Now is an extraordinary time in South Africa – a time of uncertainty, but of enormous possibility. This is according to Jon Foster-Pedley, Dean of Henley Business School Africa, who addressed attendees at the recent 2013 DHL Tomorrow’s Leaders Convention.
“In South Africa, and perhaps in Africa generally, we mine for mineral resources, but our greatest resources are our people. We need to value and develop those resources with a passionate intensity, providing motivation, encouragement, quality education and good example. In addition, we also need the courage to be optimistic,” says Foster-Pedley.
This was the general consensus at the convention, which saw various private and public sector leaders speaking on the current leadership situation and the opportunities currently presented in South Africa.
Foster-Pedley says that for decades much of the world has been Afro-pessimistic but over the past year, the picture of Africa is being painted as the world’s next dominant economic powerhouse. “Our job is to believe in this, and believe that we have the intelligence, capacity to learn, skills, application and imagination to make that real, and to provide opportunity for all.”
He elaborates on why it is Africa’s time to shine. “Over the last 10 years, six of the world’s 10 fastest growing economies have been Africa. Five African countries have been growing faster than China, 21 growing faster than India and all, except two countries, growing faster than both Europe and the United States.
“Over the next few decades, hundreds of millions of African people will be lifted out of poverty, mirroring what happened in previous decades in Asia.”
He says that business is now the driving force in Africa. “In 2006, for the first time ever, investment in Africa outpaced Foreign Aid and it now doubles it. Africa’s GDP is about $1,6 trillion today but should double in 12 years.
“Africa is becoming increasingly important to the rest of the world, for its resources, agricultural land and for its rapidly growing markets. In the future, it will become just as important for its talent. The world needs Africa and we now have the opportunity to engage with the world from a position of strength, not of need.”
He says that South Africa has many highly intelligent, but undereducated people, people who in the past were systematically deprived of education. “South Africans have the talent, intelligence, and capabilities similar to the Americans, Asians and Europeans, and it is about time we all really started believing that.”
Foster-Pedley says that there is no room for cynicism in leadership or in education and that optimism is a powerful force that needs to be nourished and cultivated. “True leaders look up and ahead, lift their eyes and see the possibilities, hold a vision. Our greatest leaders, in politics, government and business, are those who lift us up to a purpose. If you maintain a sense of purpose before a sense of profit you have the chance of building truly great organisations that will make a difference to people and make money too.”
Also addressing delegates was Public Enterprises Minister, Malusi Gigaba, who spoke on transforming the economy through effective leadership. “The issue of leadership has been pivotal to our country throughout the period of struggle against apartheid. Today, the question of leadership assumes a new dynamism given the stage at which we are with social transformation.”
Gigaba says that the issue of a capable state has received a great deal of attention in the National Development Plan.
“To implement the current infrastructure roll-out programme, it necessitated that effective leadership structures be established to ensure coordination, integration and focus, particularly as various Ministers and departments are being challenged to move out of their comfort zones and silo approaches.
“Programmes of such magnitude, requiring such massive mobilisation of human and financial resources and levels of coordination and integration, cannot drive themselves without effective leadership.
“The test for effective leadership will rest precisely on the fact that “we have succeeded to transform the structure of the economy and uplift those in the informal economy to integrate them into formal and globally-integrated sectors,” concludes Gigaba.
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