eThekwini needs improved business-government relations
DURBAN - There is a need for business and government to become more intentional about working closely together if South Africa is to address the critical socio-economic challenges of constrained growth, high unemployment, poverty and lack of economic inclusivity as well as rural and township development.
South Africa’s socio-economic challenges are far too complex and ingrained to be adequately addressed by one sector alone, especially since the required skills, expertise and resources to tackle specific issues lie across both sectors.
Spreading risk across sectors will ensure that initiatives, activities and programmes are not stalled or delayed. It is encouraging to see signs that both public and private sector players realise that the long-term benefits of collaboration and cross-sector partnerships far outweigh the operational and resource costs involved as well as the historical suspicions that exist across the divide.
Improved and more transparent business-government relations and collaboration are crucial investments in the future prosperity of business of eThekwini and South Africa as a whole. Robust engagement will allow both to focus on efficiency and maximisation of the resources available to generate the highest return on investment for the overall economy.
Given South Africa’s unique historical societal imbalances, cross-sector partnerships can also ensure that these returns on investment are shared equitably within our society and that the opportunities and benefits are shared inclusively, especially with previously marginalised groups. Inclusive and sustainable economic growth and development can then become a progressive reality despite the competing motivations involved; namely, business’s imperative of financial returns for shareholders and investors and government’s imperative of service delivery to improve the overall quality of life for all communities.
The Durban Chamber recently hosted engagements between our members, the broader organised business community of eThekwini, and government in an effort to improve business-government relations and cross-sector engagement. At a private meeting with the Durban Chamber’s Board and Council members, the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA), Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, and Minister in the Presidency, Jackson Mthembu, took the opportunity to unpack government’s operational plan foreThekwini which is the second pilot site for the District Co-ordination Model, which is intended to give impetus to government’s “Khawuleza” ethos (Hurry up).
The meeting was a precursor to the Durban Chamber’s “In Conversation with the President” engagement with President Cyril Ramaphosa, held later in the week. Both events allowed for candid feedback in both directions and laid the foundation for more constructive ongoing engagement going forward. The business community came away with an over-riding sense of forward motion, commitment to sustained engagement for tangible results, as well as an evident appreciation of our own role as potential architects of some of the solutions we may be seeking.
The Durban Chamber will continue to create such platforms for enhancing business-government relations and collaboration. Improved engagement and cooperation will allow for long-term and short-term strategic planning to occur more transparently.
Business wishes to better understand the political and policy forces shaping the economic environment in South Africa and to engage strategically with the public policy process in order to advocate and lobby ethically and effectively for the benefit of business. Our commitment is to keep the conversation robust, candid and constructive.
Palesa Phili is the chief executive of the Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry.