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Motlanthe’s Foundation focuses on inclusive growth


Photo Source : : Former President Kgalema Motlanthe

Two weeks ago, I was privileged to attend the second Kgalema Motlanthe Foundation inclusive growth forum in the Drakensberg.

Themed as “dialogue among equals”, the forum provides a safe space for think-tanks to evaluate the state of the country, analyse policies and discuss ways to progress the activities of the country to ensure inclusive growth amongst its people. Most of the discussions focused on strengthening local governance.

During the two-day session, the former president said that the dialogue is not a policy session of government, but rather a brainstorm with professionals to speak freely in order to address inequality, poverty and unemployment. As trustee of the foundation, the former First Lady Mrs Gugu Motlanthe added that the country as it is just won’t do – more needs to be done and quickly to solve this triple challenge.

The keynote address was delivered by Dr Hernando de Soto, the President of the Institute for Liberty and Democracy headquartered in Lima, Peru, which is a think-tank considered by The Economist to be one of the two most important in the world.

Time Magazine ranks Dr de Soto as one of the five leading Latin American innovators of the century, while Forbes chose him as one of 15 innovators “who will reinvent your future”. In his address, Dr de Soto shed more light on how we can reinvent the future and how property rights can help build a strong local economy. He said that we cannot grow our economy if people do not have property rights. Even if it’s just a shack in a township or village, we must ensure that people have title deeds, as this is key for them to access credit and also creates a sense of dignity and self-worth. The standards we create are very important because these differentiate countries and nations. He also detailed the importance of creating an innovative entrepreneurial class, rather than a rent-seeking class.

Lin Songtian, the Chinese Ambassador to South Africa, shared a case study on how China has lifted many of its people out of poverty over the last few decades. He highlighted that industrialisation is crucial to achieving this, but we also need to harness the power of our people. Africa’s challenge is that it doesn’t have the grasp to use the power of its young class to drive its development. The ambassador went on to say that South Africa still lacks in three critical areas. These are safety and security – the level of crime deters investors; policy – the state must be stabilized and should survive no matter what government is in place; and lastly, efficiency – which is the ability to maximise our potential and ensure that resources are deployed to achieve the growth goals

Moving on, he added that we need to build a society that places a high premium on protecting its people. It is at the local level that the most positive impact is made on the lives of citizens. The significant part of the local economy is the informal sector. We must ensure that micro finances are available. He stressed again that a capable state is required to strengthen local government. The local state that we are building must be distinct and independent. It must outlast terms of politicians. An effective local state should not just exist to add water, electricity and other basic infrastructure, but must have mechanisms to become sustainable and not depend on the state to survive.

Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma shared her department’s role in stabilizing activities in the local government and getting it to become efficient and effective. She said that the failure of local government indicates a failure of the state and, as government, we must make sure that we achieve our mandate of growing the local economy and ensuring the delivery of basic services, while remaining sustainable in the long run. We need to take inclusive growth action in the field now, she concluded.

The weekend’s forum shows that as South Africans and Africans, we have thinkers, doers and professionals who are passionate and eager to work together towards the development of our people and continent. I believe the forum really brought out the best of the best in the business, policy and developmental circles.

As Dr de Soto quizzed, “do we have to localize capitalism or capitalize locals?”. Your guess is as good as mine.

 Kizito Okechukwu is the co-Chair of the Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN) Africa – 22 on Sloane is Africa’s largest startup campus.

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