We need entrepreneurs, not government interferance

We all love to listen to a scenario-planner, visionary and futurologist, especially when they are as inspirational as Clem Sunter. British born Clem Sunter is the former CEO of South African mining giant Anglo American Corporation. He is also an acclaimed authority on management strategy and planning, and on corporate social responsibility. Sunter is the author of over a dozen acclaimed business books, noted for their accessible language and insight. These books have covered areas including leadership, crisis management, planning and strategy.

I have listened to a number of keynote addresses given by Sunter, which have always been very positive and you walk away full of hope. However his latest iterations left me troubled, particularly as he expressed the real truth about the current situation in South Africa.

In his own words “Books have been written on why nations fail and what turns a good company into a great one. However, I am more interested in the issue of what makes nations great even if it is only a temporary phenomenon and they ultimately fall from grace.”

“I am very happy to accept that the quality of leadership plays a role in making a nation great. It provides the environment in which citizens are encouraged individually and collectively to step up to the plate and achieve exceptional things. Success requires a legal framework to a society; peace and stability within society; a sound educational system and a singularity of purpose arising from patriotism; and more often than not the inspiration provided by a leader with integrity and vision.”

Sunter then spoke extensively about his belief that while South Africa remains one the powerhouses of the continent, this will only be maintained with governmental assistance and encouragement of South African entrepreneurship. He highlighted the fact that for too many South Africans, labour laws are a major stumbling block to employing larger numbers of staff into existing small businesses, hindering the job creation potential.

Sunter continued to hit home with facts by saying that South Africa has been drifting downward in terms of the world economy hierarchy and is sitting at number 52 whereas we should be at number 32. This will ultimately lead to the country exiting the ‘Premiership League’ and we could even bypass the ‘Championship’ division and head straight to the first division. This would have all sorts of repercussions economically.

The current ‘dumbing down’ of the nation is being accelerated with the government’s attitude towards entrepreneurs. His contention is that a million entrepreneurs are needed to create the five million jobs that the politicians are talking about, but this was unlikely to be achieved in the face of current policy.

“If South Africa wants to have a step change in its economy, the entrepreneurs are the ones who will provide the spark. Now that the mining boom is coming to a close except for a few rich deposits, we have to look to other areas in manufacturing and service industries to pick up the momentum again. The politicians can provide the supportive environment, but it is those individuals who come from nowhere with a bright and marketable idea that will change our fortunes.”

“Think about it. Which American in this century has influenced more lives around the world than anyone else? The late Steve Jobs beats Bush and Obama any day.”