Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: ELMOND JIYANE
Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: ELMOND JIYANE

The new government leadership under President Cyril Ramaphosa has begun to embrace the crucial role business can play in ensuring a new phase of inclusive growth and development, while also being aware of the real social challenges that need to be tackled as SA does so.

The country is at something of an economic crossroads, where it can finally break free from the twin forces of an appetite for greed coupled with the destructive grip of state capture. SA should commit itself to a new approach to business and a more people-centred approach to growing the economy.

As Business Unity SA’s (Busa’s) new president, I will seek to anchor my tenure on a four-point plan to ensure this is done.

Driving the agenda for transformative inclusive economic growth is important. Priority should be given to growth that builds a more inclusive economy, one in which the gap between rich and poor is tackled with serious intent and in which economic activity is embarked on that brings more people into the productive economy and results in fundamental societal change.

THE CORRUPTION AND MISGOVERNANCE IN SOCIETY IS SO DEEP-ROOTED THAT NO ONE CAN EVER HOPE TO DISLODGE IT ALONE.

This inclusive economic growth must also be transformative — the work done must positively change the economy and transform the lives of South Africans, making everyone feel they have a stake in this society.

The opportunities and disruptions that are a manifestation of the fourth industrial revolution should be considered. The first three economic revolutions revolutionised life in the First World and left the rest of the world far behind.

Now, as the world enters the fourth industrial revolution, innovation and technology are redefining world economies, methods of work and social relations. Resisting these developments risks marginalisation and underdevelopment. Will SA be at the defining phase of this development, which will affect the entire way of life and the world of work, or will it be a Cinderella once more?

SA cannot lose out on the opportunities of the fourth industrial revolution, particularly given the extent to which parts of SA, particularly disadvantaged and marginalised communities, have been left far behind. Its social dimensions should be comprehended and potentially negative social impacts mitigated.

SA should urgently tackle how it adapts its policies and plans to leapfrog its development trajectory and catch up with the developed economies — and where possible, get ahead. This means embracing the fourth industrial revolution as SA’s turn to make fundamental shifts in how it does things, and leapfrogging the technologies of the second and third revolutions.

Social compacts that enable socioeconomic advances also have to be promoted for SA’s highly factious society. These divisions require that people work together at solutions that advance the interests of the country. Compacts are only possible if parties are capable of compromise and taking away from engagement as much as they are prepared to give.

The national minimum wage and the labour relations amendments, the latest social compact, have attracted criticism from some in business who feel we compromised too much. They argue that we gave away too much. But more such accords are required if we are to navigate the country from the after-effects of misgovernance and reposition it to an inclusive future.

Existing platforms should be strengthened and given meaning. Regarding Busa, this means bolstering the National Economic Development and Labour Council as the forum for engaging on economic transformation policy and optimising collaborative opportunities.

Furthermore, there should be agitation for a collaborative platform of social partners, including civil society, labour and government, for ethical leadership with integrity. The corruption and misgovernance in society is so deep-rooted that no one can ever hope to dislodge it alone. Business should play its part by pushing a new agenda — one marked by ethical leadership and integrity. Unethical behaviour, whether by audit firms, banks, the insurance industry or street-corner pyramid schemes, should be outlawed.

Integrity and trust should be placed at the centre of business ventures, and those who violate this approach should be isolated. SA should act against economic criminals, hold them accountable and end the soft landings and back-door resignations that have too often characterised business’ kid-gloves approach to crime.

Every time a company fails to act decisively against corrupt and unethical practices, it should know it is part of a conspiracy against the poor — because they are the ones who carry the greatest penalty of corruption.

Pityana is Busa president-elect.

Please sign in or register to comment.