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Pro-poor LED fails our cities, towns & the poor: Enterprises of the right kind generate city growth

There is an intriguing symbiosis between cities and towns on the one hand and enterprises on the other. As the world population urbanise, so are business activities.

Physicist Geoffrey West in his “Scale:  The Universal Laws of Life, Growth and Death in Organisms, Cities and Companies” says based on city growth one can state precisely what will happen with the number of businesses in that city: a doubling of population does not require a doubling of grocery stores or filling stations, economies of scale kick in in a predictable manner. The reverse is also true.

Geoffrey West & Scale

Unfortunately, South Africa’s economic and enterprise development policies and strategies ignore these predictable realities. In addition, LED plans by municipalities in the main demonstrate a lack of understanding of what drives development.

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Creating jobs and reducing poverty: why not enable the informal sector properly?

Author: Frederick Fourie

President Cyril Ramaphosa aims to set the country on a new path of growth, employment and transformation. Key to this are action plans for employment creation, to be deliberated at a jobs summit.

The South African Informal Sector: Providing jobs, reducing povertyA new edited volume, published by HSRC Press, flags the importance of explicitly addressing the informal sector in such initiatives, given the key role it plays in providing paid employment and reducing poverty. The book is based on research done in the Research Project for Employment, Income Distribution and Inclusive Growth (REDI3x3).

This research shows unambiguously that the informal sector is an important source of employment (and of paid employment), with a growing propensity to employ. Regrettably, for many decades the sector has remained forgotten or, at best, in the margins of economic analysis and policy consciousness. Many policy makers appear to group it together with formal SMMEs. Such an approach risks missing key elements of the ‘forgotten’ world of informal enterprises – their potential, the constraints they face, their particular vulnerability, and the policy support they need to be viable and self-standing.

How many jobs are created in the informal sector?

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The folly of creating businesses whilst tolerating a criminal-friendly environment

The South African enterprise world remains in critical condition despite numerous initiatives to cultivate entrepreneurship and new businesses since the real causes undermining its well-being are not addressed.  One of the fundamental causes for a struggling enterprise world is the fact that SA is more criminal-friendly than enterprise friendly.

Mooi River LEGO

We’ve seen that:

Comfortable in this paradigm, Government embarked on an interventionist road to transform the economy in accordance with its perceived reality. It launched a range of black enterprise incubation programs with massive grants, prescriptive procurement strategies, BEE, industry charters, interference with IP and a commitment to even expropriate without compensation.

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Are our enterprise policies shaped by obsessions? Paradigm paralysis (2)

Ramaphosa’s Manifesto – “A New Deal” – envisages the “massifying” of black enterprises to promote growth and job creation. It is shaped – like the National Development Plan – by the paradigm of SMEs as prime agents for growth and jobs. As the belief in the curative effects of bloodletting – it was the general consensus – acted as a barrier that prevented the consideration of alternative treatments, the belief in SMEs obscures evidence that net job creation is largely independent of firm size.

Convictions, one must remember, do not necessarily yield to evidence.

Masaai Mara crossing

For the creation of several hundred thousand successful businesses (or would “massifying” – Ramaphosa’s term – imply businesses by the million?) there needs to be at least a similar number of entrepreneurs with effective business skills and plans for these businesses to have a chance of survival.

But for a business to succeed one needs other ingredients than mere entrepreneurial aptitude and astute management: it requires support from customers and clients. Successful “massifying” of new businesses would therefore depend on a prior (or at least simultaneous) mushrooming of the spending power of existing consumers and/or the “massifying” of consumers.

On that, the New Deal is silent… Could a 2016 warning about economic transformation hold the explanation?

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Enterprise policies as untested as the practice of bloodletting: no wonder they fail (1)

More than 3000 years the practice of bloodletting was applied to cure a range of illnesses: intense headaches, constipation, abdominal pain, boils or fever… It was administered by barbers (they had sharp blades) and later by qualified doctors. Some of the famous who received this treatment were Marie Antoinette (when giving birth in 1778 to her daughter Marie-Therese) and George Washington in 1799 on the day of his death when doctors drew about 40% of his blood in an attempt to cure him from a severe throat infection. In Washington’s case, the bloodletting did not cure him and one can only wonder to which extent it had contributed to his death. In 1793 acute bloodletting by guillotine definitely caused the demise of Marie Antoinette.

Why did the bloodletting practice with its origins in ancient Egypt continue until a century ago as an esteemed medical practice? Two reasons:

  • The existing paradigm considered bloodletting successful, elevating it to the realm beyond questioning or doubt. It was practised by all the trained practitioners. It was therefore not questioned. Respect for specialist insistence on accepted practice re-enforces paradigmatic reign. Even after the description of the circulatory system by William Harvey in 1628 it took three centuries before the practice of bloodletting was largely abandoned as an unproven cure. One of the most striking examples of this blind acceptance of so-called “expert opinion” is the 1500 years that Greek physician Galen’s doctrines were revered. Galen said of one of his cures: “All who drink of this remedy recover in a short time, except those whom it doesn’t help who all die. It is obvious that it fails only in incurable cases.

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If you think a clean municipal audit is scarce, try to get a call answered quickly

Are we becoming a nation that celebrate losses? After each of the many Springbok losses ex Bok coach Allister Coetzee oversaw, he found “much positive to build on”. When reacting to the Auditor General’s scathing report about the financial management at local level, Zweli Mkhize, Minister of Cooperative Governance & Traditional Affairs and his deputy Andries Nel reminded me of Coetzee.

The Auditor General (AG) reported:

  • A 75% deterioration in in unauthorised expenditure to a level of R28.3 billion – a figure higher than the expected income from the increase in the VAT rate;
  • Team Failing Clean Audit Municipalities trumped team Clean Audit Municipalities by 224 – 33, a loss comparable to the All Black’s 57 – 0 trashing of the Boks, though damaging not only South Africans’ enthusiasm, but their financial well-being too;

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