Picture: 123RF/CATHY YEULET
Picture: 123RF/CATHY YEULET

Just a few days before the captains of the world economy and industry convene for the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, the governing ANC released its manifesto for the 2019 general election.

This is a manifesto Business Leadership SA (BLSA) has cautiously welcomed. Only a year ago, then deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa was welcomed by business leaders in Davos; this year, he returns as president leading Team SA, immediately after his party has just dangled bait for the ANC’s re-election.

Most of what is contained in the manifesto resonates with what BLSA has long maintained, which is to ensure that accelerated, socio-economic growth should be uppermost on the agenda.

An 18th century American inventor and businessman Oliver Evans wrote: “It frequently happens that two persons, reasoning right on a mechanical subject, think alike and invent the same thing without any communication with each other,” Whereas some analysts have referred to this as a coincidence, one would prefer to say the ANC is starting to listen to business. Over a considerable period, BLSA has consistently called for a number of points that have found expression in the ANC manifesto.

This is an attitude BLSA would welcome from all political parties — listening to business. The three strategic pillars that are the bedrock of BLSA’s position are aimed at creating a country  characterised by increasing prosperity for all by harnessing the resources and capabilities of business and all social partners to accelerate inclusive socio-economic growth, job creation and transformation. One of the requirements for achieving this would be a state that spends within its means.

In essence, BLSA aims to ensure there is economic growth and job creation — while advocating for the respect of institutions of democracy and their independence.

What business requires is a conducive environment to thrive. With clear and sound government policies, the governing party can help remove one of the main hurdles to business creating jobs

The ANC manifesto has pronounced strongly on inclusive growth, transformation and state institutions. Has business found a satisfactory voice in political manifestos? This is not to downplay all the good intentions the ANC has for this country. Instead, it is to re-emphasise the critical and central role of business in every nation’s socio-economic spheres.

While the ANC manifesto details the party’s plans on the creation of jobs, broadening ownership in the economy, investing in the economy for inclusive growth, land reform, and addressing the concentrated structure of the economy, it does not give the necessary focus on the central role of business in achieving these objectives.

An SA that is good for business is one that attracts investment, where markets function effectively, and political, social and economic conditions create stability and certainty. This provides a platform for private- and public-owned businesses to thrive. All have their role to play in building a country that creates prosperity for all by delivering jobs and inclusive growth.

Growth through transformation

BLSA is on record on numerous occasions for committing to transformation within the business sector and supporting transformed and managed supplier businesses. It has pledged to grow a new generation of business leaders and entrepreneurs. Business does not play some obscure role in the economy. No society can prosper where business is treated with disdain.  Without business, this ANC manifesto is not achievable.

This argument is based on facts. How can a social partner that employs 13.5-million people be ignored — bearing in mind that the government only employs 2.1-million workers? To understand the significance of this it is necessary to refer to Stats SA, which reported that a total of R2.39-trillion was spent in the second quarter of 2018 by the formal business sector.  Through this workforce, business contributes to taxes that are utilised by the government to build houses, clinics, roads, schools and hospitals.

SA’s unemployment rate affects a highly vulnerable group in society: young people. This is supposed to be the future of the country as they comprise 42% of the population. Of this, 53% is, regrettably, unemployed. This is not a group that can perpetually be sold promises. They are impatient and need solutions now. Business stands ready to provide solutions in partnership with the government and other social partners, as demonstrated by the widely embraced Youth Employment Service (YES).

It is against this backdrop that BLSA would like to urge the ANC to open its doors and those of the government it leads to engage with business to find lasting solutions for the challenges of unemployment and job creation. What business requires is a conducive environment to thrive. With clear and sound government policies, the governing party can help remove one of the main hurdles to business creating jobs. This means the governing party aligning with business and discouraging hostility towards business.

Every manifesto will fail if it is not implemented by capable and skilled designates. While business is committed to partnership, it must be clear that business will only partner with ethical and principled leadership. Business will only play its role in an association that does not compromise the fundamental principles of ethical leadership with integrity.

Therefore, the ruling party must dedicate its best delegates to implement this manifesto. The corrupt, the enablers of state capture, and the tainted must answer in the courts for their role in collapsing the economy of the country. BLSA is ready to join hands with all parties that truly believe in accelerating inclusive socio-economic growth.

• Mohale is CEO of Business Leadership SA.