Welcome back to your full diaries. The holiday season is over and many Gautengers have returned from Cape Town and the coast to enjoy a proper shower. After a harrowing ANC conference Cyril Ramaphosa is the President of the ANC and after a somewhat less harrowing non-coup, Robert Mugabe has finally started his retirement and Grace Mugabe her early retirement.
2017 saw the Rand at its most generally volatile ever, and it did not disappoint in December after the abovementioned conference. Business confidence has been at record low levels. Our economy grew at 1%.
What will 2018 bring for business?
In my view, the most significant change is that the man in the street, and the average business-person is feeling less helpless. Just when it seemed that the slide into a bottomless pit of corruption and declining standards and delivery was inevitable; just when it seemed that the forces of mediocrity, ineptitude and dishonesty had gained control of every meaningful lever of state – the country seems to me to have said, “Enough!”
Devastating news regarding Steinhoff and its apparent lack of ethics have caused general business-people to realise that this is not all about the public sector. For every bribe or corrupt deal done within the public sector, there is an equal and opposite transaction in the private sector. Household names like KPMG, SAP and McKinsey have been dragged through the mud.
I expect that 2018 will bring increasing realisation that we are all in this together, and that we need to – and can – own our futures. The Free Tertiary Education and Land Redistribution debates are very serious but are merely proxy battles for the growing reality that we cannot leave 95% (or more) of our country behind. We cannot imprison ourselves behind the walls of our golf estates forever. Business needs to find its soul, and I expect that 2018 will herald a fresh decade of seismic change in how we define and measure corporate and government ethics.
I expect that there will be more meaningful public-private partnering, and the role of the NGOs will grow and become more important than ever. The call for real accountability is growing and this will continue.
I expect that confidence will slowly improve, but in a wait-and-see mode. I expect that the Rand will continue to be extremely volatile as we digest wins and losses. Politics will ebb and flow – it will not be easy or straightforward to remove Jacob Zuma from the presidency. We still have life-threatening time-bombs buried in our major parastatals and they will need to be confronted and dealt with one way or another. We desperately need the drought in the Cape to be broken. We hope that Zimbabwe has finally bottomed out and starts to show its real potential.
I expect that our youth will find their voices and will fiercely interrogate the Baby-Boomer systems as they are currently constructed. This trend will be global as American youth recoil at social roll-backs coming from the Trump government and the UK youth deal with the Brexit consequences brought about largely by their parents and even grand-parents. I fully expect young South Africans to be global thought-leaders in this space. We have the numbers and the passion.
I expect that the workplace will continue to be one of the most important forums for tackling racism and prejudice. Because of our history and our demographics we will continue to be world-leaders in this space, and our global contribution will be more and more important.
I expect that 2018 will be another very difficult, very noisy year. It will nevertheless be exciting and brimming with possibilities as well. I expect that we will see plenty of change, more positive than negative. I expect that we will get to January 2019, and we will be able to agree that we are in a better space than we were today.
Good luck, hold onto your hats!
Miles Crisp is the Tarsus Technology Group CEO.