JOHANNESBURG - Having written 36 articles on different African countries in 2019, it would only be fitting to end this year's Neil On Africa, by a focus on my country of birth, South Africa.
No doubt the year ends, with more questions than answers, on how 2020 economically and politically will perform.
Pre-1994, as apartheid was crumbling on all sides, the question was that of a new South Africa and the old guard having to “ Cross the Rubicon “ and no doubt that did happen, with a referendum and then release of Nelson Mandela, then unbanning of the ANC and finally the 1994 elections and democracy. The challenge we now face in South Africa currently is a huge economic crisis as well as corruption.
With a total collapse of the majority of state-owned enterprises -including Eskom, the implosion of Denel and the final rescue attempt on SAA - the world will focus on a South African credit downgrades as well as the prosecution of all those identified in the Zondo Commission on state capture.
The global spotlight will also be on President Cyril Ramaphosa and his leadership in dealing with these issues. This score card will be used to measure his performance.
South Africa is no longer the leading economy of Africa. A few years ago the country was the shining star of Africa. Let's face a few true economic facts as per the Neil De Beer Economic scale.
According to SA Revenue Service in a report on January 26 2019, South Africa only has 4.8 million registered tax payers. With a country of roughly 58 558 270 people, according to UN data, it means that only 8.27 percent of people in South Africa carry the majority.
Where will the country get its money to sustain growth?
We need settle global debt and borrow more. We need to upgrade all the informal settlements to be on par with all the previous advantaged areas. How do we basically rebuild four independent countries, now belonging to us and finally how do we increase tax payers to contribute to the Treasury ?
These questions must be answered, but more than that they need to be implemented and a clear plan to address these hurdles tackled.
In the many debates, conferences and meetings I attended this year the issues around black economic empowerment and corruption were raised.
At an investor conference in Cape Town last week, I asked a panel of foreign investors what they felt on investing in South Africa and the majority said, "we are waiting".
This was not and no way the words I wanted to hear, but as a South African and African, I believe in us.
Our country must now rise. Business must come to the fore and intervene more. It is time that we hit the a political mute button and raise the dial on economic volume. Maybe it has become time that we look at 25 years of free trade, economic participation and transformation, but now push the reset button. We must focus of skill and knowledge. Now is the time to use every ounce of IP and skill this country has and make us a new economic power.
If we as a country, after nearly more than two decades of transformation, fail to protect the rights of economic up-skilling of our youth, we will face further hardships in the future. Entrepreneurship and artisan skill development, should be at the highest levels of priority and the full support of small- and medium-size businesses, the priority of future investments.
The dependence also on government, to do all, is not realistic and more must come from business South Africa.
We need leadership to fight crime, corruption, lack of skills development and poverty. If we fail to do this as the nation of hope, the rainbow and miracles, we will face a dark future. South Africa is a miracle and as our countries slogan on our emblem says in Khoisan : !ke e : Ixarra llke; meaning "Diverse People Unite".
We must not be a country that only unites not only for World Cups. We need a South African World Cup every day.
We are a country of vast potential: we have one of the most stunning geographical countries. We have a wealth of resources, natural and in people. We have a truly huge wealth in history and finally a future that is open only to us as a nation. It has though become time to call a spade a spade and not a agricultural implement. It has become time for a new South African Rubicon.
Neil De Beer is the President of the Invest Fund Africa. You can get more info on [email protected] and www.ifa.africa