StatsSA announced on 30 July 2019 that the official unemployment rate is now 29% - up by 1.4% in one quarter. The expanded (unofficial) unemployment rate is now 38.5%.
Although this is shocking, it is not unexpected. We continue doing all the wrong things; how can we expect any other result? Doing the same thing but expecting a different result, is Einstein’s definition of insanity.
South Africa’s unemployment crisis is not a reflection of what is happening elsewhere, not even in Africa. Our unemployment rate is the third worst in Africa.
Our growth expectation is below 1%, while the rest of Africa is booming – Botswana (4.5%), Cameroon (3.9%), Ethiopia (6.8%), Kenya (6.3%), Lesotho (1.5%), Madagascar (5.2%), Mozambique (3.3%), Rwanda (8.7%), Tanzania (5.2%) and Zambia (3.8%) – to mention a few.
What do we expect though? It is not exaggerating to suggest that, although a lot has been said, nothing is done to create a more conducive environment for business in South Africa.
In modern countries of the world, over 95% of businesses are SMEs, employing 60 - 70% of the working population. While SMEs make up 98.5% of South African business, they only employ 28% of the formal workforce.
On 29 July 2019 Engineering News reported that foreigners are ditching South African assets at the fastest pace on record as concern mounts that the government will lose its last investment-grade rating.
On 30 July 2019 Claire Bisseker wrote in Business Day that Eskom is cannibalising the country’s future.
The perceived righteous portion of our political leadership avoid making the hard political decisions - making the popular instead of the right decisions - waiting for a more conducive political climate. To the President and those supporting him, my suggestion is: act now; the situation will not improve.
“Behold, now is the time of favour, now is the time for salvation.” 2 Cor. 6:2. Although this was written for and within a different context, the same principle applies. Those who have made it their aim to harm South Africa, cannot be tolerated any longer, not for one single day.
The hard decisions which can turn South Africa around, undoing the extensive damage done over the last decade, must now be taken or the opportunity will forever be lost. Those standing in the way of rescuing South Africa can no longer be entertained.
This opinion piece is by Gerhard Papenfus, Chief Executive of the National Employers’ Association of South Africa (NEASA). He writes this in his personal capacity.