The inaugural Drakensberg Inclusive Growth Forum hosted by the Kgalema Motlanthe Foundation brought together individuals from the government and public sector, civil society, trade unions, business and private sector to discuss issues on land reform, state capture, youth inclusion and economic growth. President Motlanthe shared that the forum marks a shared belief in the future of South Africa and is integral to the advancement and the deepening of a democratic culture. “The people, leaders and organisations gathered here in the Drakensberg represent a unique cross-sectional view of South African society. The Forum and this annual gathering serve as a way to strengthen democracy through multilateral strategies.”
Professor Nick Binedell, Programme Director and member of the steering committee shared that the forum aims to inspire debate on strategies toward the development of an inclusive resilient South African economy. “As a country in transformation and transition, there is an urgency for South Africans to come together to discuss the nation’s current opportunities and challenges.” Binedell highlighted the desperate need to address years plagued by low economic growth and high levels of unemployment. He further reiterated the need for ethical accountable leadership that orients the nation and its leaders into action.
Youth leader and #FeesMustFall activist Shaeera Kalla reminded stakeholders that we must actively engage with the inherited legacies of colonialism and apartheid that continue to limit the opportunities of young people in South Africa. For years, as Kalla noted, young people have been spoken about and engaged with as an ad hoc group in society, invited to share perspectives but not imagined as key stakeholders that underpin decision making. New strategies must place marginal, excluded identities at the core of decision making policy and practice. Women, children, LGBTI+, the youth, persons with a disability, including those living with invisible disabilities and mental health must be at the heart of crafting policy interventions.
The systematic diagnostic report by the World Bank describes South Africa as “An Incomplete Transition”, arguing that the “legacy of exclusion in land, labour, capital and product markets hamper growth.” Currently, the country is failing and will continue to fail young people if we are not able to shape new inclusive strategies that grant young people access to these critical resources.
For years, youth unemployment has been identified as a key challenge, facilitating a generation of discouraged job seekers, and leaving many in a state of expanded unemployment and excluded from the economy. Insufficient skills and a lack of meaningful coordination between state and business actors have not addressed this in a substantial way, resulting in an economy that is not fully representative of the population. The Forum created space to reflect and develop new insights on the growing unemployment rate and highlighted disjunctures between imagined policy actors and their constituents. Stakeholders actively proposed new ways of integrating existing industries and sectors as well as rethinking the country’s education system to shape enhanced classroom learning with digital technologies.
Still, in 2018, many children who are born today face near identical experiences and constraints to that of their parents. In his keynote address, President Cyril Ramaphosa, spoke of developing pathways that would see the realisation of early childhood development for all; with access to well-resourced health facilities in communities that are safe and value the lives of women and children. He further highlighted the need to develop cities and housing that are inclusive in their spatial architecture, with communities that have schools that are centres of innovation and excellence.
To achieve inclusive economic growth, President Ramaphosa shared that “we must collectively respond to the ways in black South Africans remain excluded. Addressing skewed asset ownership and the current skill shortage will improve the lives of the most vulnerable. This, in turn, has the ability to realise improved standards of living and further lead to broader development objectives such as the improvement in basic education outcomes.”