Fostering good partnerships between government and business

Nov 16 2015 08:00
Lameez Omarjee

When it comes to embracing technology, the South African government is “lethargic” in its approach to adopting policy to advance the connectivity of citizens. This was according to IBM South Africa manager Hamilton Ratshefola.

Speaking at the EY Strategic Growth Forum Africa 2015, held at the Sandton Convention Centre on 5 November, Ratshefola said South Africa has the capacity to embrace technology.

However, “incompetent” people driving policies have led to other countries like Kenya overtaking SA as leaders in the space of 10 years, according to him.

“Countries with good vision and good leaders are closing the gap. They are on the cutting edge,” said Ratshefola. East African countries adopt technology at high speeds, and the rest of Africa needs to catch up, he said.

These countries have made progress, and have given themselves a competitive edge, said William Asiko, CEO of Investment Climate Facility for Africa.

Governments have been criticised for being slow in implementing good policies. This is all based on a government’s capabilities and competencies to do so, said Rosalind Kainyah, founder of Kina Advisory. It is also useful to determine how beneficial a policy will be to a country, and if infrastructure and resources are available for implementation.

Ratshefola argues that where government fails in implementation, the private sector can step in to assist.

When it comes to choosing who to work with in government, Ratshefola advised businesses to partner with effective government departments. “Don’t choose those which are ineffective in doing their jobs.” If you pick the right people, those who are progressive, you will have much success, he added.

To determine who the right partners are, Ratshefola said businesses should make use of the auditor-general reports released each year, suggesting that it was better to steer clear of those that scored the lowest for compliance and that had serious faults.

Asiko listed Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal, Rwanda and Kenya as examples of countries with efficient governments that run good policies and have long-term strategic growth plans in place that are successfully being implemented.

However, collaborations between government and the private sector aren’t always easy. Mistrust between government and business seems to be widening, said Kainyah.

Government feels businesses are driven by their own core objectives, as opposed to the macroeconomic goals government has to achieve on a national level.

Businesses need to recognise the broader framework in which they need to operate and work towards fulfilling roles that meet development goals and needs of the countries in which they operate.

The most important stakeholders for government are the citizens, said Kainyah. The more African countries become democratised, the more important it is for government to gain acceptance from its citizens.

Understanding citizens’ expectations of government will help businesses in collaborating with government to meet these needs and aspirations.

Practically, bringing private sector skills into government will improve government’s understanding of how the private sector operates, said Asiko. In turn, government can employ people from the private sector with the capabilities to serve in key ministries. Having understanding will create more effective partnerships, he said.