On the anniversary of South Africa’s 20th year of liberation, one cannot help but reflect on our progress and challenges so far in our economic matters. The Adcock Ingram saga made one reflect intensely on this in recent weeks.
Our country is known for disposing of its heirlooms, benefiting only those putting the deal together and the foreign companies. This practice has gone on too long as we watch with apprehension. Soon we will have nothing to treasure.
The market did not understand CFR Pharmaceuticals’ proposed takeover in its totality. It was quick to criticise the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) as “anti-foreign”, when the PIC actually serves the interest of its stakeholders, being the Government Employees Pension Fund. The PIC cannot compromise its fiduciary duty and prudency requirements for the sake of being “populist” with the market or the media, but it is obliged to bring back the specified returns to its stakeholders.
What got Community Investment Holdings (CIH) to join Bidvest to create a consortium was our wish to use our collective effort in safeguarding the interest of our country and its people.
Before CIH, we had entered the health-care industry by the 1980s. I started as a community doctor and moved into the pharmaceutical space following the advent of our democratic dispensation.
But as we looked to build the business, it became hard to enter any market as a small unlisted company competing with the majors. One did not have a basket of products like Adcock; hence could not offer competitive prices in bids due to a lack of scale.
Brian Joffe and Bidvest depict a model of a successful company that has grown into the rest of the world and put our country on the map. In that context, I found it absurd that there was no direct foreign investment in the instance proposed by CFR, hence it tried so hard to get its hands on our heirloom that had been supported by our taxpayers in terms of tenders, the Department of Trade and Industry (dti) and so on.
Corporate South Africa should take its rightful place in the world and take decisions as responsible citizenry to defend what belongs to us. Our doors are wide open to direct foreign investment that will create jobs, reinforce our technology, and bring added value and meaningful partnerships for South Africa and Africa.
But we are not for sale, nor are our heirlooms. It is important to note that the essence of the Brics initiative – which has seen South Africa join Brazil, Russia, India and China in a bid to reshape the world and level the economic playing field – was designed to reinforce our economy and our competitiveness. Brics adds much-needed export trade.
The message to anyone contemplating a foray to our shores: give us a compelling case that supports our National Development Plan in reducing unemployment and we will support you. For black economic empowerment industrialists, the next 20 years would be an indictment on us if we do not engineer or participate in upstream opportunities that make us job creators and not just so-called tenderpreneurs.
We have an enabling environment created by our government, with dti initiatives and incentives to build a foundation of opportunity for all. Let us form partnerships with other South Africans to make a force on the world stage, and keep as much of the windfall within to develop our country, infrastructure, schools and hospitals.
So has the Adcock battle been worth it? I did what a responsible citizen should do. It was of national interest and importance.
* Anna Mokgokong is chairman of Community Investment Holdings. She describes herself as a patriotic corporate activist.