I am writing this note to a group of business leaders who care about the future of South Africa.
The World Economic Forum published the 2011/2012 Global Competitiveness Report earlier this year: South Africa is now placed as number 50 on a list of 142 countries in terms of our global competitiveness. This places us in the top 36% of all countries in the world! .
This report is worth reading as it gives insight into the challenges and opportunities facing South Africa. For example:
1) We are Number 1 (ie the best in the World!) with regard to “Strength of auditing and reporting standards”;
2) We are Number 2 (in the top 2% of countries) with regard to “Soundness of Banks” and “Efficacy of Corporate Boards”;
3) Another impressive indicator is that we are rated 4th in the world for our ability to develop Financial Markets.
There are many other indicators that we have a strong and solid financial system and that, in general, business leaders in South Africa understand governance and know how to run successful businesses.
How do we then make sense of the fact that we are number 131 in the world for Basic Education and Health? This rating places us at the bottom 9% of the list of 142 countries.
Surely we can do better than this?
I am writing this note to smart business leaders who understand the links between quality education and economic success. We have no option. We simply can’t wait any longer to deal with the education crisis in our country.
I have just returned from attending the Skoll World Forum for Social Entrepreneurs in Oxford. Jeff Skoll (co-founder of e-Bay) brings 1,000 social entrepreneurs from around the world together once a year to inspire and support them in their efforts to achieve positive change in their countries and communities. There were many people there who care about the fact that so many billions of children are not getting the quality education that they deserve. Gordon Brown (former UK Prime Minister) delivered a passionate message that we need to establish a global organisation to work with war-ravaged countries where children are not getting the education they deserve.
It was a great privilege to be in the room with all these amazing social entrepreneurs but I must admit that I struggled to contain my anger and frustration about the fact that many of the social entrepreneurs who care about education has South Africa on the list of countries where they feel they need to intervene – where things are so bad that they feel the need to parachute in some aid to the poor South Africans who are seemingly unable to help themselves.
I agree that we need to deal with the education crisis in our country. But surely we can do this ourselves?
What might be possible if we could tap into the collective brilliance of all the smart brains who have helped to get us to be at the top 3% for financial markets and systems?
What if the business leaders who helped us to build world-leading financial and governance systems can help to turn the situation around in education?
I don’t want to be ashamed of the state of our education system! And I am simply not willing to sit back and wait for government or international aid organisations to do something about it. It is our future and our country. My future and your future is inextricably linked to the future of the 14 million children currently in our education system.
We know how to lead large-scale change. We have been doing it in corporate South Africa for years! We have all the knowledge, skills and resources we need to transform the education system in South Africa! And we can do it within a decade! We just need to make a decision that we care enough about the our future to make ourselves available to help turn the situation around.
Louise van Rhyn
Social Entrepreneur and Founder of Symphonia
Symphonia recently won an international award for social entrepreneurship. See
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