South Africa needs positive leadership and a change in narrative to tackle its problems and create inclusive sustainable growth for all, said Discovery Group CE Adrian Gore during the opening of the Discovery Leadership Summit, in Johannesburg, on Thursday.
The summit brought together many world leaders and thinkers to share and discuss leadership strategies and insights into global financial, economic and management issues.
Gore indicated that, globally, there have been improvements in the areas of health, poverty alleviation and basic education over the past 100 years, but the perception remains that things are getting worse.
South Africans are particularly susceptible to this, with citizens “confidently wrong” that things are getting worse in the country, despite this not being the case.
While the country faces many problems, such as a high unemployment rate and the issue of land expropriation, these should not engender a perception that the country is declining. While he acknowledged the seriousness and scale of the problems faced, he cautioned against failing into the trap of believing them intractable.
Citizens perceive the country’s economy as risky; however, this sentiment does not reflect fundamentals, he stated, adding that the South African economy was actually robustly juggernaut.
What is required, however, is for the economy to grow at a faster pace than it has over the past decade.
He suggested that people were likely misconstruing the low level of growth with the risk level.
Therefore, he encouraged changing the narrative of the country – by celebrating progress; believing that problems, while dangerous and real, are soluble; and seeing the potential in the economy and investing in the country, as inclusive economic growth is needed to alleviate poverty.
This belief in South Africa’s future is reflected in Discovery’s plans to invest R13-billion in the country over the next five years, he said.
Gore also promoted the need for leaders with positive, but not naïve, optimism.
This sentiment of positivity, and there being room for the economy to grow if it is adopted, was reiterated by African Rainbow Minerals chairperson Patrice Motsepe and former Investec CEO Stephen Koseff.
Koseff emphasised that it was important to remember that South Africa is a mixture of a developed and developing economy.
Therefore, the country’s growth has to be inclusive, added Motsepe.
While he believes the future of the country is positive, there is the challenge of poor, marginalised, excluded and employed South Africans. There is a need to ensure that this factual-based optimism is instilled in them as well, and that they are included in this growth, as a lot has not changed for them since democracy, he said.
Also presenting at the summit was British economist Lord Jim O’ Neil, who indicated that the global economic cycle, which had been picking up last year, has started to slow.
He emphasised the importance of both China and India in the global economy.