Discovery held its Leadership Summit in Sandton on Thursday (1 November).
One of the recurring themes among the business leaders in attendance was the irrefutable case for economic growth.
They argued that this is central to turning around the country since the 2008 financial crisis and the challenges associated with state capture.
Discovery Group chief executive, Adrian Gore opened the summit and emphasised the importance of leadership and optimism in South Africa.
“The facts prove South Africa has more opportunity than people perceive, based on scientific evidence on growth prospects and income,” said Gore.
With this deep belief in building the country, he said that Discovery will invest over R13 billion over the next five years in new businesses including Discovery Bank and Commercial Insurance, infrastructure and more.
“It’s not about patriotism but a deep belief in opportunity,” Gore said.
He said the facts showed irrefutably that South Africa is a better place now than in 1994, including that gross domestic product has more than doubled since 1994, the number of black employees in the workforce has more than tripled, and positive outcomes in provision of formal housing and schooling, as well as reduction of new HIV infections.
Gore’s opening talk was followed by a business panel discussion with former chief executive Officer of the Investec Group, Stephen Koseff, and Patrice Motsepe, CEO of African Rainbow Minerals.
Koseff said there was cause for optimism in the country.
“There’s a lot of opportunity out there, but you can only take advantage if you’re positive, if you have a can-do attitude. You have to give people hope,” Koseff said.
Asked about his belief in the country’s ability to thrive in the face of negative sentiment and a poor economic outlook, African Rainbow Minerals chief executive, Dr Patrice Motsepe said “We dare not have a false sense of optimism. But we have shareholders all over the world and we continue to see South Africa as an excellent place to do business and to invest in.”
Promoting education initiatives and supporting entrepreneurs would be crucial, the executives added.
“We have got challenges, serious challenges, but we have absolutely no doubt with the quality of people we have in this population, both black and white, who believe in the future of this country, that we will succeed. The facts justify it,” Motsepe said.
He also emphasised the importance of education: “We’ve got to ensure the education given to the youth is equipping them for the fourth industrial revolution in this economic climate.”
Koseff lamented a “lost” decade in the country but urged leaders to “move on.” Strong institutions including civil society and investigative journalism and an independent judiciary, have helped bring us back from the precipice, Motsepe and Koseff agreed.
“In life you have to learn from the past and go forward. Understand your history and look to your future. We can’t undo it. Now we have to move forward,” said Koseff.
“We need an enabling government, which we have. Now we have to fix it. We went off the wrong track, who doesn’t make mistakes? We have huge opportunities if we get our policies right.”