Categorized | South Africa

Entre-preneurship for radical economic transformation in South Africa

Youthvillage.co.za

Entrepreneurship is more than just an economic term — it is a way of thinking. Creating jobs, empowering people and giving individuals access to better lives is certainly a development goal which all countries aspire to. But while South Africa has embraced the rhetoric, it has yet to create the economic ecosystem necessary for entrepreneurship to thrive.

Addressing widespread poverty is the single most important policy challenge facing South Africa. Not only is poverty high when benchmarked against other emerging economies of the world, but also the rate of poverty reduction has been slow. Whilst the South African economy has grown since 1994, albeit at a snail’s pace, poverty incidence remains relatively high. On a parallel plane, another critical development parameter indicates that South Africa has the highest income inequality in the world. According a recent Oxfam report, South Africa’s Gini coefficient consistently ranges from about 0.660 to 0.696. The Gini coefficient is the measure of income inequality, ranging from 0 to 1, 0 is a perfectly equal society and a value of 1 represents a perfectly unequal society. This makes South Africa one of the most consistently unequal countries in the world.

Inclusive development has been seriously lacking in South Africa. The critical challenge is to spread the payback of economic growth among the people, especially the poorest of the poor. As much as this sad state of affairs has been politically dressed up in all sorts of radical narratives and memes, the crux of the ANC’s policy conference held a few weeks ago was the urgency for transformation to a society which has a more equitable distribution of wealth.

Indeed poverty and rising income inequalities are critical challenges for South Africa. They adversely impact inclusive economic development and socio-political stability and simultaneously impede progress in health and education. With rising unemployment rates, South Africa will continue to have the highest income inequality in the world in 2020 measured by the Gini coefficient. There is an imperative to transform or face the wrath of the down trodden masses.

This unequal development, though, is not unique to South Africa. Governments in both developed and emerging economies have been under pressure to cut fiscal expenditures and reduce unemployment. Equally, there has been increased focus on the need for governments to pursue inclusive growth, rather than merely focus on macro-economic indicators like gross domestic product. This new development consensus has emerged at a time when many countries are grappling with the root causes of political uprisings. Governments have been increasingly concerned with the need to provide decent and productive work, especially for their burgeoning youth populations, which are likely to be unemployed or underemployed at higher rates. Conversely, many emerging economies, including South Africa, continue using the public sector to achieve employment goals, resulting in relatively bloated public service sectors that do not contribute in any meaningful way to the prosperity of a country.

Deriving from this negative experience, many developing economies have begun to explore entrepreneurial initiatives as a means to facilitate job creation and inclusive growth. Even the cornerstone of South Africa’s National Development Plan espouses entrepreneurship as a means of dealing with a flagging economy and the perennial question of unemployment. However, while South Africa has embraced rhetoric extolling the benefits of entrepreneurship, entrenched political, economic, and socio-cultural interests limit these efforts. The country has yet to create the economic ecosystem necessary for entrepreneurship to thrive—that is, an integrated policy environment that encourages start-ups and enables entrepreneurial ventures to take hold and succeed. Instead, many challenges continue to impede South African entrepreneurs from reaching their full potential.

Entrepreneurship is more than just an economic term — it is a way of thinking. Creating jobs, empowering people, and giving individuals access to better lives for themselves and their children is certainly a development goal which all countries aspire to. It is no wonder, therefore, that entrepreneurship has become a dynamic, emergent part of global economies promoting inclusive growth. It can provide the solution by creating wealth, jobs, and social empowerment, especially if South Africa is to address the issue of poverty with some degree of success. History and empirical evidence inform us that we have no choice but to actively encourage entrepreneurial ventures.

Unquestionably, entrepreneurship offers the opportunity to South Africa’s poor to earn a sustainable livelihood. It represents a sizeable engine of decent employment generation and can provide an important contribution to sustainable development by creating jobs and driving economic growth and innovation, fostering ‘radical economic transformation’, reducing poverty, improving the quality of life and promoting the equitable distribution of wealth.

Notwithstanding the fact that entrepreneurship can contribute significantly in achieving inclusive growth, South Africa has existing political, economic and socio-cultural challenges, especially in areas such as regulation, finance and education. The public sector, likewise, remains a major challenge. This sector is the largest employer in South Africa and has historically absorbed excess labour, accounting for more than 60 per cent of total formal employment. It is a major problem increasingly burdening public finances, especially through the wage bill.

At another level, while South Africa invests vast amounts of monies in small business development, the outcomes are dismal. As a result the sector is not able to generate jobs to assist in offsetting unemployment. The youth labour markets are also in a state of disarray in South Africa. According to STANLIB, the labour market participation rate for young people is down at a mere 26 per cent, compared to 46 per cent in the rest of the world. Troublingly, these unemployment and labour force participation figures are combined with high rates of underemployment, as many youth are only employed because they have accepted jobs below their qualifications in order to earn money. Recent statistical information indicates that the country’s unemployment rate has now increased to 27.3 per cent in 2017.

Given the above mentioned poor record of small business development, the recent down-grading of the country’s economy and the fact that South Africa is in technical recession, it behoves all sectors of our society to promote an ecosystem that nurtures entrepreneurship. The challenges that hinder entrepreneurship, such as competition from larger firms, regulatory and socio-cultural constraints, and limited access to capital have to be addressed expeditiously by the public and private sectors with the assistance of civil society. The campaign for a new entrepreneurship ecosystem has to be a collective one.

In order to facilitate entrepreneurship, both the public and private sectors should liberalise the regulatory environment and relax rules for new business entrants. Low costs for registering and licensing new businesses and shorter wait times can go a long way to encourage entrepreneurship. In addition, governments can develop one-stop shops for retrieving information and government services in order to make regulatory environments more conducive to entrepreneurship.

Where there is national will and an acknowledgement of the need for economic change to realise people’s potential, a country can harness the power of its people for economic development. South Africa urgently needs a vision for prosperity based on inclusive growth and sustainable development. One of the defining features of this new agenda is the need for structural transformation of South Africa’s economy towards achieving shared growth, decent jobs and economic opportunities for all.

In essence, vibrant entrepreneurship is indispensable not only for economic development but also for radical transformation in South Africa.

Comments are closed.

Shoah’s pages

www.shoah.org.uk

KEEP SHOAH UP AND RUNNING