I want to add my welcome to the incoming president Bonang Mohale and deputy president Adrian Gore, who are taking up the leadership of Business Unity South Africa at this crucial point. They are strong leaders with ample experience of what it takes for business to thrive and help South Africa fulfil its potential.
We have been through one of the most dramatic periods our economy has faced. With the vaccine programme now entrenched we can start to look towards driving a recovery and ensuring business is able to grow, invest and create the jobs our country needs. But it will take hard work with all the social partners to build the right environment to deliver on that potential.
We need organised business to have the right ideas to put on the table and then the courage to advocate for them. We need to build relationships with our social partners including government, civil society and labour, ensuring we understand each other and the role we must all play in resolving our challenges. This is the project that BLSA will support BUSA in delivering and I look forward to working with Bonang and Adrian.
They take up the seats that have been held by Sipho Pityana and Martin Kingston. My sincere thanks to both of them. Brilliant things have been achieved under their leadership.
Sipho has been a courageous and bold voice for business at critical moments. He has held the line on the reforms business needs from government in order to deliver the investment and jobs government wants from it. In Nedlac he was completely direct in demanding accountability from social partners, from the president to civil society, holding them to the commitments that were made to reforms. He has been a clear and consistent voice in calling out those caught up in state capture, whether in business or government. In doing so he has given business the confidence to engage and contribute to building the country with heads held high.
When the pandemic struck, business was immediately galvanised into confronting its worst effects. Martin was crucial in setting up Business 4 South Africa, a mechanism for all of businesses to volunteer resources and time to confront the pandemic. B4SA has been a critical partner to government in fighting the pandemic, stepping up at crucial points like sourcing the PPE from global supply chains, boosting production of sanitiser and latterly as a major contributor to the vaccine programme. B4SA also drove the creation of one of the best economic recovery plans that has been produced, which formed an important input into the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan that was adopted by Cabinet.
I am sure Sipho and Martin will continue to be important contributors to the organised business effort and we’ll have the opportunity to work together in future.
At the BUSA AGM where Bonang and Adrian were elected, new finance minister Enoch Godongwana gave an important speech. He focused on the importance of the relationship between business and government, noting that we will have different views from time to time but “have an obligation to find one another and stay the course”. He noted that we share a commitment to achieve higher levels of economic growth, reduce unemployment and poverty and reduce inequality.
I wholeheartedly concur with the minister. He referred to the central role that infrastructure investment must play in driving the recovery, a theme I’ve written about often. BLSA has an active programme under way to support the government in improving the environment for infrastructure investment, contributing research and skills to key institutions to support project development and policy formation.
The minister also spoke of the important structural reforms being driven by government, noting that the minister of communications and digital technologies is moving with speed to unblock the auction of digital spectrum. Again, BLSA is actively supporting government in driving this effort.
It is exciting to have so much alignment between government and business on the key reforms needed to unlock our economy. The new leadership of BUSA will play a key role in delivering through this alignment. I look forward to working with them and the minister to ensure we can bring our resources and ideas together to develop thriving South Africa.
Our labour regulations need to be reviewed, I wrote last week in Business Day. The regulations have protected the rights of employees but have also made it more expensive and harder for small businesses to hire new workers. Changing some labour regulations will have the effect of curbing retrenchments and changing the mindset in favour of creating new jobs, especially if other big-ticket reforms are undertaken
If we thought we had a jobs crisis on our hands before this pandemic, we now we have something much, much larger than we had ever imagined, I wrote in fin24. Our unemployment rate, now at 34.4%, is only set to worsen when the effects of the July unrest are included in the third-quarter GDP figures.
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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