Fixing SA means fixing education access and bringing back hope – Alan Mukoki


You can also listen to this podcast on here.

JEREMY MAGGS: Look at any big policy, political, social or economic issue and chances are one organisation has something strong to say. Weeks ago or thereabouts the chief executive officer of the South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Sacci), Alan Mukoki, when delivering a keynote address at the SA National Energy Association’s annual conference, said energy for all was an ambitious aim that would occupy stakeholders for the next three decades and beyond. He then went on to beat a drum that we’ve all heard before: the need to improve skills and capability, as well as policy and regulation.

I happened to be chairing the conference … and was struck by two things. One, his being on the phone dealing with problems moments before he spoke. I happened to eavesdrop (I won’t tell you what the problems were). But I also sensed a real optimism as far as he was concerned. I said to myself he’d make an excellent guest for this podcast. So welcome to the Moneyweb FixSA podcast. My name’s Jeremy Maggs.

Just to remind you, our guests in coming weeks will be asked how we can make things better. How do we improve matters? How in the shortest space of time can we become a competitive and successful nation? How would Alan Mukoki fix South Africa?

A very warm welcome, Alan. Thanks for joining us.

ALAN MUKOKI: Thanks for the invite, Jeremy. Good morning to your listeners as well.

JEREMY MAGGS: You said this six months ago. There’s nothing worse than being reminded about a quote, but it makes a lot of sense. You said official unemployment, and the rate climbing to a record 35.3%, is a ticking time bomb threatening not only the existence of our businesses, but the republic itself as we know it. Now, as we record this podcast, you’ll know there’s been a slight improvement in the [employment] rate, but marginally. Is that the country’s biggest problem in your opinion?

ALAN MUKOKI: Well, Jeremy, without any doubt because we speak democracy, we speak colonialism, we speak apartheid, we speak exclusion. And then we get to this particular point 28 years after democracy and many people and millions of South Africans feel that they’re excluded from that democracy dividend.

So that’s a very big issue because, if you have so many young people – if you look at those numbers, they’ve come down maybe a percent or so – but if you look at those numbers as they relate to the youthful people, people who are still young, there’s a really serious problem that’s coming up in South Africa, especially among those young people – more than three million people or so the last time I checked the figures – who are not in school, who are not in employment, and are not in any training facility.

That’s a very, very big issue, because the disillusionment that’s brewing there [means] we may end up having our own Arab Spring a lot sooner than we thought we could.

So we do need to do something that is decisive, that is sustainable, that is permanent in terms of addressing that issue of excluding people from economic activity, which creates poverty [and] unemployment, of course.

JEREMY MAGGS: Let’s get to the fix in just a moment. I read somewhere that the average age of South Africans is 27. So many of those people that you refer to fit into that cohort. I want to come back to the ‘ticking time bomb’ analogy. You’ve just used the ‘Arab Spring’ descriptor. How close then are we to that bomb exploding?

ALAN MUKOKI: We may not know in terms of timelines, but we do know that there are signs very clearly that many people are losing hope. And to that particular extent, if you finish school today there is no certainty – especially if you’re black and young or a woman in particular – what your future looks like.

That in itself creates a very serious problem of complex trauma, because we are traumatised just by being South African.

The future that you see is bleak.And you don’t actually know what exactly is going to happen. There isn’t anything. It can’t be the R350 [grant]. The R350 is not a solution to the problem permanently.

So we need to be able to give young people hope. We need to be able to understand that these are our future markets particularly; as business in particular.

We need to understand that. We need to develop that, because that system that excludes people eventually will exclude us.

It will eventually create a situation where there is no product and there’s no service that you can sell to people because people have absolutely no income whatsoever.

JEREMY MAGGS: But how do you give that constituency hope? It’s almost impossible, isn’t it?

ALAN MUKOKI: It’s not impossible. I think that many of the commentators in South Africa – and I think many people also in leadership positions – need to appreciate one thing … we don’t have another country. This is the only one that we have. That’s the first thing.

The second thing I think is that South Africa is full of people who are hugely talented. There’s a lot of talent in South Africa in terms of the problems that we’re facing. None of them cannot be resolved. I know there are people who believe the problems are so mega – you know, 41% expanded unemployment. That’s the number that we see. ‘We have no hope.’

No, it is not true. We are not the only people, we are not unique in any way in terms of looking at us. Look at China, before [President] Xi Jinping came in, China was experiencing exactly the same problems. But in the last 30, 35 years they’ve managed to pull at least 650 million people out of poverty into the middle and upper income groups. We’re not the only ones by any means.

