There will be no meaningful economic growth in the Nelson Mandela Metro until we address four basic needs – power, water, education, and leadership.
Without power, industry cannot function, and investors will not come.
And, we must accept that Eskom will not be able to provide the power we need.
FNB chief economist Cees Bruggemans warns that “electricity supply is not soon expected to regain a safe 15% operational buffer, not during this decade while Eskom is engaging with catching up in electricity supply capacity and not in the following one either when Eskom replacement needs will become critical”.
So, there is no help on the horizon at a national level.
Next is water – the Metro falls within the Karoo (semi desert) biome, which means we are “water poor”. Big (but not insurmountable) challenge.
A lack of skills and education in the workforce is the next critical factor. Research conducted in Motherwell found that the majority of the jobless did not have the maths and science schooling which is a basic requirement for skills training. The ugly truth is that, as thing stand, they are untrainable and unemployable in any by the lowest level jobs.
There is no reason to believe the situation is any better in the other townships.
A recent study by Stellenbosch University estimates that illiteracy costs the South African economy R550-bn a year. Our gross domestic product is 20 to 30 per cent lower than it could be thanks to the deteriorating quality of education in general – that is a lot of jobs.
And that does not count the human cost of loss of hope for the future.
All of which brings us to leadership.
The good thing about bad news is that, once we acknowledge the facts, we can do something about the situation – much like having a cancer scan, or standing on the scale to find out just how much weight you have put on.
All of the challenges facing the metro can be met – if we have bold and decisive political and business leadership.
The formula works best when there is a social compact – a partnership between the public and private sectors. One where there is vision, and a measurable goal.
I would suggest we position ourselves as the “green manufacturing hub of Africa”.
To achieve this, the politicians must pass (and ensure that their bureaucrats enforce) the regulations business needs to operate, and put public funds to use for education, infrastructure, maintenance and crime prevention – all geared towards the end goal.
Business must then take the risks, make the investment, and grow in a socially responsible manner (which means paying decent wages, investing in the local community, training, and going “green”).
Freelance business writer and researcher.
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