How to fix toxic SA: Ignore race, focus on nurturing human talent – WEF

EDINBURGH — South Africa is bucking the global trend when it comes to tapping into 70% of its available human capital. Instead, it has quietly been sending its most talented people out into the world as businesses globalise. Corporate South Africa has been growing jobs outside the country, not in. Add to this an anti-white narrative and corruption scandals that have had many highly educated South Africans redeploying their skills in more friendly work terrain where skin colour doesn’t matter. As stockbroker David Shapiro told BizNews editor-in-chief Alec Hogg: We’ve lost that unifying factor in the early days of the new democracy where it was a “free South Africa in which everyone participated”. Not to be underestimated is the sickening failure of the government to develop a proper plan to upgrade education from primary level up. It is estimated that one in every three adults has no job, is not in training and has no prospect of getting decent work. The World Economic Forum identifies chronic unemployment as South Africa’s greatest challenge in a report on human capital. South Africa fares a bit better than others in the region, but it is floundering amongst the continent’s stragglers. For a time, South Africa looked like it might join the fast-growing developing nations. The subtext contained in the WEF report is that the way to get South Africa onto an upward economic growth trajectory is to get back to focusing less on race and more on getting on with building a vibrant businesses by attracting and developing human talent. – Jackie Cameron

By Thuliswe Sithole

World Economic Forum: Human Capital Report – snapshots

It Changes the toxic conversation in SA: Invest in skills

  • The global economy is at risk of a talent crisis due to mismatches between investment in education systems and efforts to deploy and develop during people’s working lives. This loss of opportunity to find high quality work and continually improve through continuous upgrading of skills is a major contributor to inequality.
  • Currently, 62% of the world’s talent is fully developed. While there is broad regional variation, only 25 nations have tapped 70% of their available human capital. Generational inequalities also feature when mapping human capital, for example, younger and older generations are considerably worse off when it comes to deploying skills, despite many countries investing more in education than ever before.
  • South Africa ranks 87th out of 130 countries, having developed 58% of its workforce. It outperforms most of its regional peers when it comes to building capacity through educational attainment and there are bright spots too when it comes to development of future skills – for example ranking 19th for staff training. South Africa’s greatest challenge lies in deployment of skills throughout the workforce where it ranks 109. Chronic unemployment, under-employment a large informal sector are the main reasons for this.
  • Kenya ranks 78. It does relatively well in terms of deployment but worryingly for a country with aspirations to become the tech hub of Africa performs poorly in both development of future skills (101) and know-how; our measurement for  the use of specialized skills at work (74).
  • Nigeria, climbing out of recession, still has plenty of work ahead as it seeks to build a more resilient, future-proof workforce: it ranks 114 overall but in the bottom ten in two of our pillars; development (122) and Know-how (124). Relatively speaking, it does better in ensuring the talents at its disposal are deployed effectively within the economy (66).


AH: There’s a good reflection of that multiculturalism in the UK as well. You see it everywhere. You see people, I think 13% of Britain’s are black or non-white, if you like but there would never be a suggestion that these people are doing anything bad or not British. You would see people coming from various parts of the world, who speak English. I’m South African, but they would speak like English people and if you look at them from the outside, you’d say, ‘that guy’s from Shanghai or that guy is from Bombay or Mumbai,’ or wherever. And it’s an interesting situation where, in these successful societies and the US, despite Trump, is pretty successful as is the UK. You have this unifying factor and it’s almost like people know. Whereas, in SA we’ve kind have lost that, haven’t we?

DS: Yes, we’ve lost it. They don’t want us. When I say ‘us’ – I get the feeling they don’t want me. I’m very happy to put all my effort into growing this country and yet, nobody wants me. They don’t want my input. That’s the feeling I get. If they do, they’ll listen to me or they’ll give you time but they won’t listen to you. So, any input that we have just seems to be pushed aside. There are too many rules. There’s too much ideology and believe me, I married into a family that fought for ideology and fought very hard for a different SA and gave up their lives for it. Yes, where we see where we are today, relative to what they fought for, we’re not there. By ideology – it was a free SA, in which everybody participated. Not where it favoured just an elitist bunch and there certainly wasn’t any suggestion of the kind of racism that we see now, which is the reverse type.

Alec, the one thing that when you do come back to SA, you’ll appreciate the beauty and you appreciate just how blessed this country, in terms of the natural resources that we have here. It’s a sensational country and yet we just don’t know how to reap the benefits of what God gave us.

AH: Well, it happened in France. No one gave France a chance and all of a sudden, France is going back on more of a unifying track. The Brits, despite Brexit, are kind of waking up and getting more sober about this and realising, hang on – it’s so much better to be cooperating than be in competition. Trump, with his hateful approach towards various people is being slapped down. And who knows, maybe we’ve learnt in SA, a really good lesson from the spiteful politics that has dominated during the Zuma era, and maybe a whole new era is coming. I believe that because the one thing you do see from the outside is you see South Africans as a nation, as a people, don’t have to stand back for anybody in the world. The most wonderful people on earth.

DS: That I agree with. I think the vast majority of people, I think, want a peaceful existence. They just want to have a job, then which they can put a roof over their head. Have the dignity of receiving a salary that they can buy food, send their children to school, and so on. I think most people… Their aspirations are not that great, they just want a simple, peaceful life.

Here is the full BizNews interview with David Shapiro: The Old Firm: Alec Hogg, David Shapiro celebrate Buffett’s birthday, Mouton’s R1bn gift – and more.

It’s 20 years since David Shapiro was my first guest on the first daily business radio show broadcast ever broadcast on South African radio. For the next decade and a half, we spent every weeknight chatting about the day’s events, building a friendship and enjoying a rapport that remains as strong today as it was when we started. It is appropriate that we resuscitate “The Old Firm” today – on our hero Warren Buffett’s birthday (his 87th) and the morning after the “Boere Buffett” Jannie Mouton quietly transferred 40% of his wealth, R1bn, into a charitable trust. I think our conversation on subjects from Trump and America through to SA business, Bidvest and the UK flows as readily as ever. Eavesdrop for a while and see whether you agree. – Alec Hogg

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