Business Update: Issue 15

Business Update: Issue 15

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Progressive Leader - Issue 19

Progressive leader - Issue 19

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Speeches by Alderman Alan Yarrow during the PBF Business Program at the National General Council

This morning`s breakfast consists of more than just hope. There is also plenty of expectation, competence and a tingling sense of belief in South Africa`s developing position in the world. Just like the UK, South Africa rubs shoulders with the likes of China and India; countries many, many times our size and many, many times our population. And yet we compete. It`s a question of quality - the quality of our services and the quality of our people, as well as the attitude that if a job is worth doing, it is worth doing well. If you embody these qualities, you will always be an attractive proposition to investors and that will feed business, jobs and growth. This is certainly our approach in the UK.

Look at Crossrail, Europe`s biggest and most ambitious construction project and the biggest underground rail project anywhere in the world. We have over 10,000 people working across more than 40 construction sites, poring over 100 kilometres of tunnels under London. When it is finished, Crossrail will increase Central London`s rail capacity, support regeneration and cut travel times across the city. In fact, the project is so big, we had to build a specific training facility with unique qualifications to equip people with the skills they need to do the work with ground-breaking standards. These skills are the new industry benchmark across the world.

We are standing by to share our special skills and experience with our friends in South Africa. The relationship between our two countries is strong. It`s based on our old history of collaboration and partnership, but there are also current and contemporary reasons why our relationship might soon move into a golden era.

Over 300 South African companies operate in the UK. South African investment in the UK is up by 17%. In the last two years, in particular, we have seen our involvement skyrocketing, with retail expansions and acquisitions, further penetration in the private healthcare market and, of course, the recent Ashes cricket series sponsored by Investec, where we saw England rocket to an incredible victory against the Australians.

And there is also increasing UK investment in South Africa. UK foreign direct investment is worth around 110 billion dollars or 72 billion sterling, making the UK one of the largest investors - if not the largest investor. Almost half the stock of FDNI in South Africa originates from the UK, or from UK-based global companies, creating an estimated 250,000 jobs. We ought to build on it, in particular through your National Development Plan. The NDP paints a bold vision for South Africa`s economic trajection. At the centre of this must be effective and progressive partnerships formed between the public and private sector. And, as President Zuma recently said, government cannot be expected to achieve such audacious goals on its own, and business must play its part - a crucial and leading role in driving the economy forward.

We are aware that the principles of the NDP are not merely economic in nature. Instead, they provide a framework in ensuring the transformation of the South African society into one in which the challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality are meaningfully addressed. South Africa cannot afford to achieve growth in a vacuum - we must strive for growth that simultaneously empowers and incorporates those who have been excluded from the economy.

Before I went to bed last night, I was reminding myself of the aims of the NDP and my focus on the aspiration to increase university enrolment. You have wonderful universities in this country. It reminded me of a meeting in London two months before the last general election. On the panel was Frances O`Grady, the General-Secretary of the TUC, John Griffith, the Director-General of the CP, and me - three of the leading politicians of the three parties that were going to fight the election two months later. There was a unanimous decision made that evening, which is extraordinary. We talked about the fact that we have over 450,000 graduates who were reading the wrong subjects at university. Hopes were dashed - they were not employed on the strength of the degree.

Like you, we have a shortage of vocationally qualified people in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. And this is where business comes in. Business needs to be more involved with the education of people. They need to be involved when career decisions are made. People going to university and then further ports of education should find something that is actually going to be useful to everybody, not least of all to business.

We are committed to do all we can to partner the South African public with the private sector in this NDP initiative. We understand that UK partnership with South Africa in the key areas identified by the NDP, such as energy, infrastructure and ITQ, will require more than an exchange of principles on implementation or best practice. Partnership with South Africa calls for an symbiotic relationship focused on finding innovative tailored financing solutions along with a revolutionary approach that drives mutually beneficial strategies.

There is much evidence that this can be done. The figures I have mentioned earlier are testimony to this. But as I said, we ought to build on this, and that`s why we are here today. I believe much of the potential for achieving South Africa`s development and economic goals is in this room today. I also believe there is much to be gained through leveraging the support the UK can offer in terms of finance, delivery and extensive experience in areas such as Public Private Partnerships (PPPs).

The UK has a lot to offer. We can help through delivery and financing as well as education, training and qualifications. Our own Crossrail, for instance, wouldn`t have been possible without PPPs, which is one of our strong points. We invented it, we made the first mistakes, we learned from them - please use our experience. And I know that PPPs are controversial, we had that same debate in the UK. But if you are interested in innovative approaches to the PPPs, it can help unblock tricky projects. I hope you will speak to one of us - who knows, informal conversations might just end up throwing light on a new way in which we might contribute to your ambitions.

I`m sure there are obvious connections that we are missing, perhaps regarding primary education, or electricity generation, or professional qualifications. Perhaps regarding other areas of the National Development Plan, or something else entirely. Whatever your focus, we will unite to support you and allow you to give us the green light.

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