Former US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton (left), former US President Bill Clinton (middle), and Discovery chief executive Adrian Gore (right) at the Discovery Leadership Summit in Johannesburg on Thursday Pic: Discovery/Supplied.

JOHANNESBURG - Former United States of America President Bill Clinton and former US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, said on Thursday that healthy societies are built by a functioning, effective and honest government, a productive, dynamic and successful private sector; and a flourishing civil society. 

Speaking at the Discovery Leadership Summit in Johannesburg, the Clintons said they were hopeful about democracies around the world but cautionary, among other things about ungoverned technology and artificial intelligence possibly threatening job security in economies such as South Africa's.

Hillary said government under President Cyril Ramaphosa was hopeful for South Africa after a difficult prior decade.

"What citizens want to see is hope that is tethered to results. Part of what is going on in Europe and the US is that democracy is not delivering the kind of results that people want. Some of what they want is not as basic as other places, like South Africa, where you first have to deal with inequality, lift people up and create a diverse and inclusive society," she said.

Bill warned against “ardent populists” and singular narratives creating perceptions that situations were worse than they are.

"Democracy is worth its messiness. The way president Mandela started out here was right, that more diverse groups always make for better democracies than homogenous ones. Hillary and I have spent our lives fighting an us-versus-them world. And it seems that all the walls in the world look more like nets now," he said.

Turning on the question of local land reform policies and their impact on investor confidence, Hillary there were different ways of approaching the subject matter, suggested turning to international examples which are important for sentiment and give faith to people in rural areas such as Rwanda. 

"It is not a good signal to investors for wholesale expropriation. From what I understand there are willing sellers but they are still going into very few hands of what looks like politically-connected people, "Hillary said.

"If you're providing land, how productive is that land, what is the follow through?" she asked. "The land issue could restore faith psychologically and economically to the country's disenfranchised citizens, but she warned about the impact on international investment."

Bill concurred, saying that narratives about the country should not "trigger deep seated insecurities in people and empower the people who want to benefit from these insecurities."

"Hillary's right. Is it worth your reputation? I know you can get hurt if you do it wrong, and people in rural areas will lose hope. All these tough problems, I would put on the backburner and be aggressive about the low-hanging fruit that big business can actually tackle, "Bill said. 

The Clintons told the 3000-strong business leaders at the Sandton Convention Centre they have a big stake in making sure that democracy in South Africa, locally and globally, is upheld and stands up against corruption.

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African News Agency (ANA)