Address by Productivity SA Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Mr Mothunye Mothiba

Address by Productivity SA Chief executive officer (CEO), Mr Mothunye Mothiba to staff at the occasion of the launch of the Productivity month, 1 October 2020

Programme Director, Ms Lalane Janse van Rensburg;
The Chairman of the Board, Professor Mthunzi Mdwaba
Our guest speaker, Mr Billy Selekane
Productivity SA Executive Management and staff

Programme Director, as I address and participate in this important event today, South Africans are hardly two weeks into Level 1 of the National Lockdown and if activities observed within the mainstream media and social media during Heritage Day are anything to go by, our fellow citizens have been itching to be outdoors to dance to the Jerusalema tune, among others.

It seems like a lifetime ago when President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the Level 5 national lockdown in March due to Covid-19, but be that as it may be, a lot has happened and we all had to learn new ways of working (including remote work which we started in April) and doing things as we were navigating the New Normal.

The Level 1 of the National Lockdown was pronounced at the right time towards the end of September (which is the Heritage Month in South Africa) and towards the beginning of October (which is the Productivity Month in South Africa). I think it is proper that I should pause to wish us all a happy Productivity Month. I have been reliably advised that, to mark the Productivity Month, several productivity advocacy and public awareness campaigns and seminars aimed at promoting productivity holistically across sectors (national, sector and enterprise level) and to inculcate a productivity culture and mind-set as well as driving accountability for productivity performance have been organised. I encourage staff to participate in these events to recalibrate and reenergise.

Ladies and gentlemen, we are all now aware that the common thread in South Africa and globally in the past few months or in 2020 has been a need to change and more importantly adapt to change, and this has been the case for us as Productivity Champions, Ambassadors and Revolutionaries.

As the popular saying goes “ change is the only constant” and if there is anything that has been consistent in 2020, then it is change. The world (including the Future of Work) as we truly know is drastically changing, and at the same time disrupting our socioeconomic and labour market systems and business models. Overnight we have had to adapt to working remotely, with more reliance on ICT. In the blink of an eye we have had to move from embracing each other and gathering in one room for meetings to communicating remotely.

As we reflect on the Productivity Month, and particularly “Our role in supporting entrepreneurs to rebuild their businesses post COVID-19””, I would like to highlight the following:
Productivity SA has had to find new ways of interacting and servicing its clients and for once the phrase “hit the ground running” seems to have happened in the literal sense. However, it is one thing to hit the ground running, but it is another to hit the ground and be successful in the process. Has Productivity SA been successful in this sense? Time will tell and as strategist and author of The Strategy Book, Max McKeown, says “All failure is failure to adapt, all success is successful adaptation.” For Productivity SA to be successful and to deliver on its mandate, the entity has had to adapt.

As we mark Productivity Month, I would like to take this opportunity and outline to you as colleagues on how we can adapt and ensure Productivity SA spurs the South African economy into a higher economic growth trajectory and create jobs. We need to join hands to unlock South Africa’s productivity potential through strategy and innovation.

Firstly, allow me to remind us all of our mandate, which is to promote employment growth and productivity thereby contributing to South Africa’s socio-economic development and competitiveness. To give effect to our mandate, we designed our programmes (CIS and BT&R) to promote productivity holistically across sectors (national, sector and enterprise level) to inculcate a productivity culture and mind-set as well as driving accountability for productivity performance.

Secondly, I think we were visionary when we took a decision to restructure the entity to ensure that it is ready to adapt and be relevant, long before Covid-19 hit our shores. I believe that Productivity SA is now an agile organisation that is well aligned to deliver on its role of “Enhancing the Productivity and operational efficiency of enterprises to be competitive and sustainable to preserve jobs and create new decent jobs”.

Thirdly, our decision to implement the revised Organisational Structure (particularly at regional level including establishment of Region 1) with effect from 1st April 2020, put us on a journey to enhancing the capability of Regional Operations to improve access to services and programmes, including the Competitiveness Improvement Services (CIS) and Business Turnaround and Recovery (BT&R).

