- The many businesses in South Africa aim to produce goods and services that people want at competitive prices.
- To do that they need an enabling environment, one in which they can rely on the rule of law and an effective government.
That is why organisations like Business Leadership South Africa (BLSA) engage with the public sector and other stakeholders.
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. 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, government clearly shares an interest in ensuring they can operate effectively.
We have been criticised at times for these efforts on the grounds that they create a moral hazard or enable a dysfunctional government by compensating for 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. Ultimately this attracts investment which enables the economy to grow. This goal is, or at least should be, shared by government.
Of course,the effectiveness of our efforts depends on the willingness and ability of government to work with us and at times that has not been optimal. We naturally don’t want to squander resources, so we will channel them to where we think we can get results. Government is not a single monolith – we are more able to achieve meaningful outcomes in some areas than others. For example, I believe business and government are now largely working effectively in dealing with the energy crisis. The National Electricity Crisis Committee and the plan it has developed is allowing good management of policy and investment to substantially ramp up electricity production. We are also making good initial progress on a similar approach to the logistics crisis. There have been several other positive advances from visas policy to spectrum licensing. We are working with various parts of the criminal justice system through Business Against Crime and our support to the National Prosecuting Authority. These are all helping to improve the business environment.
Of course, we often face setbacks. The diplomatic fallout over Russia and government’s confusing position in respect of Ukraine is a salient example. We will point out the consequences and risks to vital parts of our economy, and offer support for engagements with international counterparts, but business can do little else.
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. However, businesses are made up of people, all of whom are part of our body politic. We are stakeholders in the success of our country,and not just the success of our businesses.
That is why 125 CEOs of South Africa’s leading corporations have signed a pledge underpinning their belief in the country’s potential and determination to assist in realising it. They have declared their commitment to address the current challenges with the aim of achieving sustainable, inclusive economic growth. This has sparked and reinvigorated several programmes with government and has, in my view, also reinvigorated government in its efforts to deal with them. The CEOs have put their personal time and resources into the partnership to make progress on the key crises we face including energy, logistics and crime and corruption. This is another important effort to achieve a positive economic environment.
BLSA will continue to work hard to support such efforts to deliver inclusive economic growth.We do so eager to find counterparts in government who are similarly motivated to deal with our most pressing challenges. We can do a lot by working together effectively. 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. The good news is that there are many excellent partners in government, but I encourage more to engage positively with business to see what solutions we can develop together.
Author: Busisiwe Mavuso
Busi is CEO of BLSA.