Trevor Ncube, entrepreneur and publisher of South Africa’s Mail & Guardian newspaper addressed corporate leaders on their silence on key threats to the country’s economic longevity. Speaking at the Accelerate Cape Town AGM, Ncube appealed to big business to speak out more. “We have a leadership crisis in South Africa”, he said “but it is not limited to government. Where are the private sector leaders who are prepared to speak truth to power despite the risk of losing the next government tender?” Ncube raised a few points of concern:

Judiciary: Ncube cited that the business community’s response to the SA government’s decision to allow the escape of Sudanese President al-Bashir from the country in June – made in contravention of the two High Court orders – was notably missing. He said: “I am concerned about the view of politicians vis-à-vis the judiciary [but where is] the voice of the private sector . Where do you stand – silently hoping that the problem will go away or will you speak up as business?”

Local Government: Of equal concern to Ncube is the state of local government. “Towns, cities and municipalities are decaying and are being used as ATMs for people to collect money without working for that money. People without infrastructure will rise up for electricity, water and schools. What is the private sector’s view on this important issue?” he asked.

Civil Society: Ncube called on business to more actively invest in supporting civil society to help strengthen its voice as a means by which to challenge the status quo. He said: “Civil society is not as vibrant as it was. We have a funding crisis in South Africa in that business does not fund civil society. Foreigners are left to fund it. Do we value the important role of civil society?”

Cape Town’s Growth: Ncube also pointed out some of his views on Cape Town. These included that Cape Town is not taking the opportunities to grow key sectors such as tech start-ups and the film industry and losing out to Nairobi and Nigeria respectively. Accelerate Cape Town’s research indicates that Cape Town and Nairobi are both considered vibrant cities for tech start-ups and innovation. Also, our film industry has experienced an annual growth rate of 14% for 5 years with some global blockbusters being filmed in Cape Town, while Nollywood, as the second largest film industry in the world, is producing many low-budget productions for regional distribution.

Gavin Tipper, Chairman of Accelerate Cape Town, spoke of grave concerns of the current state of South Africa, including a dearth of leadership with few catalysts for change. “It is vital that business steps up to the plate to provide the necessary leadership, and it is only able to do so if given a strong voice. Accelerate Cape Town is one of the organisations that has a crucial role to play in the next period of South Africa’s development,” he said.

See the photos from our AGM.