One of the trickiest relationships in the country is that between organised business and government – although arguably an equally tricky set of relationships exists among the different players in organised business. Few can argue with the sentiment expressed by Black Management Forum President Bonang Mohale, as reported in Business Day, with his call for a single unified body to represent ZA business. We asked a few experts for their views……
Cas Coovadia, Managing Director of The Banking Association South Africa:
I agree we should strive towards a single confederal business group that is not based on race, but instead is a robust representative of business interests in the macro economy. This should be the mandated voice of business and should represent business in engagements with critical stakeholders, particularly government. This need not preclude business organisations with specific programmatic roles, like the National Business Initiative. The organised business environment should also enable sectoral organisations like The Banking Association, which should be members of a single confederal business structure.
Alec Erwin, former Trade and Industry Minister:
This has been a perennial challenge for organized business. When they formed BUSA we (government) stressed that they must not lose sight of the imperative to meet the needs and aspirations that are specific to black business. On the other hand, black business must not isolate itself on the margins of major business undertakings. So far they have not managed to have unity, to keep up the energy levels needed to assist black business in particular. One reason for this is that the Chamber of Commerce movement is just not strong enough, as it should play a key role in supporting black business. It is not an insurmountable challenge – it just needs constant attention and energy.
James Lennox, former CEO of SACOB (now SACCI):
Not really my place to comment, although having been involved in the process that resulted in the formation of BUSA it is a given that the formal involvement of the Black Management Forum and its membership in BUSA would increase the effectiveness of both organisations to the benefit of business, the economy and society in general. Managing a diverse membership base in a rapidly changing environment, both locally and globally, does require any organisation to continually adapt and evolve their structures. This is particularly the case with a business representative organisation, given the pace of change facing all levels of business. Mr Mohale’s comments should be welcomed, and the sooner they result in formal discussions that achieve a positive outcome the better it will be for business and the country.
If it were easy, it would have happened already. However, different race and language groups have specific territory which they do not want to surrender, and hence the current disorganisation of organised business. Without real will from the business side and real pressure from government not much progress is likely. Which is as shame, because now more than ever the business world needs a clear, loud and forceful voice.