Clem Sunter: South Africa needs to create 1m new businesses (with video)

The sharp disparity between rich and poor remains an embarrassing blight on the South African landscape. Shanty towns continue to mushroom on the periphery of towns and cities while some live in suburbs behind high-tech security in comfortable homes.

Politics has failed to address the daily hardship faced by most South Africans, so how do we fix this economic mess? South Africa needs to create one million new businesses in order to generate five million new jobs, says scenario planner Clem Sunter.

South Africa’s unemployment rate has remained stubbornly high, and is the highest of more than 40 emerging markets tracked by Bloomberg. The key to improving this picture is by nurturing entrepreneurship, reckons Sunter.

In this powerful interview for GIBS, The University of Pretoria’s Gordon Institute for Business Science, Sunter calls for debate on how to create space for entrepreneurs.

Unlike the rest of Africa, South Africa can’t rely on improving off a low base to boost economic growth. We have entered a new era and it is time for some clever thinking and delivery to kick-start business development, is the over-riding message from Sunter. – JC

CLEM SUNTER:  I believe profoundly that if you want to create five million jobs in South Africa by 2020, you have to create one million new enterprises.  The whole debate should therefore be ‘how can we create the environment and the space for one million new enterprises to be created?’

The one critical difference between South Africa and other African countries is that they are still in the sort of pioneering state of an economy, rather as we were in the 1880s when you could open a business in virtually any space because there wasn’t sort of dominant capital. Clem Sunter

Of course, the diamond mines consolidated, then the gold mines, then the service providers, and we’ve ended up with a very consolidated economy and we don’t have enough space for entrepreneurs.

We need to have that debate around how we are going to create the space for a new generation of entrepreneurs in South Africa so that we can actually achieve the kind of economic growth rates that are being achieved elsewhere in Africa.

We now, absolutely, live on one of the most special continents in the world because we are showing the world that there is a huge entrepreneurial spirit in Africa.

I agree…that many people in many of the countries with a seven to eight percent growth rate, haven’t actually shared in the wealth.  It’s still very narrowly defined, but that’s why we need this debate on economic freedom and creating a new generation of entrepreneurs.

This video is republished here on with the kind permission of GIBS (The University of Pretoria’s Gordon Institute of Business Science in Illovo, Johannesburg).

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