President of Business Unity South Africa (BUSA), Sipho Pityana File photo: Itumeleng English/African News Agency(ANA)
JOHANNESBURG - Business is pushing the government to develop specific interventions that will enable greater job creation in specific sectors of the economy and fast-track the implementation of the Jobs Summit resolutions amid high unemployment.

President of Business Unity South Africa, Sipho Pityana, speaking at the Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator’s 6th Solutions Exchange for Youth Employment conference in Johannesburg, said yesterday that business believed President Cyril Ramaphosa’s administration understood the challenges.

Bottlenecks such as simplifying the visa regime, water use licensing issues, export taxes, releasing broadband spectrum and youth unemployment, were major concerns for business, he said. Business confidence has waned and is at a 20-year low as more business people are growing more pessimistic about the future as the economy stagnates.

At the same time, youth unemployment is at its highest. The unemployment rate among the 15- to 24-age group was 55.2percent in the first quarter of 2019.

Minister of Employment and Labour Thulas Nxesi, addressing concerns, said that the government was implementing a comprehensive plan which sought to address five key challenges over the next five years, in partnership with the private sector, to unlock the energy and potential of young people. He said that these included abolishing work experience as a requirement for entry-level posts in the public service and an expanded National Youth Service.

“The scale of youth unemployment requires bold and urgent action. It requires innovative solutions, extraordinary effort, and an end to business as usual. It requires deep collaboration between the public and private sectors, and decisive measures to make the government work for young people,” Nxesi said.

Ptyana also said that Monday's meeting of the Presidential Working Committee on the Jobs Summit had proved to business that Ramaphosa understood and took seriously the challenges that plagued the economy.

Business was one of the biggest campaigners for the removal of Ramaphosa’s predecessor, former president Jacob Zuma, whose administration was plagued by allegations of graft and corruption. The meetings of the Presidential Working Committee are meant to develop specific interventions that will enable greater job creation in specific sectors and also provide detailed updates on a month-to-month basis on those interventions.

“We had very tough exchanges and we've been very frank that we don't want to be on the talk shops. We don’t want to place issues on the table and then nothing happens,” Pityana said.

“There is a desire to make the social partnership work. The president is very receptive to business and I think having been on both sides of the spectrum, business has to know that this is a president who is more engaging with business than any other.

"With President Ramaphosa, there is something about wanting to know what you think, wanting to know where solutions and suggestions are. It actually puts pressure on business not to be a passive bystander.

“And business will lose that opportunity at its own peril and you can't take that for granted. When things don't move we should take as much blame as the president, because we are now placed in a different position.”

He said that he had been “very cynical” about the establishment of the Ministry of Employment, but later decided that business and the government needed to leverage what already exists in the system.

BUSINESS REPORT