Thankfully here in SA, when it comes to vaccines, common sense and rationality prevail for the most part, although like all nations we also have our “anti-vaccination” contingent. Still, it’s a major milestone that all adults are now able to get vaccinated. It means so many more of our population will be able to protect themselves and each other.
The facts are clear: vaccinated people have lower chances of getting the virus, of spreading it and being severely affected if they do get it. This is the key to resuming economic activity in all areas.
But we are increasingly facing a problem of demand rather than supply. Vaccination centres are standing empty while there are still high numbers of people who should be getting vaccinated. Supply is still an issue but in a different way – it is no longer about accessing international stocks of vaccine, but about getting it to hard-to-reach people, whether in rural areas or townships.
Surveys are showing that the demand problem is slowly improving. One by the University of Johannesburg last week showed that the overall vaccine acceptance rate in July had improved to 72% from 67% last December. A similar study by NIDS CRAM showed a shift from 71% to 76% between March and May this year. Global rates vary widely – one study last year found it ranged from 90% in China to 55% in Russia, so we are not outliers. But it is clear that we need all South Africans to come round to recognising that the vaccine is our passport to a normal life.
Education and awareness are part of the solution and it is also important that prominent individuals actively promote vaccination in the public domain. We need to work with churches, unions, civil society organisations and others to promote vaccines. Employers have a clear to role to play too, making it easy for employees to access information and get to vaccination sites. We have to rally all South Africans to get vaccinated.
We can see the prize that awaits us: the complete reopening of the economy. A return to mass gatherings like sports events and entertainment. This is already a reality in countries that have achieved sufficient vaccine penetration, generally at the 70% level.
We have a great deal of work to do to get the economy growing to recover the employment and tax revenue we have lost through the pandemic, and then to deal with unemployment and poverty beyond that. Unemployment figures are due out this week and will probably show we still have over
1-million fewer jobs in the formal sector than before the pandemic.
There are lots of measures to we need to boost growth. We have taken some, like rule changes to allow companies to more easily generate up to 100MW of electricity themselves. But a post-vaccine scenario is an important precondition – business confidence will continue to be weak while we operate under various levels of lockdown.
While our vaccine programme started out on the wrong foot, it is now going well. Government is working hard on mechanisms to get vaccines to harder-to-reach people. These include pop-up vaccination centres at taxi ranks and mobile vaccination units that can travel to rural areas. I applaud the health department for these positive developments.
The vaccine rollout is also an achievement of cooperation between the public and private sectors. Many businesses have worked tirelessly to set up vaccination centres at their premises for the public, working with the health department. Employers, such as those in the mining sector, have rolled out extensive vaccination programmes of their own. Together we can achieve more and do it faster.
We are fully aligned on this – a successful vaccination programme is critical to being able to rebuild the economy to be able to support all South Africans.
Putting the right people in the right jobs is critical for success, I write in Business Day. This is tougher in politics, where success is much harder to define, than in businesses. I have confidence, however, that we are already making strides to ensure the days of state capture are behind us, as is clear with capable people now being made to key state institutions
Business confidence is essential, especially for the infrastructure plans that look to unlock 800,000 job opportunities in the medium term, I wrote in in fin24. Ensuring the security of everyday South Africans and businesses both big and small as they go about their daily lives is critical to get our economic rebound back on course.
This is a weekly newsletter from BLSA CEO Busi Mavuso.
BLSA is a business organisation that believes in South Africa’s future and shares the values set out in the Constitution. In 2017, BLSA signed a contract with South Africa, committing business to playing its part in creating a South Africa of increasing prosperity for all by harnessing the resources and capabilities of business in partnership with government and civil society to deliver economic growth, transformation and inclusion.
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