THE BIG INTERVIEW: Let's get to work
Creating jobs is South Africa's single most important task. It is central to the government's priority objective of eliminating poverty by 2030 and moving away from the present resource-intensive economy, which the National Planning Commission says is unsustainable.
Like any employer, countries need people with the relevant training and skills to do the jobs required so they can become valuable contributors to the economy. That there is a critical shortage of the skilled workers required for rural development and to lift people out of poverty is beyond debate.
The challenges facing government and society are substantial, but not insurmountable. These include:
Low literacy levels, which hinder the development of agricultural and other basic vocational skills;
A shortage of the skills needed for agricultural production, food security and sustainable rural development. These include:
- Literacy and numeracy skills;
- Basic decision-making and problem-solving;
- Technical and vocational skills in agriculture, and land and water management;
- Leadership, planning and management skills;
- Social, interpersonal and communication skills;
- Negotiation and facilitation skills;
- The critical thinking that is necessary for fostering innovation and change;
- Food preservation and processing skills;
- Marketing skills;
- Business, income-generating and entrepreneurial skills; and
- The awareness of social, political and legal institutions that are necessary for effective participation in civil society.
Many of these skills could be considered the building blocks for success in the modern world and should be gained through primary and secondary education. Unfortunately, this has not been the case as the education system has failed many youngsters, especially in rural areas.
The National Development Plan's objective is to attack the blight of poverty and nurture economic growth while creating a virtuous cycle of expanding opportunities and rising living standards. With a growing economy and the objective of sustaining 6% economic growth, we need to invest heavily in education and skills. Unemployment is among the highest in the world in South Africa, with a high proportion of "working poor" in the rural areas. It is imperative that the government implements a comprehensive rural educational strategy, agrarian reform and measures to ensure food security.
Better food security and a decline in poverty have been achieved in countries such as China and Vietnam, where the state has been determined and passionate in implementing the necessary reforms.
It goes without saying that Africa needs substantial investment in respect of education and training, yet some statistics on the "African Diaspora" sound a positive note for the future of the continent.
About 300000 African professionals live and work outside the continent. Of these, 75% to 80% completed the majority of their schooling in Africa but had little work experience before emigrating. To fill the gap caused by this brain drain, countries in Africa employ up to 150000 expatriate professionals at a cost of $4-billion a year. Clearly, this is not sustainable and we need to attract emigrants back as contributors to Africa's economy.
If South Africa wants to meet the National Development Plan's aggressive targets of reducing unemployment from 27% to 6% by 2030, 11 million more jobs must be created. Additionally, the proportion of adults working in rural areas must rise from the present 29% to 40%.
We need to retain skills, invest in education, and create and implement agrarian reform to help small-scale farmers. Innovative public-private partnerships must be forged to support the green economy, build on conservation efforts and develop a robust skills and training regime - especially to develop entrepreneurship and innovation.
- Bimbassis is senior manager at Deloitte Consulting. This article first appeared on Creamer Media's www.polity.org.za