Reversal of fortunes

Mensa Winelands Yvonne Steyn with scenario planning expert, Clem Sunter.

When last Bolander reported on the views of celebrated scenario planner, Clem Sunter (Bolander, “Our possible futures”, October 28 2015), about where South Africa might be headed, there were three possible scenarios. Using a football analogy, Mr Sunter said we could either remain in the Premier League of Nations, drift slowly downward into the Second Division, or end up being a failed state.

In probabilistic terms, based on the research Mr Sunter and colleague Chantelle Illbury had done, we had an even chance – 45% – for each of Premier League and Second Division scenarios, and only 10% for the Failed State scenario.

Speaking at a Mensa function at Helderberg Village in Somerset West last Thursday evening, Mr Sunter revealed that recent research indicates that while the failed state scenario remains at 10% probablility, drifting into the Second Division is now a 60% probability, and remaining in the Premier League only 30% probable.

The determination of probability, is influenced by the process of “flag watching”, which as Mr Sunter put it, is “determining what is changing the game right now as far as business (and the world) is concerned”. Flags can be either red or green, and Mr Sunter cited corruption, state of infrastructure, leadership, pockets of excellence, and entrepreneurial spark as the flags to watch.

The corruption flag is not as negative as the others Mr Sunter noted, because of the recent pushback by civil society, political parties and even elements within the ANC, against the revelations of corruption and state capture in the former Public Protectors report, that of the faith-based community, and the academic community, and the allegations contained in the #GuptaLeaks.

“It has already resulted in electoral losses for the ANC in Nelson Mandela Bay, johannesburg and Tshwane,” Mr Sunter said. “This flag is cloudy rather than red, because we don’t know what will happen in December at the ANC elective conference when the new ANC president is elected.”

“If we’re to achieve between three and five percent (GDP) growth, we need quality infrastructure,” Mr Sunter said, citing China, where economic growth had been underpinned by significant infrastructure spending by government.

“Take roads, for example,” Mr Sunter said. “Today people talk about driving on what’s left of the road, rather than driving on the left of the road in South Africa.”

“This is a mixed flag, with Eskom on track, but there are questions about other SOEs (state-owned enterprises) like SAA with a pending R10 billion bailout, and the state of the SABC, for example.”

“Leadership needs to be inclusive, because it has a huge impact on the country’s future growth prospects,” Mr Sunter said.

Citing the example of Manchester United, Mr Sunter said: “While Alex Ferguson was managing Man United, they won everything, because of his style of leadership, which was inclusive, but when he left, the club went into decline.”

“We are more divided now as a nation than any time since 1994,” he said, “when we had Nelson Mandela, who was an inclusive leader.

“The question is, will whoever comes into power in December be more or less unifying, as it will impact our future for years to come.”

“We need pockets of excellence in South Africa to continue to attract investment and tourism,” Mr Sunter said, identifying Helderberg Village, the venue of his talk, as such a pocket of excellence, noting it was voted the world’s best international retirement development in 2012. “Question is, will we multiply our pockets of excellence, or will we end up being dumbed down?”

“The president needs to rule with a cool head, while allowing the people who ca mnake our economy grow, to get on with it.”

“The days of a degree on your CV guaranteeing you a job with a corporate are a thing of the past,” Mr Sunter said. “Most young people will have to become entrepreneurs, yet, our education system still teaches children about a job market that existed 30 years ago. There is no focus on entrepreneurship, so there is no fostering of the entrepreneurial spark we need.”

In conclusion, Mr Sunter spoke of the “economic Codesa” which he believes we need to have, as a matter of urgency. Citing a debate he had with EFF leader Julius Malema last year, he said: “I pointed out to Julius (Malema) that nationalising the commanding heights of the economy wouldn’t result in economic prosperity. We need an economic Codesa between government and business, a hard negotiation process, during which sacrifices will have to be made.

“Radical economic transformation should be about promoting entrepreneurship, and about taking radical steps like integrating former township and city economies, like for example Khayelitsha, Cape Town and Stellenbosch.”