Look at all the countries that have managed to move their economies from ‘developing’ to ‘developed’ in the last 100 years … Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore, Australia, Israel and, yes, Russia. [If] you look at the things that they were actually able to do, all those places come from exactly the same place because they had to start from scratch. So South Africa has an opportunity.

This is a leadership challenge that all of us need to rise up to, to take up, because you are not going to find too many societies in the world today who have this type of endowment.

Number one, this country is potentially very rich in terms of our mineral resources. We’ve got the seas, we’ve got two seas; access all over the place. We’ve got really, really smart people who are part of Africa who look at us as leaders. And there’s so much richness in the ground in all of this particular Africa. We just need to gather ideas and the right people and the right culture, and the values, to go and make it actually work

JEREMY MAGGS: I want to talk to you about how to mine the leadership nugget in just a moment, but I want to continue on the hope theme, if we can. Yes. You say to me that we don’t need to give up hope. So how do you start the process of infusing hope? How do you tell the young matriculant that it’s going to be okay?

ALAN MUKOKI: Well, one of the things that we need to do, we can’t just say things. We need to be able to put things on the table. In other words, we need to drive programmes.

JEREMY MAGGS: But we’re not very good at that in this country.

ALAN MUKOKI: We’re not very good.

JEREMY MAGGS: We are very good at talking. We’re very good at planning. We’re very good at blueprinting.

ALAN MUKOKI: Yes, absolutely.

JEREMY MAGGS: We don’t seem to turn any of that into action.

ALAN MUKOKI: You know Salim Ismail is someone whose ideas I like a lot. Salim wrote that book around ‘exponential organisations’ [Exponential Organizations: Why new organizations are ten times better, faster, and cheaper than yours (and what to do about it), Diversion Books, 2014].

One of the things he likes to say is that when you drive disruptive innovation in large organisations the immune system of that organisation comes out to attack. And the best way you can always do that is because large organisations – whether a country, whether a political system – are actually built to resist change and to limit any damage that any risk can actually do. So when you try to talk change, people clam up and don’t want to discuss anything.

One of the fundamental things that we need to be able to do is to sit back and say: “Of the things that we’re currently doing now, of all the ideas that we have on the table, what are we going to do to change them because we know that they’re not working?”

It doesn’t matter how many times the president can come up to Sona [State of the Nation Address] and present a lot of ideas about things that are going to [be done]. It doesn’t matter what the Reserve Bank people are going to say. My friend Lesetja [SA Reserve Bank governor Lesetja Kganyago] can come up and say: ‘I’m protecting the rand and I’m protecting the inflation.’

We know that the ideas that we have today –

JEREMY MAGGS: – are hollow unless something happens.

ALAN MUKOKI: So we then need to sit down and say we’re going to change things. In other words, we’re going to change not just things, but we’re going to change ourselves. We’re going to question our own decision-making and the manner in which we’ve done things until now.

On the issue of youth in particular we need to be very clear what is required in terms of the development of competencies and skills, because there’s nothing we can do for the youth other than giving them opportunities to develop their own skills and to develop their own competencies, and to gain the experience so that they are able themselves not just to be looking for employment opportunities, but [so] they themselves can create employment. So we need to have a very clear –

JEREMY MAGGS: Mostly in the tech space.

ALAN MUKOKI: Absolutely. We need to be very clear around the design that we want to do.

Number one, fix education. The issue around universal access to high-quality education is non-negotiable.

In other words, you cannot have a situation where you’ve got schools in the black townships that don’t have resources, but you have schools in the private-school sector [with] resources. It’s not a question of taking from the rich to give to the poor, but it’s a question of the government.

If you look at what [President] Paul Kagame is doing in Rwanda, in fact people are now moving their kids away from private schools to the public schools because he has fixed the fundamental problem of resources. High-quality education has been provided in Rwanda and places like that. I guess that’s why [former UK prime minister] Boris [Johnson] believed he could send any of the people wanting to come into England back to Rwanda.

But we need to fix education access – in particular when these children are graduating from high school.

It should never be a question of income that determines whether you can get into a university. We’ve got technology today that can create that access, that can create access in a way that is really fundamental, and that can shift people in a big, big way.

But we need to be able to stand back and say none of the things that we’re doing now will work for us. We’re going to sit back, we’re going to make a determination very clear. There should never be any child who finishes school who is not able to access an institution of higher learning because they don’t actually have money.

