When you identify an opportunity grab it, steer it and keep it on course with everything you have. I believe in steering true north, and now we have an opportunity to chart a new course for the great SAS South Africa. As the chairperson of the Brics – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – business council South Africa chapter; as an innovative entrepreneur and businessman, and above all else, a South African, I have many concerns.
Our high unemployment rate, educating our youth, equipping them with relevant skills, building infrastructure, our gross domestic product (GDP) and attracting foreign direct investment are high on my agenda. There is no argument that we are dealing with one of the most important destructive apartheid legacies, second-class education – which led to a myriad of social evils. The results of which need more than just two decades to repair.
We have to credit our government for realising the goal for SA to be a partner in this multinational forum. The state continues to amend policies and laws to create attractive conditions to draw investments.
It was after intense lobbying with economic giants and wealth-creating nations, Brazil, Russia, India and China, that we joined the partnership seven years ago. We set ourselves on a course and to roll back centuries of economic drought. Brics gives us an opportunity to create jobs, and work in tangent with the partnership to re-skill and up-skill our workforce. It is not up to the government alone to fix this. The state is not a creator of a lot of jobs. This is where the private sector has a role to play, to work hand in hand with the government.
It is without question; for our economy to grow, we need to create jobs for millions of young people, SA has participated in many multinational institutions, such as the UN, the AU, and the G20. Our partnership with Brics is not meant to be at the exclusion of other investment partners such as the EU and North America. It is intended to augment the partnership and draw increased investment.
But, protectionism politics from traditional trading partners such as the US, and some European countries has had immediate negative economic consequences for South Africa and the 1.2 billion-strong African family. To keep the ship afloat we have to remain innovative and in tune with our alliance. We must see Brics as a flotilla, able to survive the headwinds and the storms. One of the opportunities Brics gives is to cut red tape and we have made some headway in that. Even though our economy is smaller than the rest of the Brics nations, we are equal partners when it comes to decision-making and entering into agreements with other partners.
Brics and the Brics Business Council – South African chapter, which I lead by appointment of the government, oversees and guides infrastructure, deregulation, agribusiness, financial services, skills, manufacturing and energy and the green economy working groups. We are preparing to attend the Brics summit in China. The high-level meeting takes place from September 3-6.
The Business Council plays a crucial role. It is there to ensure that as a country we can channel foreign direct investment from across the world, but mostly from Brazil, Russia, India and China.
Through Brics we have access to the global market, and access to capital. Our government debt is 51.7 percent of the GDP; most of the country’s budget goes to servicing that debt and investing in infrastructure. Therefore, because we are constrained we cannot invest in new opportunities to create jobs. But, our partners in Brics who have the capital are able to invest to create jobs.
When we seek out foreign direct investment, we must ensure that there are skilled jobs, in addition to jobs in low-cost manufacturing. We are aiming for investment that needs a higher skill level, such as in car manufacturing. The more skilled our workforce the more attractive we become for investments.
The Brics Skills Development Working Group set up the Brics Skill Governance Body to oversee the skills development for labour force, which includes the learnings and challenges faced in skills development. The year-on-year employment growth was driven by manufacturing (145000), construction (143000) and finance (152000). There is no doubt we are on a road made of Brics, cemented by the hopes and dreams of 3.6 billion people.
Dr Iqbal Survé is chairperson of the Brics business council – SA chapter.