Although South Africa’s economic growth rate of an average of 2,8% per annum in the period 1994 to last year was more than twice that of the developed world’s 1,3% average, this high growth was not sufficient to address the high unemployment rate in South Africa, Finance Minister Trevor Manuel said on Monday evening.
Addressing a seminar at the Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS) on “The role of business leadership in driving growth in South Africa”, Manuel said four issues needed to be confronted by business leaders.
These four issues were: creating employment, productivity, diversifying manufacturing, and access to services such as banking and information.
“We have a trifurcated labour market where employment is declining in the old economic sectors such as farming and mining, only slow growth in the new economic sectors such as services and mixed growth in the informal sector. What
we need to do is bridge the gap between high-end job skills and no skills and it is for this reason that the skills development levy was introduced,” Manuel said.
He urged business people to become involved in skills training programmes and said they had to leave behind the pre-1994 mindset of a closed economy with minimal competition.
“We have success stories such as the move of motor manufacturers into export markets, but we need more business people to take the leap of faith and develop other niche markets,” Manuel said.
Referring to the mobile phone industry in South Africa, which started officially on April 1 1994 and now had 14-million subscribers with many world-first innovations such as the short message system to its credit, Manuel said this took place with minimal government intervention apart from setting up a regulatory environment.
“Not a very charming thought to us government officials that so much happens without us,” Manuel said.
One of things that government had done was to encourage competition and open
up the economy.
“Lack of competition dulls the senses and that is why we signed the Marrakech agreement and eliminated single channel marketing. That is why we no longer have a Milk Board, a Chicory Board and an Egg Board. We also made sure that we have macro-economic stability by meeting the fiscal criteria of the Maastricht Treaty and introduced inflation targeting. What we set out to do in government is to eliminate the obstacles to entrepreneurship and then let business people create jobs and wealth for us all. These leaders must be bold enough to take the leap of faith, yet capable of taking the micro decisions that affect us all,” Manuel said. – I-Net Bridge