With the release of funds for the Business Turnaround and Recovery Programme, we are strategically positioned to provide Turnaround Strategies and Plans to restructure and improve the productivity and operational efficiency of companies facing economic distress to save jobs or minimise the retrenchment of employees. We will now be able to provide technical support to enterprises with the aim of increasing the profitability of companies and saving jobs thereby sustaining employment growth.

With our improved partnership with the dtic, we are now through the Competitiveness Improvement Services (CIS) Programme, well prepared to provide support to enterprises to improve their competitiveness and sustainability to preserve current jobs and create new decent jobs. We are now ready to support South Africa’s strategic objectives in scaling up efforts to promote long term industrialisation and transformation of the economy targeting enterprises of all sizes within the priority productive sectors, as outlined in the Sector Master Plans.

It was not a mistake to adopt “The Productivity SA Way of Doing Business – focusing on Services and Product Innovation, including an Integrated Enterprise Development Model.” This will assist us in helping enterprises in South Africa to become more competitive through the adoption of best operating practices.

With restructuring and repositioning to be a Centre of Excellence in mind, I believe that, what remains is to be an Expert Authority in the Productivity and Competitiveness field. We have an obligation to lead the discourse in Unlocking South Africa’s productivity potential for sustained competitiveness and economic growth post COVID-19. Our interventions and Plans should highlight the need for productivity to be addressed holistically at all levels (national, sector and enterprise) to ensure a systemic change across the economy, which is a departure from previous fragmented efforts to raise productivity.

It is pivotal that, we should incessantly direct our energies to enhancing the productivity and operational efficiency of SMMEs to improve their competitiveness and sustainability to preserve current jobs and create decent jobs which the economy requires the most beyond COVID-19.

Our decision to focus on SMMEs as a catalyst for full and productivity employment and decent work for all is not misplaced. This is premised on a body of knowledge and evidence that, SMMEs and entrepreneurs are innovators with tremendous potential to drive sustainable and inclusive growth through the employment they generate, the business practices they choose to adopt, the sectors in which they operate, and are the backbone of a thriving society. We need to turn our attention and focus to improving the competitiveness and performance of our economy targeting the priority economic sectors which are identified in the Sector Master Plans. Moving forward, fostering a productivity culture and mind-set, as well as to underscore productivity as a catalyst for sustained competitiveness and economic growth is critical if we are to reset and transform our economy.

The strategic partnerships we create into the future should enhance our capacity to accelerate and improve on the delivery of an Integrated Enterprise Development Model for South Africa. The ILO and related partners have come to the table, including the provision of the ILO’s SCORE (Sustaining Competitive and Responsible Enterprises) Programme, which is geared to SMMEs, and the KAIZEN Programme are examples of the world-class productivity and competitiveness improvement programmes recommended for supporting entrepreneurs and SMMEs to be competitive and sustainable.

Beyond COVID-19, the future dictates that, we should turn our attention and focus to mitigating, with urgency and diligence, enhancement of the competitiveness and sustainability of SMMEs to prevent further job losses and create new and decent jobs, targeting the priority economic sectors which are identified in the Sector Master Plans.

These should include finding new and innovative ways to:
1) Expand the capability of the current Public Employment Services System and Labour Activation Programmes, including TERS to buffer against the loss of jobs by reintegrating or re-absorbing / transitioning the retrenched workers into other economic sectors.
2) Initiate new job preservation interventions, including the Turnaround strategies to restructure and improve the competitiveness and sustainability of industry sectors and companies facing economic distress to save jobs or minimise the retrenchment of workers, and transitioning of workers between jobs and industries or securing alternative employment for those affected by possible job losses.
3) To create an enabling environment for entrepreneurship and sustainable enterprises, in particular coordinating efforts for an Integrated Enterprise Development Ecosystem.

Colleagues, in conclusion, as we enter the journey beyond COVID-19, we should embrace the understanding that, SMMEs are crucial to the Future of Work (FoW), not just for employment and economic growth, but also to drive innovation and competition in markets.

Let me leave you with the words of one of our struggle icons, Mr Oliver Reginald Tambo, who said, “We all belong to South Africa and South Africa belongs to us all”, and for Productivity SA to perform all the tasks I have outlined, we need to own ethos of Productivity Month today and beyond.

Happy Productivity Month and let us roll up our sleeves and improve the productivity of South Africa.

Thank you.