No matter how one looks at it, we humans haven’t yet come up with a better (honest) way to put food on the table than to engage in what we call ‘trading’, and our proposed Southern Cape Corridor (S.C.C.) should always be viewed from this enterprise perspective.
Despite the overwhelming faith South Africans seem to have in the menu of welfare handouts, the only sustainable way for individuals, families and communities to accumulate wealth is through investing (application) of their time, energy, space and intellect in the production/creation of goods and services for trade. Right now, the Southern Cape is now presented with a ‘once-in-a-century’ opportunity to establish, populate and grow a region-wide, integrated, trading platform, from and on which communities will be able to sustain themselves and grow profitable businesses. We must guard against our S.C.C. becoming just another spigot for government slush, graft, gratuitous taxation, or for that matter, a green-field for ever-grazing business politicians.
Traders are not interested in meetings on policy formulation, special zonings or listening to the hot-air of how governments will ‘enable and empower’. Our focus is on meeting the needs and wants of our clients and customers in efficient, progressive and profitable ways. When traders come across phrases like ‘participatory process’ and ‘spatial development frameworks’, we gag, and become hesitant and cynical, recognising the absence of any real-world trading experience, whether on a bourse, at a taxi-rank stall or as the owner of a formal business. Now hey listen, I love a good theory as much as the next chap, my problem is that the rarefied academics of the 19th and 20th century are of little to no value in the i-tech, my-tech, spy-tech real world of 2017. This applies as much to the birthing phase of the S.C.C. as it does to the ‘ínvention’ of Facebook. My point here is that the ‘powers that be’, and they are already problematic, must keep business politicians away from the birthing of our S.C.C. (This in the same way as you not allowing a car-guard to masquerade as the attending obstetrician at the birth of your child.)
Let me briefly illustrate this critical and foundational issue by using a single opportunity I highlighted in my short note published on Gremlin on Monday, 27 February 2017: timber processing and value add. The enterprise approach as the primary strategy to guide the planning phases of the S.C.C. would see commercially active, best-practice players in the timber processing value chain being invited to submit their context-specific, business needs to a central administrator. The ideas to drive the process forward would be gathered from plantation managers, logistics operators, bio-chemists and engineers, and furniture factory owners. In the event of business politicians leading the process, the development trends would be set by MECs, mayoral committee members, sector lobbyists, trade unions representatives, and community activists. By the umpteenth ‘cheese and wine’ workshop, this group would have generated a ‘wish-list’ for cadre deployment on a series of eighteen sub-committees to investigate the various aspects of Special Economic Development Zones !
Five thousand years of recorded economic history, albeit that the notes from the first thousand are a little scratchy and sketchy, holds the evidence that, when it comes to economic growth, the enterprise approach is tops – the Sumerians, the Phoenicians, and the Romans would all bear testament to this. If only Marie Antoinette had shouted: “Let them have TRADE !” perhaps she’d have kept her beautifully coiffed head, but politicians, female, royal or otherwise, will insist on the gravy … (and cake) train. The pragmatics of Adam Smith (1723-1790) will prove again that only growth in private sector profits increases tax revenue collection. (I wonder if Minister Gordhan reads The Gremlin ?) Our S.C.C. must be envisioned as a symbol of economic hope for the Garden Route, not as a vote-gathering, promise-making, political rallying podium. It’s now our turn to take a bite of the cherry – sekunjalo ke nako – and the time is now !