More of the Same Won’t Cut it – We Must Learn from the Western Cape Economic Game Changers
As I sat listening to the Premier’s inaugural State of the Province address, I realise now that much like the almost 1.2 million people of our province who are unemployed or have given up looking for work, I was desperate.
Desperate for hope, the kind that is inspired by bold and courageous leadership. The kind that at times, in moments of magic, can be ushered in by a new administration. The more I listened, the more my desperation morphed into anger. Madam Speaker, the Premier voiced all the right ambitions, yet will have us believe that they will be realised by more of the same. Nothing new… nothing bold… nothing courageous…
Looking back, this was made clear in the Premier’s opening stanza when he committed to not re-inventing the wheel but rather building on the foundations laid by previous administrations.
Madam Speaker, our province cannot afford more of the same. Outside of these chambers there is a jobs bloodbath and it shows no signs of subsiding.
The Provincial Development Plan targeted an unemployment rate of 20% by 2020, yet all we have been doing is moving in the opposite direction. At the end of 2013 27.8% of our population were unemployed, today that figure sits at 37.4% and 48.3% when you include those that have simply given up looking for work. In the last year alone, our province suffered the largest decline in employment losing 90 000 jobs.
Retrenchments hitting us include from Standard bank and ABSA and even the Daily Dispatch. In Nelson Mandela Bay further job losses are expected in the restructuring at PPC Cement and Continental Tyres.
Whilst larger companies shed jobs, small businesses continue to suffer through unreliable electricity supply, fuel increases, collapsing municipalities, late payment and choking red tape.
Madam Speaker, is it any surprise that our people see no future in our province? Between 2006 and 2018, 1.5 million people have left in search of greener pastures. Further compounding our woes as our budget loses billions of Rands in equitable share.
It was Albert Einstein that said that Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.
More of the same is just not going to cut it. Whilst our President is dreaming, our people are living through a nightmare, the ticking time bomb is close to exploding.
If ever there was ever a time to swallow our pride and search for new ideas it is now. One needs to look no further than our neighbours in the Western Cape.
Whilst jobs are massacred here at home, employment in the Western Cape grew by 24.8% between 2009 and 2018, the highest growth in employment of any province. 508 000 jobs were created in the same period. Had every province achieved this feat, we would have been close to the 5 million jobs President Jacob Zuma promised would be created by 2020. More telling is that their rural unemployment rate is the lowest in the country at 15.7%.
Madam Speaker, these achievements did not come about by itself. In 2009, the Western Cape government pursued an agenda of radical economic game changers. The likes of which we can learn from in our province.
- Whilst the Premier made no mention of red tape, They generated R1 billion in economic savings through Red Tape reduction, and Ease of Doing Business strategies based on 27 red tape reduction interventions. This is further evidenced by it being South Africa’s most successful province for building plans approved by square meter;
- Whilst we celebrate attempts to reopen a coal mine, they became Africa’s Green Economy Hub – 70% of our renewable energy manufacturing takes place in the Western Cape. This is the driving force behind our country becoming the fastest growing green economy in the world, according to Moody’s;
- As our businesses suffer when the lights are turned off, they introduced an Energy Security Game Changer, jointly with the City of Cape Town. Even though the generation and distribution of energy is not a mandate of provincial government, their Energy Security Game-changer, has focused on driving small scale embedded generation and Rooftop Solar PV in particular. Additional groundwork was done for the importation of liquid natural gas at Saldanha Bay to be used at Ankerlig which together with the hydro plant at Steenbras Dam, helped to reduce the grid-load, providing insulation from Stage 1 load shedding;
- As we battle to come to terms with the fourth industrial revolution, they have become Africa’s Tech Hub. The Cape Town-Stellenbosch tech ecosystem is the most productive in Africa, employing over 40 000 people. This is more than Lagos and Nairobi combined according to the Endeavour Insights Report 2018;
- Whilst we aim for 6000 training opportunities over two years in our six districts, their Apprenticeship Game Changer is on track to meet 2019 targets of 11 000 learners entering apprenticeship training opportunities, and of 13 000 qualified apprentices entering the labour market in key sectors;
- As we struggle to attract tourists, Cape Town was named the Top Events and Festival Destination in the World and for the 10th consecutive year they were named the top meetings, events and conferencing destination in Africa by the ICCA;
- As our SEZs struggle to fulfill their potential, they’ve unlocked R1.8 billion in provincial and private sector infrastructure funding for the Saldanha Bay Industrial Development Zone (IDZ) since 2014/15 with eight confirmed major investors investing R3-billion. The Atlantis Special Economic Zone for Greentech is projected to attract R3.7 billion in investment, create nearly 3000 direct jobs by 2030, and save them from the toxic legacy of Eskom;
- As the Premier seeks to appoint investment envoys, Wesgro, their world-class Trade, Tourism and Investment Promotion Agency has secured 299 investments since 2009, attracting R100 billion worth of Foreign Direct Investment and creating over 19 000 jobs;
- As we wish to now jump onto the cannabis band-wagon, vacant land has already been released in Atlantis for the production of medical cannabis; and
- As we struggled to find markets for our farmers, halal exports which are shipped past our shores on route to the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia and Mozambique from the Western Cape totaled R47-billion.
Madam Speaker, I know the ANC hates it when we speak about the Western Cape and their success. I do so today not to patronize, nor to gloat but only in the hope that we can together replicate the same success and opportunities for the people of our great province. There is no shame in learning from others, in fact it displays great maturity, wisdom and strength.
For the love of our people which I trust the Premier and I both share, I extend my hand today to offer assistance in setting up urgent engagements with the Western Cape government so that we can learn from their game-changers and implement them here for the benefit of our people. I may not drive a Bentley Madam Speaker, but if needs be, I will even drive the Premier up to Cape Town in my old Chevrolet Cruze.
Let us join hands and chart a bold and courageous new way forward for our province filled with hope and opportunity. History will judge us if we fail to do so now.