It’s not just a question of money for paying tuition fees, because we have huge issues around the issue of nutrition, for instance. You can’t go to school when you don’t have the right nutrition because you’re not going to perform; [that will] create a lot of cognitive-related issues for you.

Healthcare is another fundamental issue. Lots of people come to school with fundamental health issues that are actually hidden – including mental health, by the way. So we need to fix the issue at that particular level in our diagnostic, and then we need to go and resolve the problem very adequately.

JEREMY MAGGS: Part of the raison d’être, the remit, of this podcast is not only to identify the problems but also to push the guests a little bit into a corner to offer some solution, should I say.

So let’s talk about education. I absolutely concur with you that making education, particularly at tertiary level, more accessible to anyone and that funding should not be preclusionary as far as that’s concerned. Everyone agrees with that. Where do you find the money? How do you make it happen? What’s the timeframe?

ALAN MUKOKI: I think that the timeframe is that we need to agree that we have a 20-year, maybe a 30-year programme just like I have quoted maybe in the case of China, maybe Japan, maybe Taiwan; Hong Kong probably took a shorter period of time purely because it had a very benevolent England looking after it.

However, we always argue ‘there is no money’. But we never raise the issue around how to arbitrage the assets that we already have.

I was raised in banking, I come from banking. And to that extent it’s not a question of the money not being there; it’s a question of how we leverage the assets that we have to be able to do it.

JEREMY MAGGS: What assets, and how do you leverage them?

ALAN MUKOKI: Let me give you an example. I was speaking to one of the politicians the other day. We actually made a presentation to one of the big government departments that deals with resources to say if you look at the DBE, for instance, the Department of Basic Education, you will find that at the last count – I think over two years ago when I looked at this thing – they had something like 27 000 schools, on average about 4 000 square metres per school. That gives you 81 million square metres. Sell that.

Why do you want to hold on to an asset which is not necessarily generating income for you, but is actually costing you money? Give that to the private sector. Let’s create a property-owning company that’s going to get listed – whether it’s in Johannesburg, in New York, in Hong Kong or wherever the case might be.

JEREMY MAGGS: Predicated on whether the private sector wants it. Is it a desirable asset?

ALAN MUKOKI: It is a desirable asset for one good reason. Here’s the reason. I’m buying it from you as a government and you’re going to give me a lease on it; the lease is going to cost you far less than you’re spending on it. But here’s the infrastructure that I’m going to be able to give back to you. I will take that, I’ll give you a cheque, because right now you don’t have the balance sheet, you don’t know the capital that supports, that can extract itself out of that particular –

JEREMY MAGGS: So you take the ownership out of the equation?

ALAN MUKOKI: We take the ownership.

JEREMY MAGGS: What do you do with that?

ALAN MUKOKI: I give you cash.

JEREMY MAGGS: And what do you do with the cash?

ALAN MUKOKI: What I do with the cash is I go and improve all those schools.

I give them all the most amazing facilities. The tech, the labs, the computer science centres, whatever the case might be, the sports facilities. Right?

Remember, we’re saying that it’s now privately owned. I’m going to get those kids into the school at 06:00, not at 08:00 right now. If you go to any of the schools after 15:00, there’s no one there. If you go into any of the schools on weekends, there’s no one there. What makes you think you shouldn’t be going to school over the weekend?

I can then take that asset, I can then do something better with it, because I can put three customers into that particular asset. The government can come in in the morning, maybe in the afternoon. I can put in the other allocation people or anyone who needs a facility later in the evening. But the government isn’t losing anything, because they will have a put or call option on that particular asset in case they want to deal with the unions who are going to scream ‘You’re selling government assets!’. You can always buy it back from me. But we know today what is the coupon price on which you’re going to buy me back.

If I say I’m going to get an 8% return or a 10% return, you know today that I gave you R450 billion, and if you want your asset back, give me my R450 billion times 10% and the number of years compounded interest [for which] I’ve actually held the asset. That kills the noise around what [happened]. And take that money.

Let me finish this part, Jeremy. Take that money. We know that one of the root causes is the lack of high-quality teachers, especially in the black schools. Pay people away, get rid of the people that you don’t need in the system, because the argument that we’re always going to be making is ‘you can’t have a 10 problem and then your resources do a four solution. In other words, a 10 problem requires a 10 solution. You got a lot of teachers that ought not to be there because they don’t provide the level of resource, a requirement that is there. Take R25 billion of that money – be very generous – to kill the noise with the unions in terms of giving people retrenchment packages. Even if it means you must pay people for the next five years, it’s fine, get rid of them.

