The octopus who rose to international fame during the World Cup for successfully predicting the victors of certain games had it easy. He had only 2 teams at a time to consider, and only 22 players. Predicting the future, with 6 ½ billion players, is a far more complex undertaking.

Using this analogy Clem Sunter, well-known author and strategist, launched into his talk at Muizenberg Junior School at an event hosted by Alan Lindner of the Whale of a Heritage Route. A synopsis of his talk follows.

According to Clem, to negotiate the future successfully we need to think like a fox, checking for opportunities and threats and reacting accordingly. To do this we need to look for the “flags” – the significant events that tell us that something is happening. In January 2007 property prices in the USA dropped for the first time in 20 years and continued to fall for the next three months – the flag for the 2008 global recession. This recession is not yet over and has made people seek cheaper alternatives when shopping for consumer goods and considering holiday destinations.

Flags indicating that the global recession is over would include a drop in the unemployment figures in the USA and a reduction in debt by governments, companies and private individuals. Neither of these have happened yet.

What about South Africa? Clem suggests that we should look at it as a gigantic soccer team which could

  1. Stay in the Premier League. According to the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Global Competitive Index South Africa ranks within the top 50 nations in the world.
  2. Move into the 2nd Division where the bulk of the Third World lies.
  3. Or, if violence increases (although he does not think that this will happen), fall into the “Failed State” category which includes countries like Somalia and Afghanistan -places where no-one will invest.

The flags to watch out for:  

  1. Premier League teams display inclusive leadership and unity of spirit. During the month of the World Cup the people of South Africa showed a great sense of unity and shared purpose. Crime went down and we were applauded for our friendliness and the way in which we hosted the games. According to Clem our president has demonstrated “inclusiveness” in his appointments and in all his public addresses.
  1. The solving of problems around law and order, education and health. We have incredible “pockets of excellence” which should be emulated. SARS is doing an outstanding job and should be used as a model for other government departments. Similarly, the Red Cross Children’s Hospital is ranked as one of the top three hospitals in the Southern Hemisphere. What can our other major hospitals learn from it?
  1. An outward looking economy: We have to play on our strengths to be competitive. There are three areas in which we can earn more foreign exchange: (a) Our minerals – we must add value here to our resources before we export them (b) Tourism – the World Cup greatly improved our image as a cheap and safe destination. (c)As a gateway to Africa, which is opening up for business and needs our skills and products.

 Considering all the above, Clem believes that we have a 70% probability of staying in the Premier League. However, should we fail to solve the land issue and if we allow the constitution to be undermined that percentage could drop drastically. Nationalisation would be a bad flag as would be the proposed changes to the Press Bill.

With reference to the pockets of excellence, Clem suggested that South Africans should celebrate excellence instead of tolerating mediocrity. He cited the fact that Siyabulela Xuza, a young student from Umtata, is relatively unknown in his own country but has had a minor planet named after him by the Lincoln Institute in the USA. Considered to be the brightest student ever interviewed by the Anglo American Open Scholarship panel, Siya at the age of 16 created a rocket fuel stronger than that used by NASA. He was given a scholarship to study chemical engineering at UCT but has since been awarded an open scholarship to study at Harvard.

One of the questions posed at the end of the talk was: how do we in the Scenic South Peninsula make ourselves a “pocket of excellence”?

Clem’s reply was that Boulders in Simon’s Town and Cape Point are two of the top tourist destinations in South Africa. More effort needs to be made to get the tourists to stop, stay and spend in the Scenic South instead of merely passing through en route to see the penguins and the Point. He suggested a “themed” route to make the tourists “stick around”.

 He also commented that the first thing one sees when entering Fish Hoek is a great big police station. Not the most welcoming entrance to a coastal resort!

We would like to hear from you. How can we make ourselves a “pocket of excellence” in the Scenic South and what can we do to ensure that our beloved country stays in the “Premier League”?

Ubuntu is gathering momentum The incredible spirit of the World Cup lives on. While driving to and from Muizenberg this afternoon I heard snippets about the launch of the LeadSA initiative on Cape Talk. What a heart and soul warming course of action. Let us blow our vuvuzelas, blast our trumpets, thump our drums loudly in support -and then just do it: lead South Africa to the top of the log. For more about the LeadSA initiative see