ProudlySA: Buy local to create and save employment
By Eustace Mashimbye
JOHANNESBURG - The release of the latest unemployment figures at the end of last month was cause for the deepest concern and painted a bleak picture of the economic landscape of the country.
Of all the actual statistics, including numbers of those who are still job seekers, of those who have given up looking, of the extent of the contraction of the job market due to the Covid-19 pandemic, none struck me more than the figure of 14million. That is the number of people who have jobs in South Africa.
If you are reading this and you have a job, you are among one of only 14million, so few who are lucky in that respect.
It is an inconceivably low number and puts in perspective the flip side of the coin, making the more meaningful number of those who don’t have work all the more a stark reality.
It is an undeniable fact that our economy was in trouble even before the coronavirus, but if the ensuing lockdown did anything, it was to sharpen our minds and give us greater clarity of purpose and focus on what some of the solutions to the jobs crisis might be and what role we can each play in its recovery.
The TV commercial which we shot in the midst of the pandemic and featuring Dr John Kani is called Game Time. It encapsulates perfectly the juncture at which we find ourselves as a country.
The voice-over says: “The second half is about to begin We need to change the scoreboard it’s time for change, let’s all buy local It’s Game Time, Mzansi.”
This is our country’s current reality. We are sitting in the locker room during half-time. We are losing the match out there, but by digging deep for something extra in our performance in the second half, the game is ours to win.
Supporting local businesses and buying local is a critical cog in the economic recovery programme, but also in addressing many of the social ills that plague South African communities, including gender-based violence (GBV).
There are many professional studies on the root causes on GBV in our society, but it is undeniable that one of them is the high unemployment rate, especially among the youth and women. This means that these two important sectors of society are being left behind when it comes to acquiring skills required in the workplace, making women more dependent on men for their own survival and that of their children. When the men themselves are unable to fend for their families, tensions mount and violence can be one of the consequences (we are not, of course, in any way excusing for this despicable behaviour).
Disaffected youth turn to crime and drugs in the absence of any other meaning or purpose in their lives.
Being economically and physically inactive is soul destroying, and the soul and spirit of our youth, the next generation from which we must find business and political leaders, is threatened by the current levels of unemployment.
By not buying local, we are scoring an own goal (to continue the game time metaphor!) - we are giving away points to the other team.
The other team is any country that has imported the items that we select over locally manufactured goods and services whenever we buy what we need. This is what will cause us to lose the match.
We must play to beat unemployment, which is what feeds poverty and inequality, and breeds GBV and unrest in our society. By buying local comes job creation.
With jobs come self-respect, meaning and prosperity. Are you one in 14million, or one in more than 20million economically inactive? Whichever you are, you can still contribute and buy local to create and save jobs.
As Jimmy Dludlu and Bebe Winans express in their song Africa Africa, “we must unite as a people and the battle we are fighting, we will win.” We will indeed win, but only if we collectively take responsibility for the overall future of our country by saving our economy through creating jobs.
Eustace Mashimbye is chief executive of Proudly South African.