Experts have said innovation in education and business will be necessary for South Africa to rebound at the end of the Covid-19 pandemic. Picture: Leon Lestrade/African News Agency(ANA).
Experts have said innovation in education and business will be necessary for South Africa to rebound at the end of the Covid-19 pandemic. Picture: Leon Lestrade/African News Agency(ANA).

‘Innovation is required’ for South Africa to rebound at end of pandemic

By Mwangi Githathu Time of article published May 24, 2020

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Cape Town - Experts have said innovation in education and business will be necessary for South Africa to rebound at the end of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Dr Njeri Mwagiru, senior futurist for Africa at the Stellenbosch University Institute of Futures Research, said: “Crises are exceptional events, demanding and inviting outside-the-norm and exceptional responses. Crises can open spaces for innovation in this way.

“However, it is important to note that we’re not all aligned to respond well to crises. Consequently, there are many businesses that are struggling to adjust to this emerging Covid-19 context - without the preparedness or available capacity to respond,

“Nevertheless, innovation is a critical component in responses to this and most crises. Innovation brings new approaches, which are often what is called for by disruptive events.

“At the Institute for Futures Research we promote strategic foresight and futures-thinking methods and tools as vital to assisting individuals, communities, organisations and governments to develop preparedness for a wide range of possibilities.”

Futurist and political economy analyst Daniel Silke said: “We need to know there will be no quick fixes even though we want to get to rapid growth. After the pandemic we will have to deal with questions over labour, the cost of it, and incentives or the lack of them.

“What we can do if we want to rebound is seize the opportunity that there is to utilise our manufacturing capacity that has been underutilised for the last two decades.

“In the medium term we need to refocus on manufacturing. There is no real reason for us to import so many products that we can make ourselves. This will get our people back to work.

“This can be done by the provision of tax concessions and labour management innovations such as easing the regulatory burden so that investors, both local and foreign, can consider local production.

“There is, however, no point in producing goods more expensively than our competitors as investors will always choose to go where production is cheaper.”

Daniel Strauss, senior extraordinary lecturer at the University of Stellenbosch Business School, said: “Traditional models of business funding need a rethink if South Africa’s small businesses and entrepreneurs are to emerge from the financially crippling ‘winter of coronavirus’ into a spring of growth and rejuvenation.

“Accepting that downturns, recessions and economic crises are inevitable, one needs to shift the focus on to building ‘Zebra’ companies - sustainable businesses with steady growth, strong balance sheets and cash flows, and able to withstand downturns - rather than Unicorns that will die without the next round of funding.”

@MwangiGithahu

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Cape Argus

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