Last year I combined forces with Brett Bowes and Steuart Pennington, the editors of "South Africa: The Good News", to produce what we believe is an important new book. It is called "South Africa 2014: The Story of our Future".
Our first books examined the great progress that South Africa has made as a nation since 1994. We produced them because most South Africans at the time just didn't know the facts.
The first ten years of the "New South Africa" has seen the country turn its economy around, establish the most progressive constitution in the world, provide massive delivery in terms of access to water, sanitation, housing, electricity and land, and make major improvements to the education and criminal justice systems.
Our economy now has a world-class stock exchange and banking sector, excellent corporate governance, a strong commitment to the triple bottom line and corporate social investment, and a continually improving global credit rating.
Few South Africans have been aware of just how much these measures have improved - partly because Government is only now starting to communicate its achievements, and partly because the media needs to do more in celebrating good news. Talking these achievements up is critical if we are to stimulate domestic and foreign investment, improve our own confidence levels and reap the social benefits of faster growth.
Since our first books were released both the consumer and business confidence indexes (indices?) have risen dramatically. It seems that a critical mass of good progress and good news has bubbled up into corporate performance and consumer pockets.
Many things depend on these optimistic levels being maintained. Foreign, Business and Government fixed capital investment are at record levels because of it, and job creation is beginning to follow. For the first time in decades, we now have the opportunity to enter a virtuous circle of growth, investment, job creation, growth…
"South Africa 2014: The Story of our Future" is a collection of the opinions of more than 70 prominent experts who write about what we can expect in their particular area of expertise over the next ten years and what we should be doing as a nation to ensure that South Africa meets its fantastic potential by 2014. The very wide range of contributors includes President Thabo Mbeki, Nicky Newton-King, Zwelenzima Vavi, Pravin Gordhan, Iraj Abedian, Wendy Luhabe, Nick Mallett, Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein, and Johnny Clegg. The book consists of 21 chapters which deal with the aspects of South African life that will have a significant influence on our future.
"South Africa 2014" is a sober attempt to look forward, given that we now have a ten year track record to project from. Although we have overcome many challenges, we still have some in front of us. As we go forward into the next decade we need to build "memories of the future" by talking now of the future we want; we need to develop a vision that crosses many of our inherent divides by sharing experiences, perceptions and learning; and we need to work on building trust in each other and in our common heritage.
Essentially, addressing the future should be about discussing possible and desirable outcomes given different inputs. As such, it provides a vehicle for formulating strategies in the present that can lead us to the most desirable situation in the future. South Africa was one of the first countries in the world to actively use the power of scenario planning. It helped us to avoid the inevitable breakdown of society and civil war that apartheid almost delivered.
But for our fledgling democracy, in a fast changing world, the job of scenario planning is even more important today than it was in the past. The challenges posed by globalisation, unemployment and HIV/AIDS demand that we build upon these skills and work ever harder at creating the South Africa we want to live in. Like in the Eighties, we should again initiate a new nationwide participative and diverse dialogue on the future of South Africa. This book is part of that broad socioeconomic discourse so necessary to create "memories of the future".
While having different approaches, where all the contributors to "South Africa 2014" are in agreement with the editors is that our country has the potential for a tremendously bright future. However, they also all agree that we as South Africans need to celebrate more our achievements and work towards the future with a more positive attitude than we have in the past. The only way we can meet the potential that we have as a nation is by engendering hope and faith in our country and our fellow South Africans. Everyone must do their bit to build a "high-trust" community: Government, business, civil society and the media.
We believe that hope in South Africa's future and faith in our people requires that:
- Afro-pessimism must give way to Afro-optimism
- Euro-centrism must give way to Afro-centrism
- Cynicism must give way to legitimate scepticism
- Pejorative mudslinging must give way to constructive openness
- Oppressive regulatory control must give way to flexible, enabling practice.
We also believe that South Africa is in a unique position in the world in that it is the subject of three miracles. The first miracle we all know about; the miracle of the political transformation of the early 1990s, that process of taking the political "high road" that so many around the world did not expect us to take.
The second miracle, less celebrated but just as important, has been the process of building a solid economic and social infrastructural foundation that is fast becoming a wonder of the world. It has been the process of developing a liberal democratic political institution while simultaneously adopting the principles of a market-orientated economy.
Our third miracle is something that we all have to work on right now and over the next ten years. That is the miracle of moving towards ubuntu capitalism and ubuntu democracy. Government, Business and Civil Society need to move away from the mistrust that has characterised so much of this country's past and build a new and deep trust. We need to become socially and culturally familiar and comfortable with the other players on our national team. Such trust thrives on and builds on personal understanding, mutual respect and a belief that each of the parties will go to the ends of the earth to help build our country, and to help the other players achieve their goals sustainably.
Synergy-creating solutions require us to do things differently and to create value for mutual gain. Our motor industry programme, brokered in this way, has grown exports from R4bn to R40bn a year. It was born out of crisis, but it proved the value of the ubuntu way. Imagine a world where solutions and synergies of this scale are commonplace, and are created just "because we can" - and because we trust each other enough to know that the value created will be applied to the benefit of everyone.
A South Africa endowed with this third miracle will be thriving by 2014. It will have competitive advantage. Investment will rise and poverty, unemployment and crime will decline. Aids sufferers and orphans will be loved and cared for and we will all be substantially wealthier. Not only materially, but also in mind and in spirit.
But third miracles, like our first and second miracles, don't come easily. We challenge you as we enter our second ten years in the new South Africa - as an individual, as a corporate or as the President - to ask yourself: "Am I doing enough to build this trust and this ubuntu respect?" Let us all work together to make 2014 our best year yet.
Guy Lundy is a writer, consultant and professional speaker. He can be contacted on email@example.com
* NOTE: The comments and opinions in this article are those of the author. They do not reflect the views of the Shareviews panel.