Helping government save South Africa is win-win: CEO

 ·7 Aug 2023

Despite being questioned over their motives, business leaders say that their plan to assist the government in tackling South Africa’s multiple crises will help everyone involved.

Last week, the number of business leaders who signed a pledge to assist government with South Africa’s biggest issues increased to 125.

The initiative aims to help the government tackle three key areas – electricity, logistics and crime and corruption.

Business Leadership South Africa CEO Buisiswe Mavuso said that businesses need an enabling environment, which depends on the rule of law and effective government, to produce goods and services at competitive prices.

“Our aim is to support government where we can, to enable its effectiveness in delivering services, managing the criminal justice system, international relations and its many other responsibilities,” Mavuso said.

By working together to resolve the crises in South Africa, everyone stands to benefit. Businesses can operate more effectively, the government will see growth and better revenues, and consumers will see better, competitive pricing in all industries.

“We can only offer our support where we have capabilities that might help. Government has a democratic mandate to deliver for all South Africans. Of course, because businesses generate employment and tax revenue, as well as many of the goods and services needed by South Africans, the government clearly shares an interest in ensuring they can operate effectively.”

Mavuso noted that business leaders have been criticised for their plans to help the government, with some arguing that it creates a moral hazard or helps an incompetent government cover up its flaws.

“This criticism, however, misses the mark. We will work with the government of the day as a representative of business to achieve specific goals – ensuring that the economy works and businesses can flourish,” she said

“Ultimately, this attracts investment which enables the economy to grow. This goal is, or at least should be, shared by the government.”

Progress so far

Mavuso stressed that the effectiveness of the partnership depends on the government’s plan to work with the private sector, noting that it hasn’t always been easy. She added that the businesses will work with governments to ensure resources are not wasted.

She said businesses will be able to achieve more meaningful outcomes in some areas compared to others when it comes to helping with government.

For instance, she said that the National Electricity Crisis Committee’s plan would allow for good policy management and an increase in investment to ramp up electricity production.

She added that there has been good progress in solving the country’s logistics crisis, while progress has also been made regarding visa policy and spectrum licensing.

Bbusiness leaders are working with the criminal justice system via the Business Against Crime initiative and are supporting the National Prosecuting Authority.

Nevertheless, she noted that businesses can sometimes only provide feedback and not offer direct assistance to the government – the diplomatic fallout over the Russia-Ukraine war is one such example.

“This is not to say that business is some single entity. In fact, it consists of many thousands of firms, many in competition with each other, with a wide range of different goals,” she said.

“However, businesses are made up of people who are part of our body politic. We are stakeholders in the success of our country and not just the success of our businesses.”

“But this is no blank cheque – we cannot expend resources without the prospect of achieving positive results. The effectiveness of the partnership does not depend on business alone.”

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