Go anywhere else in the world and find the best teachers that can come and teach those kids, and solve the problem – not just at tertiary, but at early childhood development [stage].

These kids, for instance, who don’t have the right resources at home because of poverty and other things – create  boarding facilities for them.

It’s ambitious, it’s bold. It’s a dream, but it’s not something that cannot be done, because we’ve got the assets.

And I tell you, we’ve sufficient financial engineers in this country to make this deal work.

JEREMY MAGGS: I was trying to interrupt you because I was going to push you on skills and unions, but I think you’ve dealt with that issue. You did raise one issue – and I want to make a comment on this. I like your thinking about weekends. I was on a trip to India a couple of years ago, and driving around on a Saturday afternoon [saw] school children in school uniforms. I asked the guide – who looked at me with some bewilderment – and he said: “Of course we go to school at the weekend. Why not?” And we tend to shut things up at lunchtime on a Friday. I absolutely acknowledge that.

What is preventing this big schools plan from happening, then?

I’ll make a suggestion, because Christo Wiese in the last FixSA podcast – and I think the same point was made by your contemporary, Business Leadership South Africa’s Busi Mavuso [in her FixSA interview] – said we live in a forest of red tape. So my question to you, Alan Mukoki from Sacci, is how do you cut through that? How do you make that happen?

Fixing SA means far less talk and a lot more doing – Busisiwe Mavuso
Fixing SA means having the confidence to do so – Christo Wiese

ALAN MUKOKI: Well, one of the arguments that we’ve always been making around how you look at the entity called the state is that you can’t do any of this work unless you accept and you implement the policy of a meritocracy.

Meritocracy is fundamental. When I counted those eight countries, one of the fundamental things is they looked at the human development index and they said: “We’re going to get the best people to come and run things for us.”

We need to be able to be very brutal in that understanding. If it requires a step-change in legislation in the Constitution of the Republic, so be it.

Because what you have right now is people [who are] going to participate in a political party system. They get elected, they go to parliament. The system itself is producing the quality that you have today when it comes to things like civil servants, the DGs [directors-general] – we’ve made this particular argument as well.

The pitch of that particular job has got to be at the same level as the Top 40 JSE C-suite-level executives. They’re running a R1.8 trillion business, for crying out loud. Why do you think you should be paying C-suite level people maybe between R5 million and R8 million a year. But when it comes to looking at a DG for public enterprises or finance or whatever the case might be, you want to pay those people R1.8 million. So you’re going to get a R1.8 million person when the job requires a R5 million person.

So we need to change all of that. We need to be very bold. [There are] not too many departments – less than maybe 35 government departments. So you really are talking about a small community of maybe 150 people.

JEREMY MAGGS: There’s not the political will to do that in this country. We are comfortable with political inertia.

ALAN MUKOKI: But that’s what we need to be able to change. We need to be able to say these ideas can work only in an environment where we drive the change, even if the immune system attacks. As Salim always advises, build a change, an innovation-dynamic team on the edge of the organisation, not inside, because if we don’t do these things – 100 years from now all of us won’t be alive – but what kind of country are we actually going to leave for those who are going to come after us?

So we have to take these bold decisions, because there’s nothing else that you can do. I’m glad, by the way, we say that the government isn’t listening. They are now talking about the professionalisation of the civil service, and one of the early organisations actually pitched that particular idea to them to say ‘This is the way you should be able to do it’.

That goes for things like the cabinet, for instance. We’ve got to be able to put the pressure on, saying it doesn’t matter what political party is in charge. When it comes to the appointment of people who are going to be in cabinet, here is a template of what they should be able to meet. Those jobs, as I said earlier on are like 10 jobs. You have a four and a five doing a 10 job because it’s not actually going to happen.

So we need to be able to change that issue around the meritocracy and be very brutal and non-compromising in the way we actually want to build it.

JEREMY MAGGS: You don’t think we’ve left this too late?

ALAN MUKOKI: No, we have not. There’s time. The country isn’t going anywhere. It’s going to be here for the next one million years. So it cannot be too late.

JEREMY MAGGS: We’re not worried about the next million years – we are worried about the next five years.

ALAN MUKOKI: If you have an agenda for change and renewal and transformation, as we say in this particular case, people will latch you into what you are actually trying to do. Let me [look at] just this one idea around building a meritocracy.

That in itself – if you’re very determined in terms of what you’re going to do – will give South Africa a change in its credit rating immediately, because it’s all about people, it’s all about culture, it’s all about values.

