Job opportunities: The big promise made at S.Africa’s polls - CNBC Africa

Job opportunities: The big promise made at S.Africa’s polls


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Forbes Africa editor Chris Bishop.

As the ballot boxes are packed away in South Africa, for another five years, maybe it is time to look at the big promise made by all parties at the election – jobs.

It is a sure fire vote winner in South Africa that suffers from severe unemployment that chokes the economy.

South Africa, a country endowed with so much, has many people doing very little and it is hurting the economy.

So, the first promise on the manifesto for the plethora of political parties are jobs, jobs and more jobs.

It always appears strange to me that the people who are in the worst position to deliver jobs are the ones who promise the most.

In the past, the apartheid government used government spending to mop up unemployment. In the 1950s and 60s hundreds of thousands of South African were employed as everything from paper pushers to drivers and doormen as a way of keeping the unemployed off the streets. It led to bloated government expenditure and a hard up state when the changeover came in 1994.

In these more austere times, the governments of Africa appear to have neither the exchequer, nor the inclination, to spend billions creating jobs for the sake of sucking up the idle masses. 

What many African nations need to realise is that the drivers of wealth creation are the small businesses of the continent. Don’t be misled by the word, small, all businesses began that way. Ford began in a back yard and the British retail giant Marks and Spencer started life in the corner of a street market in Leeds. Both grew to be employers of hundreds of thousands of people. A clear sign, that has given the right capital and encouragement, small acorns can grow into mighty oaks.

I often wonder how many of the companies, that could have been another Ford, have been strangled at birth in Africa by a rigid system that often disregards the struggles at the foot of the economy.

In Africa, small businesses are often looked down upon; they are loaded with costs and taxed heavily. Few people in the economy have time for small businesses as they are seen as minnows that will not swim far.

Think again, Africa. In the next election, political parties would do better to come up with clear cut ways to encourage the small businesses that are going to deliver jobs. Maybe it is easier lending, infrastructure support or training for entrepreneurs. Surely, this is the way, albeit long term, out of the dearth of jobs that wastes a country’s precious human resources. Surely, there has to be a better and more efficient way of mopping up unemployment rather than pouring forth taxpayers’ money. I am sure we can all agree with that.