The next decade must be Africa’s decade, given the urgent challenge of a rapidly growing unemployed youth population, among others. The World Economic Forum on Africa, which concludes today in Durban, brought regional and global leaders from government, business and civil society together to agree priorities that will help Africa achieve inclusive and sustained growth. It is extraordinary that two of the speakers addressing delegates, Presidents Jacob Zuma and Robert Mugabe, are corrupt leaders who have wrought destruction on their country’s economies, with a populist agenda that ultimately serves a narrow elite at the expense of the broader citizenry.
The answer to South Africa’s current predicament is not a Government of National Unity, just as it did not prove to be the answer to Zimbabwe’s problem when one was thrust on its population in 2007. Rather, the answer is to hold the ANC accountable for its failures by firing it and opening up the space for a new government. I am confident that South Africans will deliver this outcome in the next national election in 2019.
When a DA-led coalition comes into national government in 2019, our top priority will be to lift millions of South Africans out of poverty. And the best way to fight poverty rapidly and sustainably is also a no-brainer. We have to give South Africa’s poor a real stake in a growing economy. We have to open up job and ownership opportunities to the millions of South Africans who are right now trapped in poverty and unable to find a way out.
Only entrepreneurs – in both small and big businesses – can create the millions of jobs we need. The state’s role must be to give these entrepreneurs the best possible chance to succeed. The recipe for entrepreneurial success has five key ingredients: capital, infrastructure, productive labour, a coherent policy environment and a supportive government. The DA’s Country Recovery Plan for 2019 is to provide these five ingredients as quickly and efficiently as possible. Additionally, it is to broaden ownership of the country’s economic assets in such a way that attracts rather than deters investment.
We have to do everything in our power to encourage investment in the SA economy. This includes negotiating free trade agreements with large markets, starting with Nigeria; turning our foreign embassies into trade and investment centres; facilitating skilled immigration; promoting innovation through increased spending on research via a Jobs & Justice Fund; helping small businesses to access credit; and transferring title deeds to township residents to give people a real stake in the economy.
Our cities are key to creating new jobs and there is much that can be done to make them more attractive to investors, entrepreneurs and workers. Our cities will lead in the development of infrastructure. We will give them control of ports and economic development zones in their areas; resource them to provide better public transport; and give them a far greater role in housing development.
We will resolutely focus on growing a skilled workforce. We’re aiming for a million internships or apprenticeships nationwide, incentivised through a reformed BBBEE system that rewards businesses for establishing these. In the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report 2016-17, South Africa ranks stone last, 138th out of 138 countries, for the quality of our maths and science education. This has to change very quickly after 2019, with our focus on managing the performance of teachers and principals through training, support, monitoring and incentives.
As we are doing in the Western Cape and in the DA-led metros, we will specifically promote industries that create the most jobs, such as tourism, agro-processing, mining and manufacturing. Policy will be stable, rational and supportive. To boost tourism, for example, we will aim to make high-income countries visa-free or “visas on arrival”. In mining we will scrap investment-killing policies and promote inclusion and productivity through employee share ownership schemes. Our overarching question to business will be: how can we help you to create jobs and spread wealth?
Small businesses (SMMEs) provide 80% of total employment in China, while only around 60% in South Africa. We will look to boost this figure by making the labour market more flexible for small businesses, and by making it much easier to start a business and access capital and markets.
While the ANC’s “radical economic transformation” (or “radical economic whatwhat”, as President Zuma recently called it) is nothing more than empty, populist sloganeering, the DA’s Country Recovery Plan will rapidly transform the lives and futures of all South Africans. As you can read in their recent State of the City Addresses for Johannesburg and Tshwane respectively, Mayors Herman Mashaba and Solly Msimanga are already well on their way to changing lives in these cities. In 2019, that change will go national, and the DA will be leading it.