So the fact that you’re pronouncing that we are from now on going to change the way we do appointments into the civil service – this is our template; it’s very recognised, it’s very credible, it makes a lot of sense – immediately that generates a lot of excitement in the system.

When we say we’re going to change the education [system] and how we look at education, we’re going to allow universal access to high-quality education, it begins to change. The people who go into public education should have exactly the same kind of quality you see in any of the top private schools – if not even better. When you drive your programme in that particular direction it creates a lot of excitement. It creates a lot of the hope that you were asking me about earlier on.

JEREMY MAGGS: We’ve looked at education; you’ve come up with one big, bold, audacious idea. So many of the guests on this series have spoken about a better-capacitated civil service – in other words, to get the flywheel of the political economy moving. What else is keeping you up at night? What else needs to be fixed?

ALAN MUKOKI: The strategy around what we are going to do in terms of driving our agenda for development and renewal in the rest of the continent, starting with our own region, is a pipe dream – that South Africa believes it can solve its big problems of poverty and employment and economic growth. If [South Africans] are not actually investing in the region, it’s not going to going to happen.

Our markets are out there. These big countries I just mentioned, especially the South Asian countries, are the ones who are actually fundamentally responsible today for driving capital deployment and investment in many of the big Asian countries, including Bangkok and Thailand and Vietnam and places like that, because they understood here is a challenge.

South Africa is the one that has got the capital, the management capability, the technology and the consulting capability to drive that agenda for change.

Because if we invest in Moz[ambique] and Zimbabwe, in Uganda, in Zambia, in the Great Lakes region, what does it do for us? It creates markets for our own businesses and our own economy. And if you drive at that particular level – and there’s money there, by the way, because there’s money in the ground, but there’s no infrastructure to make sure that you can move the copper, you can move the bitumen, you can move any of the –

JEREMY MAGGS: So what stops us from taking a more pan-African approach?

ALAN MUKOKI: As I said, meritocracy, because you need to have the right people who have the right ideas, who are smart enough to understand that we are the people who must go and open opportunities there so that we can drive economic opportunities for our own businesses here.

JEREMY MAGGS: So the right people. But what are they afraid of? Is it too risky?

ALAN MUKOKI: It’s too risky at this particular point in time. And I think we’re not sharing the right ideas in terms of what even a ‘right person’ means. In other words, we always talk about ‘right person’, ‘right values’, ‘right culture’.

We need to be able to infuse that philosophy into the way in which we do things, because we share these kinds of ideas around vision, around how we want to build a sustainable, successful country over the next three or four decades.

If you look at … what Xi Jinping is doing in China today, and you look at many, many other people in terms of what they’ve actually been doing, their templates exist elsewhere in the world. We are not unique in any way, and let’s learn from what they were able to do. But at the centre it is always going to be people-development, meritocracy, skills competencies. Absolutely.

JEREMY MAGGS: So building a more robust meritocracy, looking at radical changes as far as education is concerned, bold investment beyond our borders?

ALAN MUKOKI: Especially infrastructure.

JEREMY MAGGS: All well and good, Alan. How do we make sure then that we stay the course?

ALAN MUKOKI: We stay the course. When you’ve got the right people, you’ve got the right culture, people are seduced and people love success, because when they see you succeeding that creates in itself a high level of spirit and high level of energy.

It energises people in a way that is much bigger, because people can see the changes are actually real.

They’re actually happening in real time. People are getting jobs, people are getting skilled because there are so many things and so many opportunities that we have.

There are so many things that we’re importing that we could be making ourselves. The only reason we’re not making these things ourselves is we sell our raw materials outside with solar, agri products outside, and then we import the same finished goods. If we then make these things here in South Africa, it starts to say to people ‘Wow, this place is beginning to function’.

And other people outside of South Africa start to say there’s something happening there.

You can’t expect foreign investors to invest in your country to build plant and equipment if you yourself are not a market. It doesn’t work like that in investment.

JEREMY MAGGS: Your organisation represents not only big business in South Africa. Before we started taping this podcast, we were talking about the so-called mom-and-pop outfits, the energy that drives the economy, the SMMEs. [They are] so important as far as this country is concerned. Are they sharing your optimism? I’m assuming, as you talk to me, you are preaching the same gospel to them. Do they share it, or are they saying ‘Listen, enough is enough. I’m tired. It’s just too insurmountable a problem to fix what we have already’?

