new enterprises, says Clem Sunter.

Cape Town – There are three ways South Africa could go. The first would be to address our issues and become a flourishing economy. Next would be to continue to decline, resulting in a second-rate economy. The other possibility is that we decline into a failed state amid the ranks of nations such as Syria, Iraq and Libya, too violent and unpredictable for investment.

How do we ensure that we achieve scenario one?

First off, and most obviously, we need an informed electorate intent on selecting moral and inclusive leadership. This requires both a robust and free media landscape, as well as significant improvements to our education system.

Second, we need to use what we’ve got. South Africa is a nation which produces pockets of excellence, sometimes in spite of ourselves. Names like Elon Musk, Mark Shuttleworth, Siyabulela Xuza and Dr Patrick Soon-Shiong spring to mind. These four brilliant, world-changing South Africans all live in the US. We have to create a fiscal landscape which attracts, rather than exports, excellence.

Finally, and crucially, we need to fan the entrepreneurial spark into a flame. Entrepreneurs transform a nation. Entrepreneurs create jobs and grow the economy, and yet in South Africa, instead of rolling out the red carpet to such people, we bind them in red tape.

Imagine instead of aiming for five million jobs as our 2020 objective, we aimed for one million new enterprises. Immediately the job potential is far greater. Imagine an economic policy which facilitates access to financial services for SMMEs, rather than offering credit to those who don’t need it.

In addition to such policy changes, we need to ensure that we are producing citizens with the impetus to create and run their own businesses at best, or at the very least to be employable.

There are a number of NGOs doing sterling work in this regard. Afrika Tikkun is one such example. They work with children living in South Africa’s townships with programmes designed to take them from cradle to career. In addition to providing nutritional, educational and psycho-social support, their sister company, Afrika Tikkun Services, bridges the gap for school-leavers who are unable to attend tertiary institutions through skills development and small business training, through to job placement.

Holistic, out-the-box thinking is what’s needed to transform South Africa, a nation primed with potential, towards a flourishing economy.

* Clem Sunter is a scenario strategist, speaker and author.

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