Productivity SA CEO opening address - Mpumalanga WPC Programme Milestone Workshop

Programme Director, Dr Nandi Dabula
Mr Mashiba Kgole, the Provincial Manager for SEDA in Mpumalanga;
Ms. Margaret Mazibuko, the Chief Director Provincial Operations at the Department of Employment and Labour;
Nomusa Madonsela, Mpumalanga Development of Economic Development, and Planning;
Mr Khuliso Mukoma, Programme Manager for Enterprise Development, the Dtic;
Ms. Zodwa Ngwenya, The CFO at Ngwenya Forestry;
Lady Azwi Tshavhungwa, the International Trade Advisor at Mpumalanga Economic Growth Agency (MEGA);
Ms Amelia Naidoo, the Regional Executive Responsible for Mpumalanga and Acting Executive for Competitiveness Improvement Services;
Dr Leroi Raputsoane, Chief Economist, Productivity SA;
Representatives from Business, Labour and Academia;
Representatives from the Emalahleni Local Municipality, Gert Sibande District municipality, Dr Pixley Ka Isaka Seme Local Municipality, and Government in general
Colleagues from Productivity SA, SEDA and the dtic;
Members of the media, all invited guests, Ladies and gentlemen.
Productivity SA is humbled by your honouring our invitation to participate in the Mpumalanga Chapter of the Workplace Challenge Programme Virtual Milestone Workshop. Your presence here translates to an opportune moment to share knowledge and leverage off each other. For us to succeed in our endeavours to find lasting solutions to the challenges bedevilling our economy and the labour market, our founding principle to thrive should be premised on the quote “ Every person you meet knows something you do not, learn something from them” H Jackson Brown Jr. (American author)

We thank our strategic partners, SEDA (co-host of this event) and the dtic (funders the WPC Programme), for creating the platform for us to reflect on the successes and challenges enterprises, particularly SMMEs encounter (pre, during and post the COVID-19 pandemic), not with a view to write volumes of reports thereon, but to come up with sustainable solutions. This partnership is a good start of our dream for a ‘Joined-up Government’, where government departments and State Owned Entities providing Enterprise Support Programmes are collaborating and coordinating their efforts to improve the competitiveness and sustainability of SMMEs as well as economic performance. It is a good start for implementing South Africa’s Economic Recovery Plan post COVID-19.

The event today provides us an opportunity to celebrate success stories of enterprises like Ngwenya Forestry and over 290 others in Mpumalanga, which have since 2015 participated in Productivity SA Enterprise Competitiveness and Sustainability Programmes. These enterprises had a opportunity to participate in Enterprise Development Programmes (EDPs), which are designed to promote a productivity and entrepreneurship culture and consciousness to improve the competitiveness of our economy, to promote decent work which involves opportunities for work that is productive and delivers fair income.

The Good Story to tell today is - sixty three (63) of the enterprises that participated in the WPC Programme, like Ngwenya Forestry are competitive and model companies, they are competitive and growing, and are employing over 2 300 people.

Ladies and gentlemen, as we celebrate these success stories, we should do so fully cognisant of the devastation that the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic coupled with the advancement in technology has brought upon us. These are disrupting our already fragile socio-economic and labour market systems as well as business models that were relied on and thought were tried and tested. It is a fact that the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic which necessitated the national state of disaster and the nation-wide lockdown, hit South Africa at a point when most of the macroeconomic and labour market issues which matter most, including our productivity and competitiveness levels were at an all-time low. Signs are already there that, the outbreak of the pandemic is worsening existing conditions, with the challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality reaching unprecedented levels and the highest by world standards. The reality of our situation is rising unemployment and economic contraction, which have reached unprecedent levels.
Programme Director, I am sure that business in attendance today can attest to the simple fact that ease of doing business in current national lockdown environs has been the most difficult and at times and thought that recovery is pipe dream. Perhaps a pipe dream is an even better prospect as you dream with blissful visualisation. In the current environment, stark reality, is all that faces South Africa. However, we dare not despair.

It is in my view, only those with a Tool Box like the WPC in their arsenal continued believing that the end is near, and continued using these tools to improve their chance of surviving and stay afloat. It is these entrepreneurs who know that the entrepreneurial journey is filled with twists, turns, and bumps in the road. And often, the rough times can be enough to make you want to throw in the towel. This webinar is our very own platform to pay tribute to those entrepreneurs and companies that have been resilient during the COVID 19 pandemic. Using a quote by Theodore Roosevelt: “The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred with dust and sweat; who strives valiantly, who errs and may fall again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming.” We applaud them.

As we reflect on the COVID-19 pandemic, which devastated our already fledgling socio-economy and labour market systems, we should collectively take comfort in our resilience and ability as South Africans to traverse the impossible or unknown. True to the Theme of today‘s event -  “Unlocking South Africa’s productivity potential for sustained competitiveness and economic growth post Covid-19”, we should look on the positive that, the pandemic is also creating an opportunity for us to reflect on what is required to restart and restructure the economy. We are presented with an opportunity to develop a national productivity-enhancing policy mix and strategy, and foster policy cohesion to expand the productive assets in our economy by investing in the skills of people and in an environment where all firms across priority economic sectors have a chance to succeed.
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. We should instil a productivity mindset and culture as well as accountability to unlock the productivity potential of the country at all levels (national, sector and at enterprise level), and a country-wide appreciation of the value that productivity has on sustained economic growth and competitiveness.
As Economists would argue, productivity growth is the main driver of economic growth, development and increases in living standards; this is why we suggest that productivity growth should be at the centre of covid-19 recovery strategies.

Above all else and as I surmised in my opening line, we aim to share best practices and lessons learnt from the WPC programme

With these words, ladies and gentlemen, I welcome you and it is with a sense of duty and achievement that I am convinced beyond an inkling of a doubt that we will derive sustainable value from this event.

I thank you, ke a leboga.