Productivity month staff address by Productivity SA Board Chairman, Prof Mthunzi Mdwaba

Productivity month staff address by Productivity SA Board Chairman, Prof Mthunzi Mdwaba, Productivity month launch 2020, 1 October 2020

Programme Director,
The Chief Executive Officer of Productivity SA, Mr Mothunye Mothiba
Productivity SA Executive Management
Productivity SA Staff
Ladies and Gentlemen
Fellow South Africans

It is a pleasure and honour for me to address you today as we mark Productivity Month 2020. The mere fact that this year we can only connect remotely is a poignant highlight of the pandemic Covid-19 that has affected the entire world. At the end of 2019, South Africa entered a technical recession and just when we thought the start of 2020 brought new beginnings and South Africa would embark on a solid path towards economic recovery, the Covid-19 pandemic struck.

A lot has been documented about the effects of Covid-19 such as the health devastation wrought by the coronavirus. However, as we have witnessed, that was only the beginning of the tsunami that is Covid-19. Prior to the onset of Covid-19 South Africa, had been battling the triple challenges of inequality, poverty, and unemployment. The pandemic has exacerbated this immensely and exposed our inadequacies of a pre-existing structurally flawed economy, in urgent need of re-engineering and recalibration. In the past four months the country has lost over 1.1 million jobs. It is unlikely that these jobs will be recovered soon, or at all, unless we act urgently to correct our ways and follow a productivity path, making the necessary bold decisions that our country badly requires.

2020 Productivity Month comes in the backdrop of all this devastation and it is for this reason that the theme for 2020 Productivity Month is ‘‘Unlocking SA’s productivity for sustained competitiveness and economic growth post Covid-19”.

The theme seeks to highlight the need for an integrated strategy and collaboration in driving productivity as a way of stimulating economic growth Post Covid-19. South Africa’s economic situation is precarious. GDP is expected to decline by between 8.3% and 10% in 2020, recovering steadily in 2021 and 2022 with muted economic growth thereafter.

Productivity Month is a yearly campaign and its objective is to promote the importance of productivity and inculcate a sense of competitiveness in every South African. The purpose of the month is to highlight the importance of productivity in the country and treating productivity as an enabling tool for transforming our economic growth and the creation of jobs.

It goes without say that the creation of jobs equates to a better life for more people and the 1.1 million jobs lost that I referred to, effectively mean that close to 3 million people if not more will be affected as breadwinners are now unable to provide for their families and economic activity diminishes. This is where initiatives like Productivity Month become critical and the role of Productivity SA and the entity’s significance to the country quadruples.

The broader objectives of productivity month in line with Productivity SA’s vision to lead and inspire a productive and competitive South Africa in terms of Section 32 of the Employment Services Act of 2014 enjoins Productivity SA to: -
1) Enhance the competitiveness and sustainability of enterprises;
2) Prevent job losses or minimise the retrenchment of employees;
3) Provide productivity related value-added information and statistics, best practices and systems; and 4) Promote a productivity culture and mind-set across all segments (national, sector, and enterprise level) of society,

• To promote productivity in the country.
• To raise awareness about the potential role of productivity in growing and developing the South African economy.
• To promote Productivity SA programmes.
• To increase South Africa’s competitiveness.

Productivity SA aims to achieve these objectives throughout Productivity Month by utilising the platform offered by webinars and productivity dialogues that stand to urge business, government and labour to embrace productivity.

Productivity SA’s work during and post the Covid-19 pandemic will become more critical than ever, given the devastation the pandemic has left in its wake, with retrenchments at an all-time high, adding to the millions of South Africans already unemployed (unacceptably high at 30.1%, with even higher rates at above 45% in certain provinces) and some under-employed and facing extreme poverty.

The 2020 World Competitiveness Yearbook (WCY) compiled by Switzerland's Institute of Management Development (IMD) with Productivity SA as an information partner in South Africa shows that the country is now at its lowest global ranking. According to the 2020 WCY report released in June, South Africa is ranked 59 out of 63 countries rated by the IMD. This a drop of three places from 2019 and leaves South Africa four places down from being ranked the lowest.

South Africa’s global competitiveness ranking in 2020 marks the lowest rating since the inception of the IMD’s yearbook. It is perhaps important to highlight that just over 10 years ago, we were at number 44 and have gradually slipped down year on year to the current position. According to the IMD’s 2020 WCY, the drop in South Africa’s global competitiveness ranking was underpinned by the following factors:
• Deteriorating headline and youth unemployment.
• Rising public debt levels amid a shrinking fiscal space.
• Lack of decisive plans to revive the struggling economy.
• On-going electricity supply problems and rolling blackouts.
• Sluggish legal process to address corruption in state owned enterprises.

The WCY evaluates each country’s data based on about 346 distinct criteria, which are grouped into 4 factors, where South Africa performed as follows among the 63 selected countries:
• Economic performance - dropped to 61 in 2020 from 59 in 2019.
• Government efficiency - dropped to 54 in 2020 from 50 in 2019.
• Business efficiency - dropped to 56 in 2020 from 44 in 2019.
• Infrastructure - dropped to 61 in 2020 from 60 in 2019.

South Africa is in dire straits and spurring productivity in the country is one of the solutions if not the only solution to move the country forward. For the 2020 Productivity Month, Productivity SA has lined up events that will help spread this message. Launching Productivity Month internally is the start of a series of events that targets government, business and labour. For October 2020, Productivity SA will hold the following key events:
• Productivity and Competitiveness Seminar – 9 October 2020
• Limpopo Regional Productivity Awards – 16 October 2020
• Annual General Meeting – 23 October 2020
• Productivity Statistics Launch – 30 October 2020

It is expected that during these events which will all be conducted in the form of webinars, Productivity SA programmes will be significantly promoted. Productivity SA programmes are geared towards supporting the country to achieve a productive high-income economy which is globally competitive, targeted at the priority economic sectors which have a potential for labour absorption.

The interventions are structured to contribute to sustainable and inclusive growth and development as well as growth with rising decent employment creation; wealth and income growth; job preservation or minimising the retrenchment of workers; and promote workplace collaborative relations and dialogue on productivity and competitiveness issues.

This is where you come in as staff. You have to walk the talk, practice what you teach and ooze productivity in all the tasks you perform knowing that the future of this country as well as this capability to grow the productivity movement lies in your hands. The productivity improvement influences heightened efficiency and profitability in profit making organisations, and equally heightened and much needed efficiency in those that are non-profit making.

As the Board of Productivity SA we have also set the tone with the lifting of the suspension of the Business Turnaround and Recovery Programme (formerly known as the Turnaround Solutions Programme/ TAS), administered by Productivity SA and funded at the instance of the Department of Employment and Labour’s entity, the Unemployment and Insurance Fund (UIF).

The suspension was lifted on the15th of June 2020 and the commitment of R104 million for the programme in the new Financial Year has already seen the first tranche of R23 million transferred to Productivity SA and being put into good use to try and ameliorate the devastation we have on the ground, even though these are not pandemic related funds. The funding and consequent lifting of the suspension could not have come at a better time as it unshackled the organisation so it can charge forward and attain its vision.

Let us put our heads together and work hand in hand so that Productivity SA can be a shining light in leading the country towards economic recovery. Happy Productivity Month.