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South Africa needs strong bold leadership with clear direction and implementation, say scenario planners

By Suné Payne 4 August 2021

Author Clem Stunter. (Photo: Gallo Images / Foto24 / Michael Hammond) | Author Mitch Ilbury. (Photo: Supplied)

The relationship between thinking and doing was ‘absolutely critical’, but was something South Africa had not got right.

Suné Payne

On Wednesday, during a live journalism event hosted by Daily Maverick Associate Editor Ferial Haffajee, authors Mitch Ilbury and Clem Sunter agreed that better planning and, more importantly, better implementation will make South Africa better prepared for its future. 

The two authors joined Haffajee to discuss their latest book, Thinking the Future: New Perspectives from the Shoulders of Giants on how to plan better for the future. 

Sunter said he had wanted to produce a popular book on planning for individuals. 

He said scenario planning could have helped with the Covid-19 pandemic: when the flu-like virus started to spread rapidly from Wuhan, China in December, “that could have alerted the world to the pandemic quickly”. Sunter added this is exactly what scenario planning is – putting risks on the table and watching for certain flags in plans. 

Haffajee questioned if scenario planning was evident in documents such as the National Development Plan

Ilbury pointed out the relationship between thinking and doing was “absolutely critical”, but was something South Africa had not got right. 

“Right now, understanding our current context, we need strong bold leadership with clear direction and implementation,” said Ilbury. He added that he did not know what the problems were that could possibly stop President Cyril Ramaphosa from implementation, aside from his mediator role in his political party. 

Sunter said it was a critical point that the world of work had changed, where countries such as the US were showing increases in small and micro business rather than big businesses. A focus on small and micro businesses could help alleviate unemployment, particularly youth unemployment. Business Maverick reported in June that the expanded unemployment rate for young people in SA was a staggering 74.7%. 

“We’ve got to change the whole nature of the economy,” Sunter said. 

Ilbury questioned how learners needed to be educated for a future in 2050. Will the current type of education being taught across the country be relevant in 2050? 

 “At the moment, no,” he said. 

Ilbury said the key priority would be to ensure that there is infrastructure for learners, “because the world is on the internet”.

About flags, or keys to watch out for, Sunter pointed to new businesses, and proper financial facilities for supporting small businesses, and unemployment. 

Ilbury said there needed to be substantial economic support for businesses. In addition, skills capacity in schools needed to improve. 

Sunter said scenario planning was “crucial” in these instances. DM

Find a copy of the book in the Daily Maverick shop here.

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All Comments 3

  • As usual, Clem was excellent and is still the same passionate, charismatic speaker that he was 30 years ago. One thing that isn’t mentioned in your summary is that he said that if Cyril does nothing (as is his wont) we will see continued out breaks of anarchy.

  • I’m not sure how these Scenario Planners imagine our present government can rise above their state of ideological confusion to provide ‘strong & bold leadership’, when their alliance partners being the CP (for whom the economy is a western capitalist concept) and the Unions (which basically has the same view, but is prepared to extort it via annual strikes so regular it’s referred to as ‘a season’). Perhaps they can meet up with Tito, who is more likely to want to chat about his new chicken dish. Truth is, the apartheid hatchet needs took be buried, because it’s a distraction, and along with it the notion of nationalising everything that still has value. Speaking of which – if there’s something the State should nationalise, however, in order to equalise, it’s Internet access and data.

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