MEC for Economic Development, Nkosiphendule Kolisile’s address on the occasion of the (Reashoma) Job Creation Campaign Launch, Constitution Hill
3 Oct 2012
Dignitaries from government
Leaders of the labour movement
Members of the media
Ladies and Gentlemen
It gives me great pleasure to address you this morning as we launch our job creation campaign, which we have christened Reashoma, a Sepedi word meaning we are working! Honourable guests, I am immensely humbled that you took time out of your busy schedules to attend this launch at our Constitution Hill - a place whose history is well documented! This is a place which “was notorious for its harsh treatment of prisoners”, among whom were freedom fighters.
Writing just on the eve of India’s independence, more than six decades ago, the Indian patriot Dr B.R. Ambedkar, had this to say: “we are going to enter into a life of contradictions. In politics, we will have equality and in social and economic structure, continue to deny the principle of one man one value. How long shall we continue to live this life of contradictions? How long shall we continue to deny equality in our social and economic life? If we continue to deny it for long, we will do so only by putting our political democracy in peril.
We must remove this contradiction at the earliest possible moment or else those who suffer from inequality will blow up the structure of democracy . . .”
Indeed even in our situation as a country, we still face, 18 years after freedom, the daunting challenge of inequality ‘in our social and economic life’. Today we are launching the job creation campaign at a place where many sacrificed their freedom so that all South Africans can enjoy equality in the political and economic life.
We are launching this campaign today so as to initiate the process to answer the question posed by Dr Ambedkar - “how long shall we continue to live this life of contradiction?” We are launching this Jobs Campaign today to work to together with everyone so that we can remove this contradiction, and thereby protect our democracy, which was brought by, among others, people who suffered harsh treatment here at the Constitution Hill!
Your presence here today gives us the assurance that as business, labour and civil society, you are as concerned about unemployment and its debilitating consequences as government is. Programme Director, there is a famous Chinese proverb that says a “journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” This occasion marks the beginning of our collective journey that is aimed at propelling the economy of the province to new heights and to tackle the unemployment challenge.
Ladies and gentlemen, although our meeting here is historic, it takes place under circumstances not of our own making. The global economic downturn weighs heavily on our plans to grow our economy and create the much-needed jobs in the province. As we convene here today, there are news reports that point to the deepening economic crisis in the Eurozone.
Most European economies such as Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain are currently faced with crisis levels of unemployment rates and high government indebtedness. As a result of the crisis plaguing these economies, many governments in Europe are shifting towards fiscal austerity measures, which have contributed to low domestic demand, stagnating wages and high unemployment, especially among the younger populations.
As a province, we have not been left unscathed by this crisis. The nature of our insertion in the global economic system means that these developments have a direct bearing on our economy and our ability to overcome the challenges we face. As you are aware, Europe is our major trading partner, with 31% of our total exports destined for the EU. The Eurozone alone accounts for 17% of our total exports as a province.
This crisis will have an adverse impact on our exports to Europe, especially in the manufacturing, mining and agricultural sectors. These are the prevailing circumstances within which we wage the battle to overcome unemployment, poverty and inequality. Daunting as these circumstances may be, failure is simply not an option.
Honourable guests, part of the reason why we brought you all under one roof today is to impress upon you the mammoth task that confronts us as government, business, labour and civil society. Allow me to remind you the socio-economic reality of our province. Although our province accounts for 30% of the total number of employed people in South Africa and 34% of the our country’s Gross Domestic Product, we are still faced with startling levels of unemployment. The unemployment rate in Gauteng is currently at 25, 4%.
The level of economic growth, which stands at 3%, is also cause for concern. Educational attainment in the province also reveals a disturbing picture. More than a third of the people in this province have highest educational attainment levels between grades 0 and 9. Inequality, measured through the Gini co-efficient is 0, 65, and the Human Development Index is 0,68.
These unsettling facts merely highlight the deep-seated inequalities in terms of income and opportunities in our province. I am certain that you will concur with me that this situation is, in simple words, a proverbial powder keg that could explode anytime, and blow up ‘our democratic structure’. The attendant consequences of the triple challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment pose a significant threat to our welfare as a country and as a province.
Distinguished guests, you may be wondering why is it that I am painting this gloomy picture? You may also ask the question: what is the specific role of business in averting our society from drifting into an abyss?
I am reminding you of these discomforting figures in order to illustrate the enormous task that confronts government, business, labour and civil society in this province. It is imperative therefore that we, as social partners, work in concert to ensure that the fruits of our democracy are enjoyed by all, most importantly the poor people in this country. Programme Director, overcoming these triple challenges demands that we dedicate more efforts and expend our energies towards economic measures that will swing the pendulum to the side of the marginalised in our society.
Through our joint efforts and dedication, we can indeed reduce the unemployment rate and lay the plank for sustainable and inclusive economic growth in our province.
