Without continued investment in skills development in South Africa there could be no sustainable employment in the country, mining giant BHP Billiton chairperson Xolani Mkhwanazi said on Wednesday.
Speaking at the yearly BHP Billiton Skills Development Summit in Pretoria, he noted that companies had to earn their right to grow, recognising that business had a role to play in uplifting South Africans.
He emphasised that it was not enough to only focus on beefing up maths and science competence and that business had to also look at assisting those not fortunate enough to have all the formal processes of skills development.
“At BHP Billiton, we want shift our focus to a philanthropic approach, and to look at ways to create self-sustainable business to feed our communities.”
Mkhwanazi stressed that enterprise development could not only be left to big businesses, like BHP Billiton, pointing out that smaller companies employing fewer than 50 people, provided most of the employment in South Africa.
Mkhwanazi said that South Africa had the capacity to create enough decent jobs. “But we cannot expect those without the necessary experience to immediately become successful business owners.
“We need to work together with government to ensure that the goals of the New Growth Path are achieved. The small business sector is the most important sector in terms of jobs in South Africa, and it is concerning that in the last 12 years, 440 000 small business enterprises closed down, while new business start ups are at an all-time low,” he said.
Mkhwanazi said that businesses needed a sound investment environment to create jobs.
Also speaking at the skills development summit, Transnet Rail Engineering head of training Dumisani Kala said that South Africa could learn from other countries’ growth paths, including developing and developed nations.
“South Korea has managed to sustain economic growth in the past 14 years by synchronising economic growth with education. By implementing a number of strategies such as having a forecast on tertiary education, and emphasising tertiary education in both the technical and professional education fields, the country has strengthened its economic position” he said.