This is according to a panel discussion on the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Global Agenda Council on Values and its new social covenant project.
The panelists included Trevor Manuel, a former minister in the South African presidency, Jim Wallis, chairman of WEF’s Global Agenda Council on Values, Derek Yach, executive director at the Vitality Institute and Suzanne Ackerman-Berman, transformation director at Pick n Pay.
Wallis believes that young people should not focus on the older generation’s agenda of political liberation. In order to drive change, they should focus on economic freedom.
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However, leaders also need to step up and act as mentors.
“Leadership can change things quickly. Nelson Mandela taught us that leadership is not just about skills, it’s about sacrifice,” said Wallis.
“Young entrepreneurs have so much energy to change the world. The role that leadership needs to play is by mentoring entrepreneurs,” added Ackerman-Berman.
According to the Global Agenda Council, the challenge of connecting people of different opinions, values and beliefs is growing.
Therefore, a new social covenant would need to address issues such as the public’s demand for accountability and transparency, and unemployment and income disparities.
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The objective of the covenant is to inform key businesses, government and civil society representatives as well as to shift practices and cultures towards improving the state of the world.
Manuel believes that the younger generation is key to changing the new social covenant.
“We must step aside and let young people who understand the world differently take control of what’s [about] to happen. We need new ideas and young people to drive the agenda because we’re as old as multilateral institutions such as the United Nations, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund – all of which were constructed at the end of World War Two and have now passed their sell by dates,” he said.
“Unless we understand and appreciate that decisions are intergenerational, we will repeat the mistakes of the last 50 years.”
He also explained that the first step to creating the new covenant is to include the poor, young and unemployed, who are generally excluded from discussions.
“We need to get those dissident voices in the room. You need the disagreement. A covenant like this has to be messy. Unless we get the voices of the excluded talking to us, this covenant is not going to work,” Manuel said.
He added that the drafters of the covenant need to constructively engage with people on the ground in order to get a clear understanding of the issues affecting society.
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Ackerman believes that large businesses are well equipped to address society’s inequalities and challenges.
“As business, we can address those inequalities by creating jobs, providing skills and addressing [the] food crisis,” she said.
“By engaging with small businesses, we can bring them into the formal economy and give them access to the market. These are very practical matters that businesses across Africa can actually implement and help transform the economies.”