Reading the article by Ricardo Hausmann ( https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/south-africa-zuma-knowhow-shortage-by-ricardo-hausmann-2017-03 ) and its analysis on why South Africa has failed to reach the objectives it set itself in 1994 so far and the “radical” tone of the South African President’s recent State-Of-The-Nation (SONA) speech I believe the author misses the point by assuming facts not in evidence. First of all South Africans are not looking for “Black” domination as he implies, they’re looking for an equitable distribution of wealth and an end to poverty to a great percentage of citizens through jobs, participation in the mainstream economy or through entrepreneurship. As with all conversations of this kind, the issue is much more complex than evident from outside, especially, but it is just as complex for those in it. In fact, the general sentiments by those who pay attention to such matters were that there was nothing radical about the president’s SONA.
The problem is that the first piece around access to wealth either through jobs or ownership in existing organisations will be (and has been) difficult to attain because the owners of capital are holding on to it, rightly so. So they create, consciously or unconsciously, structural mechanisms to protect this wealth. Again understandably so. The only way for them to let go is through an act of law or government intervention. And this will always leave a bad taste in the capital owner’s mouth.
The BEE Act is one of these mechanisms. But as I always say, in all my years of working with people and organisations, I do not know anyone who will do something because they are told to. So legislative imperatives almost invariably fail if not accompanied by other soft-hand approaches. And this in my analysis is why BEE is failing…not completely but by a long short.
In the last 20 years or so the government has done fantastic work in creating enabling infrastructure to create new wealth through entrepreneurship, create better education and national skills development. There are more entrepreneurs, more black graduates, and more trade trained people than in 1994. The problem with these mechanisms so far is that they are not accompanied by a unified vision about the country, leading to many of these systems working against each other (a clear case of accidental adversaries). The other problem is a unified Mindset shift to deprogramme the people who have for years been traumatized by years of struggle, oppression and now functioning in a complex global environment characterized by global and regional inter-country dynamics. For example, many staff members in these institutions, while trained, do not usually have the right attitude to execute their function.
Coupled with a leadership team that itself is still caught up in this fear dynamic, there’s a small chance of success.
I have been traveling across the continent in the last year since attending the MIT programme with Otto Scharmer and I have been asking the question what really stops leaders from achieving the results they want, and this anxiety about the present and preoccupation with creating securing lower level needs (a la Maslow) is the key driver to this failure in economic policies. When a leader is working at a fear level of consciousness, they cannot think of anyone but themselves and protection of their own needs. And my research across the continent shows that many of our leaders are working from a fear space as opposed to a needs space.
During my second year study in economics, I quickly realised that economics is more about human psychology rather than control over “factors” of production. The human factor is THE fulcrum to key economic transformation. And an understanding of this small but critical fact by leaders calls for a different interpretation of “radical economic development”. It calls for government leaders to change their mindset about how they think about the country and the process of economic policy design. It doesn’t require more education or more skills, since all of that can be learned. It requires a radical shift in leading. It requires the use of the word LOVE in the government leadership vocabulary. It requires leaders to move from managing and controlling things and knowing things and doing things to serving people. And THAT is exactly the reason we will remain where we are for another 20 years. Moving from fear to needs based leadership style (see fig.1) requires the Radical Mindset shift that I know many South Africans will welcome. Not a black country or a white country but an equitable country led with love!