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South Africa: How business is making a difference in worst times

South Africa: How business is making a difference in worst times


Ernest Mahlaule

Business is often criticized for not doing enough to advance transformation of the South African economy and the development of black enterprise.

The persistent trust deficit between the private sector and government is partly to blame for this, and as a result the contribution made by business gets overshadowed in the eyes of those that believe business is only interested in serving its own interest.

Granted, business has to maximize the returns of every investment it makes but that does not mean that it then turns a blind eye to the socio-economic imperatives of creating an inclusive and sustainable economy that serves all South Africans.

The other prevailing perception is that business is on an investment strike, resulting in more than R700 billion of cash balances idling on corporate balance sheets. This is the money that would go into new projects, expansions, corporate takeovers or mergers and acquisitions.

Such corporate activity serves as a sign of confidence in the prevailing economic climate. It also underscores the desire by business to look into the future.

But even as business makes every effort to be a catalyst for growth, job creation and investment, its contribution seems to be eclipsed by the negativity that business has increasingly become apathetic. This is far from the truth.

To some degree, business has allowed this misperception to fester by not devising ways to showcase the contribution that the private sector is making to keep the economy afloat even in the worst of times. But ever so often, business keeps mum about its contribution. This has to change.

As a voice of business in key sectors of the South African economy, the Johannesburg Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI) is working to change this negative perception about business. To that end, we will be hosting our annual conference on August 3, 2017 inJohannesburgto tell the other side of the story.

At this conference, corporateSouth Africawill have the opportunity to dispel the notion that business is unpatriotic or is indifferent about our challenges. The conference will feature a keynote address by Gauteng Premier David Makhura, who will interact with business leaders and share his plans to drive investment inGautengProvince, which isSouth Africa’s key economic hub.

Makhura has called for a new partnership between business, government and civil society to drive inclusive and sustainable growth, with a focus on revitalizing the township economies.

That call has seen the JCCI work tirelessly to create a seamless framework for business to identify and partner with strategic enterprises in developmental stages through which corporateSouth Africacan accelerate opportunities for employment.


Our conference will see a number of businesses provide a review of some of their high-impact enterprise development initiatives. One of those is byGrowthpoint,South Africa’s largest property company, which runs a highly successful enterprise and supplier development initiative, the Property Point Programme.

The Growthpoint initiative was founded in 2008, and has already seen more than R600 million of contracts awarded to programme beneficiary companies, and nearly 2000 jobs created. It is but one of many initiatives that are impacting our communities in a positive way.

We will also showcase the success of the National Tooling Initiative Programme, which encompasses skills and enterprise development. These initiatives and others represent our best effort to create a space in which business can share the successes of their developmental projects.

We would also look to help businesses understand how to optimize their enterprise development funding by creating linkages which should foster strategic cooperation with black businesses.

For far too long business has tended to see enterprise development as space to compete but our economic challenges now make it necessary for business to identify cross-synergies.

For example, nothing should stop multiple businesses from working to identify and capacitate small businesses by creating supply chain opportunities and set joint project development criteria.

Only through working as partners can corporateSouth Africabe able to overcome the perception that business is not pulling its weight. And as the Chamber we reiterate our position that in order to build a more resilient economy we need all hands on deck.

Our conference will also provide a platform to chart the way forward so that there are clearly articulated objectives for all key stakeholders about transformation and development of small businesses. Like before, business is very much a part of our future as a country.

Mahlaule is president of the Johannesburg Chamber of  Commerce and Industry.


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