SA is better than you think — Adrian Gore explains why

01 November 2018 - 12:49 By Katharine Child
Discovery founder Adrian Gore argues that despite perceptions‚ SA was not as risky a place to do business as people believed.
Discovery founder Adrian Gore argues that despite perceptions‚ SA was not as risky a place to do business as people believed.
Image: FINANCIAL MAIL

SA is a better place to invest than people think‚ says Discovery founder Adrian Gore‚ who believes people should be "optimistic" about the future.

Gore was speaking on Thursday at the Discovery Leadership Summit‚ which is being attended by President Cyril Ramaphosa‚ former US president Bill Clinton‚ former US secretary of state Hillary Clinton and SA athlete Caster Semenya.

Gore said data showed that South Africans‚ and humans in general‚ were far too pessimistic about the state of their countries. But studies had shown that people‚ even the elderly‚ paradoxically always thought their individual lives would get better while the world would get worse.

Despite pessimism about the state of the world‚ Gore said it had become a richer place than before with longer life expectancy‚ greater wealth and high vaccination rates.

"Long ago‚ no one lived their whole lives and died from natural causes‚" he explained.

"Life was short‚ harsh and brutal‚" referring to our ancestors like the Taung Child‚ who he said died from being dragged by an eagle.

Yet‚ despite the evidence‚ people remained negative about the future.

He then argued why SA was better than people thought. In SA‚ we believed problems were "insoluble and intractable"‚ he said.

"Give our country a chance‚" he said‚ making a case as to why his optimism was not naïve but fact-based.

He said SA's GDP had increased two-and-a-half times since the beginning of democracy and the country’s economy was almost as big as Austria's and Switzerland's.

Gore argued that despite perceptions‚ the country was not as risky a place to do business as people believed.

Gore‚ an actuarial scientist‚ explained that risk was "variation" — how much something's price or value changed.

SA's economic value did not swing wildly as did Turkey and Brazil‚ he said.

"Don’t misconstrue the low rate of growth with riskiness‚" he added. SA was stable and not too risky to invest in.

He described the country as a place of opportunity and a huge market‚ which was why Discovery had grown into a global business. But‚ he cautioned‚ the country had to do better‚ and called the past 11 years the "lost decade".

His calculations showed that if the economy had grown from 2007 at the rate it was growing 10 years before that‚ the country would have a 16% unemployment rather than the current 27%. "SA would be R800bn richer and poverty would have halved". He said growth was essential.

"Let's change our [negative] narrative and celebrate our progress. We must realise we can do better. Our problems are real but soluble. Our economy has potential."

Speaking after him‚ former Investec CEO Stephen Koseff said the economy needed to grow but “tough decisions" had to be taken. State-owned enterprises needed to be sorted out.

He called for privatisation of SA Airways and Eskom‚ saying that with the right polices and policy certainty SA could have "inclusive growth".

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