Like Dubai, SA needs a man with a plan. File Picture
“My grandfather rode a camel, my father rode a camel, I drive a Mercedes, my son drives a Land Rover, his son will drive a Land Rover, but his son will ride a camel.”

Those are the now famous words of Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, the man who is credited with transforming Dubai into the modern city it is today.

Sheikh Rashid ruled the emirate from 1958 to 1990. It was during his reign that oil was discovered.

However, realising it would not last forever he worked to grow other aspects of the economy.

Today oil accounts for less than 5% of Dubai’s GDP. Tourism, construction and the financial sector are the main drivers of growth.

Like Dubai, South Africa also had humble beginnings. In the modern era it made it onto the global economic map because it became a retail outlet for ships travelling between the west and east.

About 200 years later Erasmus Jacobs discovered a diamond on the banks of the Orange River. Around the same time, gold was discovered in the area we now call Gauteng.

In the years that followed, the mining of gold, diamonds, platinum and coal grew the South African economy. But that was the past.

Today the world is a different place, with different wants and needs. And we have failed to keep pace with these changes.

BEE and radical economic transformation were not blueprints to create wealth. Instead, they were plans to redistribute existing wealth, mostly to a few connected individuals.

The result is the growth figures we saw this week - our economy contracted by over 3% in the first quarter of this year. It will not be easy to turn things around.

There are some things within our control. Creating an environment that is conducive to investment is one of them. Ensuring policy certainty is another.

However, there are also some things we have little or no control over. These include the Fourth Industrial Revolution, where automation is resulting in large-scale job losses.

What South Africa needs is a leader in the mould of Sheikh Rashid. Someone who can set us on a new economic path, taking our current and future realities into account. It starts with a plan.

Aakash Bramdeo is the editor of the Sunday Tribune