Link Round Up No.1 – The Red Beret And Silk Ties Of South African Economic Competitiveness

This week the issue of South African economic competitiveness came up in several different and related ways.
As we start  a real editorial calendar on Zapreneur, we are introducing a roundup of links that I think is useful. It is a mix of public policy orientated links, plus  actionable links for entrepreneurs at the bottom of the post that helps them immediately. We hope you like the mix. We building Zapreneur one post at a time, and we look forward to your support.

Growth And Unpaid Labour

Economic Growth – The Centre for Development and Enterprise  has released an interesting briefing on economic growth in South Africa. A quote that stood out for me, is this one:

…South Africa’s attitude to growth has been ambiguous and ambivalent. On the one hand, government has repeatedly proclaimed a desire to see the economy grow more quickly; on the other, it has emphasised policy initiatives that undermine growth and has also devoted considerable energy to policies and programmes that are more redistributive than growth-enhancing. (page 2-3)

I have the opposite view, that government has focused too much on growth, and not enough on redistribution, especially on the redistribution of economic opportunities. The economy is not competitive because so few have opportunities, I would argue. (Next article in the NDP series will focus on that.) The briefing however makes for interesting reading and provides a reality check on the differences in our economic policy.
Women Entrepreneurs in South Africa: The Small Business Project (SBP)  runs a very interesting survey of entrepreneurs called the “SME Growth Index”. The most recent alert is on women entrepreneurs, is accessible by clicking here. Note, that you will exchange your email for the download. The report has some counter intuitive findings, including this:

Most commonly, it is argued that women entrepreneurs have to make trade-offs between their work and family responsibilities. Their male counterparts do not face the same pressures, and can make a greater time commitment to their businesses. Studies across the world have demonstrated the link between family responsibility pressures and lower growth patterns among women-owned firms. Studies have also shown the vital importance of a supportive family environment for a successful woman entrepreneur.
It is likely that elements of this argument hold true for South Africa’s women entrepreneurs. However, the SME Growth Index has not thus far recorded any firm evidence of it. Women operating in the formal SME environment do not appear to regard cultural mores or family responsibility as an impediment to their business activities. (page 9)

World Economic Forum Competitiveness Report

World Economic Forum Educational Quality Indicators Questioned: Nic Spaull has an interesting article titled “WEF rankings on education unreliable“. It is an interesting read, especially since much of the drive for this or that economic reform is based on the need to improve our competitiveness ratings and based on the Global Competitive Index. In perspective, some of the education quality ratings  are based on the views of six respondents, all from the business sector. So in our debates when we cite the Global Competitive Index, we must be aware of exactly what it measures and how. We must ask is the methodology for the Global Competitive Index competitive?
Economic freedom is in the mind of the beholder: The Global Competitive Index is widely cited in South Africa.  The report says that :

Furthermore, the  Global Competitive Index (GCI) uses data from the World Economic Forum’s annual Executive Opinion Survey (the Survey) to capture concepts that require a more qualitative assessment or for which internationally comparable statistical data are not available for the entire set of economies. (page 11)

They interview several business leaders and get a ranking based on these perceptions. It is interesting to review the full results, but for South Africa the respondents argue that the economy is competitive..  At Zapreneur, we share a different view of the competitive landscape in South Africa, and have written short article on why this is so.

Red Beret – Too much jargon?

Economic freedom inside the mind of the red beret: The emergence of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) has interested many. Zapreneur carried articles explaining the ANC Youth League economic position, and cautioned that redistributive pressures will not be solved by disciplining Malema. Two of the leading thinkers in the EFF answered some tough questions in an interview with Justice Malala. Watch the video on Youtube. The EFF is described as a having Marxist-Leninist- Fanonian perspective, which is an interesting description, and I am keen to see what the election manifesto says.
A couple of highlights for me include Andile Mngxitama (around 5 minutes ) raises an interesting distinction between the use and exchange value of land in terms of compensation. It is a distinction that potentially helps to improve the redistribution of land, and if linked to smaller farmers could lead to improvements in productivity.
Later, there is a question posed on owning the “means of production” posed to Floyd Shivambu (around 8:20), and he tries to argue that his ownership of a magazine (called Loocha) does not constitute owning the means of production. (This leaves me wondering “Do I as the owner of Zapreneur Media own even the smallest set of the means of production?” I like to think the answer is yes, but that might just be false consciousness.) Andile and Floyd continue to argue the distinction between small ownership and large ownership which harks back to ideas on the “commanding heights of the economy”. The question unanswered by the EFF is what is the role of markets, and can markets be crafted to support greater equality. It is a question that none of the political parties are answering, and yet it is an important and vital question to ask.

Action Step

Adii Has a Free Course: Adii is founder of Woothemes and a successful South African entrepreneur  has a free course for tech startups outside of traditional tech hubs. Like all good entrepreneurs, expect Adii to have offer at some point.  Zapreneur is not affiliated in anyway with this course, we just think it is worth a look. 
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