Business Leaders and Ministers can meet on any given day.
But if the media doesn’t convey the message of hope to South Africans, who wish to buy a house in the country or to list a company on the JSE, we have failed as a nation. When Minister Malusi Gigaba was appointed as Minister of Finance in the middle of a night, not so long ago, I was, as most of us, surprised. I felt it appropriate to congratulate him and sent a simple text message: “Let’s take South Africa Forward. Together.”
The newly-launched BR Ignite is more than just a platform or networking sessions. BR Ignite is an initiative I started recently - born out of my frustration with rating agencies that downgrade our country to “junk-status”. Instead of focusing on the negative, we need to ignite our positivity and find workable solutions.
As the editor of South Africa’s leading business newspaper, I frequently engage with various business leaders and ministers. The inspiration for BR Ignite was sparked by various meetings with the government and business.
I have had meetings and telephonic interviews with Gigaba since he was appointed and he has always honoured and replied openly and honestly on tough questions, such as BR’s recent investigation into the controversial “Treasury’s Integrated Financial Management System (IFMS)” that led to an internal Treasury investigation, driven by Gigaba.
BR also recently launched BR Corruption Buster, allowing me to engage with business leaders. One of these discussions was with a businessman called Quinton George, who works closely with Dr Christo Wiese - who needs no introduction.
And thus the idea for BR Ignite was born. I proposed a series of in-depth round-table discussions between the government and business. The aim is to engage and to seek solutions, together. And for BR to convey these messages to our readers using our various platforms, online and in print.
Dr Wiese offered to champion the initiative. I tasked selected BR executives and contributors to share their experience on Friday with you. I am humbled by their feedback.
Arnie Hicks, Independent Business Commercial Executive: The Business Report Ignite series was launched in Cape Town on September 8, by the Executive Editor Adri Senekal De Wet and her team. The objective for launching the BR Ignite series is to create the environment for positive dialogue about the South African economy, the South African government economic policy and the role that business has to play as the catalyst for economic growth, transformation and job creation.
The maiden BR Ignite event was attended by, and representing the South African government, the Honourable Minister of Finance, Mr Malusi Gigaba. Representing South African business were Dr Christo Wiese, Jayendra Naidoo and a number of captains of industry. There were two fundamentals, which stood out, the willingness for robust, candid and honest debate about matters, which hamper South Africa’s economic growth and the willingness from both the government and business to work toward diminishing the trust deficit that curtails efforts to grow the South African economy.
The overarching narrative of the Business Report Ignite series was to create positive engagement between the government and business and to be committed to the agenda which champion’s economic growth for South Africa, economic transformation and job creation, this objective was achieved.
Wesley Diphoko: At a time when relations between the government and business are not as strong as they should be a platform that seeks to bridge the gap between the two entities is necessary and that’s what BR Ignite achieved. The following are key factors that were my take out points:
The manner in which the Finance Ministry leadership was changed has impacted on the relationship that was there between business and finance ministry. The BR Ignite session has begun a process of mending the fractured relationship.
Business knows little about the thinking of the current Finance Minister. The style of session allowed the business people in the session to be educated about how the Finance Minister thinks as opposed to just reading about it on media channels. The government leaders also know little about the thinking of some business leaders. The session allowed the Minister to be educated about the thinking of one of South Africa’s leading businessmen.
Off the record
The fact that the session was off the record allowed everyone to speak freely without the fear of being incorrectly quoted. This feature of the session needs to be sustained to ensure openness of the discussion.
The session will have a greater impact in future as it brings the Finance Ministry closer to the business community across the spectrum with an aim of building the economy.
Adri Senekal De Wet is Executive Editor of Business Report.