As a tumultuous year starts winding down, it becomes clear upon reflection just how important sound leadership is, whether at an organisational or national level. As the body of evidence around State capture continues to mount, and given the sad state of our economy, education system, social services, and SOEs, it is undeniable that Jacob Zuma has been an abysmal leader. The ANC’s 54th National Conference taking place in Gauteng from the 16th to the 20th December therefore becomes a key milestone in our National trajectory. Depending on the calibre of new political leadership elected at that conference, South Africa could either be a much better, or much worse, place at the dawn of the new year. Whilst we’re all hoping for an improvement in political leadership, it is apparent that the private sector will have a significant role to play with respect to undoing a lot of the damage that has been done since 2009 when Jacob Zuma took up the reins of government.

Business unity and greater collaboration are therefore imperative if we are to steady the ship and chart a new course toward National prosperity. The corporate community has the resources, experience, and ability to play a substantial part in realising the true potential of this great country. This community has however not been spared the horrors of poor leadership, as we have seen on numerous occasions during the past year. If we are to play a meaningful role in taking this country forward, we need to start holding each other accountable to much higher ethical standards and become the example of good leadership we hope to see in the political realm. Our Leadership Spotlight this quarter is a prime example of great leadership as we speak to Gareth Hawkey, CEO at redPanda Software.

As we all look toward Gauteng in anticipation better political leadership in a month’s time, a significant crisis has emerged closer to home. Following three unexpected years of severe drought, Cape Town now faces the very real prospect of becoming the first major city in the world to run out of water. Despite accusations being levelled at city officials and politicians, this water crisis was extremely hard to predict and given the substantial costs of introducing new sources of water, also very hard to mitigate timeously. Nevertheless, South Africans are a hardy bunch and even though we will likely undergo a tough adjustment period, we will inevitably recover from this, and work has already begun to rally all spheres of government, business and academia to work together on finding solutions to the problem. It is important however that we remain focused on solutions rather than seeking to lay blame for the crisis. Behavioural change and enhanced awareness are key to resolving this crisis, and some great work has been done by Stellenbosch University in support of this by developing and installing smart meters at regional schools.

With the rapid evolution of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning threatening to displace countless jobs, entrepreneurship becomes increasingly important. The corporate community has the potential to contribute substantially toward higher levels of entrepreneurship through Enterprise and Supplier Development, and ACT will be launching an exciting ESD initiative at our Thought Leadership event on the 10th November. This is likely to become a headline project and we look forward to working with you to build stronger bridges between corporates and SMEs.

Despite the notion that SA always seems to be lurching from one crisis to another, we are a resilient nation with a national spirit forged by adversity. We have enormous potential to assume our rightful place as continental leaders but will need to activate our predominantly youthful population as productive members of society, and create new opportunities that inspire a sense of belief, hope and optimism. The Youth Employment Service (YES!) aims to do just that, so please consider joining the cause.

Kind regards,