Business is not the enemy, but rather the key to creating jobs and enabling transformation in South Africa, said Stephen Koseff, CEO of Investec Bank.

Speaking at the Commerce, Law and Management Faculty at the University of Witwatersrand (Wits), Koseff warned against populist rhetoric.

Koseff was awarded an honorary doctorate.

“I urge you to understand that populism is never going to work for us. Education and developing skills are going to work for us.”

Koseff said South Africa is currently at a critical junction, but that, united, the country can overcome our challenges. “Together, under the banner of a common purpose, there are no limits to what South Africa can achieve,” he said.

“There is an urgent need for a new social pact that transcends ideologies and backgrounds. We need to rebuild trust. Let’s not fall prey to the negative narratives that are designed to divert attention from the real issues.

“Instead, let’s rather re-frame the challenges facing our country within the lens of shared values. We must unite under a common goal and tackle the problem with innovative thinking and bold and pragmatic leadership. We must agree, simultaneously, to grow and transform our economy.”

Referring to the current climate of corruption and distrust between politics, business and the society, Koseff said that he was worried about some players making business the scapegoat for all the ills of our society.

“[I am particularly worried about] slogans like ‘White Monopoly Capital’, ‘fake news’ and ‘alternate narratives’. They are actually used as a ruse and a distraction to enable rent-seeking and looting,” he said.

“Business is not the enemy, it is the key to creating jobs and enabling transformation. It is for this reason that business, labour and government must partner to create the right kind of growth, to achieve the desired outcomes.”

Koseff pressed upon the audience the need to create a deracialised, vibrant, diverse and globally competitive economy that enables all South Africans to have the opportunity to participate in the economy and earn a sustainable livelihood.

“Some will call this inclusive growth, others prefer the term ‘radical economic transformation’ – not a term that I really like, but I attempted to redefine it, because this means different things to different people.”

READ: Zuma: Radical economic transformation a gospel truth

Koseff said ultimately the task is to ensure accelerated inclusive growth – one that supports transformation and job creation.

“That is what I believe is necessary to uplift the majority of our people out of poverty.”

Koseff pointed out that South Africa has many successes it can build upon, such as a strong and vibrant democracy, a free media, disciplined macro-economic policy an independent judiciary and central bank (the South African Reserve Bank), which has done an “admirable job” in keeping inflation in check.

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