There seems to be a loud chorus from all government officials that “South Africa has a good story to tell”. It was started by President Jacob Zuma at his State of the Nation address in February.

This chorus was again drummed by Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan yesterday at a post-Budget discussion in Durban. Gordhan reminded the delegates that when he took office in 2009, the world’s “great recession” had just hit South Africa. In that year, the country lost R60 billion in revenue along with jobs, as businesses were closing down.

But these challenges could not be compared to the inheritance of the migrant labour system, which was part of the problems in the platinum mining industry, and the fact that the majority of black people still lived in townships. He encouraged South Africans to take a snapshot back to 1994. “If one looks back they will realise that unemployment numbers have dropped from 14 million to 9 million and that about 80 percent of the population can access basic services,” Gordhan said.

He said the debate about whether the government was still blaming apartheid was a nice debate – however, if one looked around, South Africa still had the same spatial disadvantages.

Our progress as a country should also be measured by how far we were with integrating the majority of the population.

“We should ask ourselves if the uMlazi, KwaMashu and Phoenix townships have disappeared. The majority of black people still live in townships, and the biggest challenges for the National Development Plan and its provision are how do we integrate our cities.

“We spend too much time haggling among ourselves, we must ask ourselves how do we as labour, government and business apply ourselves collectively to exploit opportunities that are available or create opportunities for ourselves.”

Maybe we do have some good stories.


Brand SA published its condensed report on the South African Competitiveness Forum yesterday, an initiative it started with content partners that culminated in the hosting of a forum on the subject in November.

The report captures the regional and specialist consultations, events, research and ultimate outcomes of the inaugural forum. A series of regional consultations with the purpose of reaching out to stakeholders in four key regions of the country preceded the forum.

The overall finding on South Africa’s main cities – Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban – is that despite them facing reputational challenges, they are becoming competitive, according to international opinion ratings.

The report also looks at the conclusions of breakaway sessions at the forum.

The session on education, skills and labour concluded that the cutting edge of education development and delivery is online, or has a blended approach between classroom contact and online courses.

The session advised that although the reputational risk was low now, this would not be the case in the next five or 10 years.

The session on manufacturing and related services noted South Africa should take a reality check in terms of the shrinking share that manufacturing has in gross domestic product. It concluded that in order to promote the development of the manufacturing sector, it was necessary to devote more energy to identifying viable markets to expand into.

The session on foreign direct investment competitiveness noted with some concern that South Africa did not have a one-stop shop for investors.

The session moderator showed results of a Google search a person from India conducted when looking for information on investment in South Africa.

The search result was a long list of websites, which mostly contained articles about South Africa and little on how to invest in the country.

Edited by Peter DeIonno. With contributions from Nompumelelo Magwaza and Wiseman Khuzwayo.