Distinguished guests, we have a herculean task facing us. The New Growth Path Framework which was launched in 2011 aims to create 5 million jobs and economic growth of 7% per annum by the year 2020. This target means that Gauteng alone is expected to create 1.5 million jobs by the year 2020 or 150 000 jobs per annum.
As government, we perfectly understand the role that we have to play in providing a conducive environment for business to remain competitive. We have also identified a number of sectors that have the potential to generate the sustainable employment opportunities in our economy. We have been engaging with you over the past few weeks and we certainly appreciate the challenges you face during this difficult global economic environment.
We are willing and ready to support the private sector in mitigating challenges such as the erosion of our manufacturing base by cheap imports and skills shortage. We have also heard your cries about government red tape and inefficiency that you are usually subjected to when wishing to start a new business or expand your existing operations. We also know that some of the inadequacies in our transport and logistics networks are a serious barrier to growth in the province.
I can guarantee you that with the commitment we have as government and the private sector on our side; these concerns will soon be history. Already we have made sterling progress in many of our initiatives such as the Gauteng Investment Centre, the Smart City at Nasrec, The Innovation Hub and many other initiatives, which together provide shining examples of what government-led programmes can do to stimulate economic growth and prosperity.
Ladies and Gentlemen: our plans do not stop only at this point. We will also be joining hands with industry players and stakeholders to ensure the full recovery of sectors such as manufacturing, mining and construction. Programme director, in light of expanding the capacity of our economy to create jobs, we must move beyond the trajectory of cities that fall into a slumber immediately when the clock hits 5pm. Is it perhaps not time that we ponder on ways to boost the economic performance of our towns and cities through stimulating the night economy?
Can we really afford to continue having sleeping cities when we have the reality of unemployment hanging over our shoulders like an albatross? Extending operations in our cities to late night hours would directly induce the need for a night-time workforce, which could lead to more jobs being created in areas ranging from retail to cultural and recreational activities.
Gauteng’s cities should join the likes of Cairo, Beirut, Madrid, Barcelona, Paris and New York and become cities that never sleep and where business idleness is a foreign concept. Of course the realisation of these ideas means that we need to redouble efforts to ensure that we have a safe, reliable, integrated and efficient public transport system, safer cities and communities as well as continue to regulate liquor trade.
Programme Director, in our endeavours to create jobs and grow our economy, we must pay particular attention to small business and cooperatives. Small businesses account for the majority of employment in our country’s economy. At least 70% of private employment is in small and medium enterprises.
In addition, small businesses account for a significant share of the total job creation in our economy with nearly 80% of all new jobs created in small businesses. It is true of the South African context as it is in many other countries that small business support is an essential ingredient to stimulating entrepreneurship and innovation. Amongst the payoffs for this type of support are higher economic growth and the expansion of more labour intensive industries.
We are aware of the challenges facing small and medium sized businesses such as hurdles in accessing new markets; finance for start-up, growth and expansion; government regulatory environment as well as challenges in skills development and training. As government, we can only assure you that we are equal to the task of overcoming these challenges.
Programme Director, it is often said that fortune favours the bold. We hope that this morning’s launch will take us a step further in advancing the cause for a province that is thriving with economic activity and decent jobs. The short to medium term changes we want to see include more business investment and confidence in the province as well as the expansion of existing business operations in a way that stimulates inclusive economic growth and sustainable job creation. We also want more dialogue on strategies to save the jobs that are currently hanging in the balance in various sectors of our economy.
Through this campaign, we are also urging those industries that cannot create employment in the short to medium term to contribute to skills development by absorbing unemployed graduates for experiential training. The Gauteng Department of Economic Development will avail the Graduate database, from which industries can recruit young unemployed graduates.
In conclusion ladies and gentlemen, there is a Zulu proverb that says Indlala ibanga ulaka, which means a hungry man is an angry man. The current challenges plaguing the different sectors of our economy are a clear indication that none of us will be spared or insulated from the wrath of the poor who continue to reel under the pressures of unemployment, poverty and inequality. As a province, we are fortunate that we have, in the famous words of Kwame Nkrumah, “the blessing of the wealth of our vast resources, the power of our talents and the potentialities of our people”.
The difference between failure and success will be determined by the extent to which we capitalise on our advantageous economic position and our ability to win over to our side as many social partners as possible.
Programme Director, although the struggle against unemployment is a colossal one, we are convinced however that with cooperation and partnership from business, labour and civil society, this thorny road will be easier to navigate.
My appeal to all of you present here today is to join us in our continuous war against unemployment and wage a battle on the side of those who seek to defend humanity, build a protective wall around it and open your eyes to see the light so that future generations can look at the future with untainted lenses. In this way, we would have removed the “inequality in our social and economic life”, which the Indian patriot warned India about.
I thank you.
Issued by: Gauteng Economic Development
3 Oct 2012
[ Top ]