How South Africa can prevent its own ‘Arab Spring’: CEO

 ·11 Jul 2023

Cooperation between the private sector and government is crucial to boosting the economy and preventing a repeat of the July 2021 unrest, according to Busisiwe Mavuso, the CEO of Business Leadership South Africa (BLSA).

Last month, during an “unprecedented” meeting, President Cyril Ramaphosa met with various business leaders to discuss plans to remove obstacles impeding economic growth and job creation.

In the meeting, three immediate priority interventions were highlighted: energy, transport and logistics, and crime and corruption.

CEOs of several of South Africa’s largest companies said they would contribute considerable skills and resources through partnership structures to tackle these issues.

“The work will be directed through the government-led National Energy Crisis Committee (NECOM), National Logistics Crisis Committee (NLCC), and Joint Initiative to Fight Crime and Corruption (JICC), and overseen by a Joint Strategic Operations Committee,” the presidency said.

Under the initiative, organised businesses, represented by CEOs under the oversight of Business for South Africa (B4SA), will work with relevant state-owned enterprises and various government enterprises.

The presidency also said that the initiative would build upon the prior work done during the Covid-19 vaccine rollout.

“This initiative will make a real and marked difference in rebuilding our economy and setting it on a path of sustained inclusive growth,” Ramaphosa said.

“It is driven by a shared determination to overcome the severe challenges we currently face and to mobilise the country’s substantial capabilities towards the achievement of that goal. We welcome this commitment from business and undertake as government to work to ensure the success of this partnership.”

Speaking on the PSG Think Big Series, Mavuso said that if the initiative is a success, the uncertainty that surrounds South Africa, which weights heavily on business confidence, can be addressed.

She said that if business confidence is not improved, there won’t be further investment into the country, leading to the economy not growing at the correct level.

If the economy cannot grow, South Africa cannot address its current unemployment crisis.

According to the most recent data from Stats SA, South Africa’s unemployment rate stands at 32.9%.

However, when looking at the expanded definition, the unemployment rate stands at 42.4%.

Mavuso said that making the trading environment conducive via the partnership between the public and private sectors will lead to improved investments- boosting employment levels in the country.

If the unemployment crisis is not addressed, she said that South Africa will face its own version of the Arab Spring.

“We saw what that would be like in July 2021. So, this intervention, when all is said and done, is really trying to prevent a reoccurrence of July 2021,” she said.

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