Government corruption, protecting the SA economy, navigating political uncertainty, youth education and high levels of unemployment were the central themes discussed at the third annual Sunday Times Top 100 Companies Directors Event held last week.

SA’s high levels of unemployment, coupled with a skills shortage, were underlying themes of all three panel discussions.

 The first panel discussion centred on finding ways to protect the economy.

The panel suggested that to foster job creation, existing businesses should expand and support the establishment of new, start-up businesses. Youth are affected most by unemployment, and a growing economy will ensure job creation.

The audience observed that SA was producing people who were not interested in the greater good, but only in self-enrichment. They questioned how accountability by elected leadership could be assured.

Suggestions to protect and grow the economy included recognising criminality for what it was, and there was a call for promoting greater accountability, future-fit businesses, co-operation and honest dialogue. Policy uncertainty and barriers to growth were named as hurdles and closer collaboration between the public and private sector was requested.

Navigating the risks around geopolitical uncertainty was the topic of the second panel discussion. Inequality and SA’s inability to address issues relating to education were drivers of geopolitical uncertainty, said panel members. SA should focus on its strengths, one of which is its competitive advantage in Africa. The panel agreed that there are ways to navigate risks and uncertainty, using the best of our collective abilities.

The final panel discussion focused on youth education and employment. Panellists agreed that SA’s education system did not prepare school leavers or graduates adequately for the world of work, and said the curriculum needed to be redesigned to address the skills shortage. However, it was pointed out that in such a slow economy even those who have skills are not guaranteed of a job. Moreover, the fourth industrial revolution is set to shrink the job pool even further. Educational institutions, agreed the panel, should be doing more to equip learners for the future world of work by adapting the skills they teach to ensure a greater degree of higher-level thinking.

The third annual Sunday Times Top 100 Companies Directors Event brought to you by MMI Holdings, and in association with the Institute of Directors, Hogan Lovells, Johnnie Walker, USB Executive Development, Aluwani Capital Partners and Times Media Event

The big take-out: The third annual Directors Event focused on the challenging times facing SA, particularly in light of corruption and state capture, which, coupled with an educational and unemployment crisis, have created a slow-growth economy.

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