President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday said there was a need to forge a new economy in a new global reality to recover the ground lost during the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.
In his weekly newsletter to the nation, Ramaphosa warned that South Africa’s economic recovery plan was not about a return to what was, but about transformation to what is next.
He suggested harnessing the job creating potential of the digital economy, whose growth has accelerated during the coronavirus pandemic.
Last week, South Africa was ranked first in the world as a destination for global business services – often called business process outsourcing – in a survey of over 600 executives from eight key sourcing markets, including Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the UK and the US.
Ramaphosa said this was a remarkable achievement.
“In a short space of time, our country has propelled itself from a relatively unknown destination for offshore customer service delivery, in the shadow of large competitors such as India and the Philippines, to the very forefront of the global industry. The story of how this was achieved holds important lessons for what we can do if we work relentlessly as government and social partners towards a common goal,” he added.
He said South Africa has several advantages that make it an attractive destination for business services, including sophisticated digital infrastructure, such as mobile networks and high-speed broadband.
He also highlighted the country’s “young, dynamic and skilled workforce” with a deep knowledge on technology and financial services.
He said the high level of English proficiency in the country was also a contributing factor along with a similar time zone to key export markets.
He said South Africa’s ranking would not have been possible without the proactive efforts of government and the sector over several years.
Ramaphosa noted that when the pandemic hit, South African global business service providers were able to shift quickly to remote operations, with clear and sensible guidelines to ensure that call centres could continue to provide essential services.
“This is a testament to what can be achieved through the pursuit of a deliberate, proactive strategy to support the growth of new sectors. It is also an example of how we can ensure that this growth is inclusive and sustainable,” he stated.
He said the industry has committed to use SAYouth.mobi, a platform for young people to access a range of opportunities, as a tool to recruit young people into these jobs.
The result of all these efforts is that the sector in South Africa has grown at twice the global growth rate since 2014 and three times faster than key competitors.
Ramaphosa stated that 40 000 jobs were added to the economy since 2018, with young people making up 82% of these new jobs and women comprising 65% of the workforce.
The sector generates R1.9-billion a year in export revenues and attracts significant capital investment.
With global demand on the rise, and with a compelling and competitive proposition to global buyers and investors, the sector in South Africa is on track to achieve its target of 100 000 new jobs by the end of 2023 and 500 000 new jobs by the end of 2030.
Ramaphosa said South Africa has boundless economic potential, in established sectors such as mining, manufacturing and agriculture as well as in new frontiers such as the digital and green economies.
“Too often, we get caught up in our immediate challenges and lose sight of our true potential. Our country has all of the ingredients that we need for economic success. We only need to recognise these, and put them to use,” he said.