ALAN MUKOKI: Entrepreneurs by their very nature are not people who are discouraged very easily. I think that you’d find that in formal corporates, maybe, because those people are more like professionals, they are accountants and engineers. But people who actually [go] out of their way, [saying] ‘I’m going to start my own business’, do that because they themselves are dreamers. They themselves have hope, generally. And all that they would actually be saying is ‘We’re frustrated, we need help’.

JEREMY MAGGS: So what do they want?

ALAN MUKOKI: They want government to come through for them. They want finance. They need skills and development. They need opportunities for business. But they don’t have the skills themselves to be able to say: ‘Here is an opportunity. Why don’t we start?’ I’ll give an example, for instance, with this thing called Agoa, the Africa Growth and Opportunities Act. Africa and the rest of the continent, for instance, have huge numbers of categories of goods that can be exported into the US duty-free.

Look at the car sector, for instance, and the guy who used to run the Ford Motor Corporation. He would say to me: “I make the Ford motorcars here in South Africa that I export to the United States.” But did you know that 60-65% of the inputs that go into the cars here are still being imported by South Africa? There is a huge big opportunity on something like that.

Why are we not making the seat belts? Why are we not making the gearboxes? Denel had unbelievable technology that used to be sent to Gripen and Rolls Royce to make the gearbox engine.

We have the opportunity to be able to do those kinds of things where we can go to any of the big auto manufacturers to say: “Give us an offtake. You already have the market. We’re just going to talk to the Taiwanese and the Singaporeans to allow us to start and establish this particular type of business.”

JEREMY MAGGS: Alan, my late father used to say to me that if you want to fix something you have to celebrate small increments of progress. Good advice from a very old man.

ALAN MUKOKI: Absolutely.

JEREMY MAGGS: What would in your opinion constitute small wins, because you have tabled so many big ideas today. In the next, I don’t know, year, 18 months, two years, what are some of the small wins that you’d like to see?

ALAN MUKOKI: Let’s say a small win. For instance in South Africa, you spoke about small business and people not having access to finance. Let’s have a small win. DFIs [development finance institutions] need to stop asking black entrepreneurs for own contributions by way of money. You and I know this is not happening.

I’ve been black all my life, as you can see. I don’t know too many black people who would have capital formation that can enable them to do so. A small little win: we say to the DFIs if the business is sound and the people around the business are actually sound, give them the money. A small win. That would energise that particular sector in the way in which we’ve never [seen]. I’m not saying be reckless in terms of how you’re giving people money. We shouldn’t be carrying the money. The people who qualify should get the money.

JEREMY MAGGS: I have one concluding question that I put to all the guests. Bear with me. [Alan laughs] You’re a young man, but when you’re talking to your grandchildren in 20 years’, 25 years’ time, what are you going to tell them about the early 2020s and, more importantly, what are you going to tell them as the baton-holding generation to make sure that we don’t make the mistakes of the past, that we don’t need to fix South Africa, that it’s fixed already? Do you know what I’m saying?

ALAN MUKOKI: I understand exactly what you say. I think that the first thing I would tell them is that we lived in exceedingly interesting and risky times. When people talk about ‘The four horsemen of Vuca’, they came galloping into town – and that Vuca stands for volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity – we dealt with things at that particular level. I’ll tell them there was so much confusion. There was so much excitement at the same time, but so many people were so disillusioned about what was going on. Yet the very same people who were disillusioned, who became negative, are the same people who had all the talents in the world to be able to fix the problem.

And I’ll tell them that I think that there were going always going to be a few people who saw light at the end of the tunnel, people who had grit, people who understood this [was] one of the biggest leadership opportunities that you [could] ever have if you [were] a person in a leadership position to be able to solve this problem. It’s an endowment.

People see this as negative – no way! You are going to find many, many countries where you have this level of excitement in terms of, my goodness, look at the problems that we have, look at the opportunity to grow and lead in a way that is very decisive.

Throw ideas in how we do group dynamics, how we can extract the juice from everybody else in this particular country. There is nothing that is as exciting as South Africa today with all the challenges that we have. I think that’s what I would be able to share with them.

JEREMY MAGGS: It certainly is a voice of optimism. We’ve touched on some big ideas – meritocracy, a big education plan, and looking beyond our borders to invest in infrastructure. All of that can potentially fix South Africa. It’s going to take a Herculean effort. There’s no doubt about that. It will require more patience, it will require a lot more mature cooperation between the public and the private sector.

Alan Mukoki, thank you very much indeed – chief executive officer of the South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

My name is Jeremy Maggs. You’ve been listening to FixSA on Moneyweb. Thank you for listening.

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