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Opinion: Stop talking (economic) inclusion, start by enabling communities to determine their future

July 25, 2013

In my line of work I am continually engaged with companies, universities, government leaders, investors and economic development practitioners in the Western Cape and across the country.

For the past 4 years I have spend my time driving the context inclusion through the South African Black Entrepreneurs Forum (SABEF), yet “economic inclusion” continues to be the missing link to enabling (regional) economic competitiveness.

Its also worthwhile considering the strides that this country has taken since the dawn of democracy in formulating statutes and policies that seek to encourage increased participation of ‘previously disadvantaged individuals’, but yet again senior management roles continue to elude the majority of qualified black professionals and unemployed remains stubbornly above 20%.
My consulting company has also been doing work in the tech sector over the past 11 monthly, and I can’t help but notice the lack of diversity within the high growth technology sectors.  How will the Western Cape and indeed South Africa reach its full potential as Africa’s gateway in technology and innovation if the overwhelming majority of its citizens do not have the opportunity to participate?

Among the challenges inherent in this path is high growth entrepreneurship and access to talent.

At the heart of this issue is Inclusive Competitiveness — the practice of metrics and strategies to improve the performance of diverse populations within innovation ecosystems, emerging industry clusters and other areas critical to economic competitiveness.

This picture is worrying, however, as an eternal optimistic, I still see an light at the rainbow which will lead to “economic inclusion in our lifetime”.

During my recent travels to the Middle East, as part of an economic study tour, the economics and media experts I traveled with agreed that innovative technology development and new product commercialization could be the catalyst for economic competitiveness. I took it a step further by suggestion that perhaps developing sustainable industry at a community level would also leapfrog apartheid-spatial planning, which never envisaged such development.

By creating companies and growing industries that generate jobs, demands exponentially more entrepreneurs and workers who have STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education, high-level training and the corresponding skills to perform in a technology-driven world.

Perhaps the only thing missing is the analytic and empirical evidence that would ultimately produce the motivation and business case to encourage private sector to collaborate or partner with government (as an infrastructure partner) to develop thriving industry in areas such as light manufacturing, business process outsourcing (bpo) and technology.

Or perhaps, the Broad-based Black Economic Empowerment policies of the current government could be used to encourage this kind of thinking, instead of being seen as a hindrance to the status quo.

Economic growth and job creation in South Africa will never be a ‘one-size fits all’ situation, partly due to our complex political history, but there is no doubt in my mind that such growth can be achieve by including economic solutions that affect the people affect the most by joblessness and limited opportunities (as well as resources and prospects). KE

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From → Analysis, BBBEE, Opinion

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