Dr Geraldine Reymenants, General Representative of the Government of Flanders
Ms Nardos Bekele-Thomas United Nations Resident Co-ordinator and Head of the UN System in South Africa
Mr Rest Kanju, Director and head of operation, Indalo Inclusive
Event Moderator: Ms Ella Bella Constantinides- Leite
Representatives of the Media,
Ladies and Gentlemen.
Thank you for inviting me to this important and timely dialogue on Entrepreneurship as a tool for green and inclusive recovery.
Allow me to acknowledge at the outset the long-standing cooperation that exists between both the government and peoples of South Africa and Flanders.
It is also important today to express appreciation for the significant contribution of over fifty-three million rand in development aid that has been made available by the government of Flanders to programs in our country in areas as diverse as education and training, environmental affairs, culture, agriculture, youth development and science and innovation.
This partnership has evolved over time to focus on five-year strategies with emphasis on social enterprises and job creation. The current CSP for 2017-2021 focuses primarily on assisting South Africa to respond to the triple challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality.
In this context the theme for today’s virtual symposium namely “Creating partnerships for adaptive entrepreneurial innovations for a green recovery and promotion of an inclusive just and resilient economy in South Africa” is very relevant and appropriate.
Ladies and Gentlemen, a year ago, at midnight, on 26 March 2020, President Ramaphosa placed the country under a level 5 lockdown, in response to the COVID-19 Pandemic. Throughout the pandemic, the President has emphasized that the measures we are taking are aimed at saving both lives and livelihoods.
And indeed our country has embarked on a range of measures to support those living in conditions of poverty and take active steps to prevent job losses and support enterprises to continue functioning under difficult circumstances.
Undoubtedly, it is the vulnerable groups of society, and particularly women and young people who have borne the brunt of the economic and social dislocation created by the Pandemic and it is these citizens who are still facing the harsh realities of the economic downturn.
And so the question arises as to how are we going to move in particular women and young people from a situation where they are recipients of welfare support to a situation where they have meaningful opportunities for economic participation.
As I am sure most of you know, South Africa has developed an Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan with a relief package to a total value of approximately R380 billion. Our Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan prioritises the need to overcome abiding constraints and provide sustainable solutions to intractable problems of poverty, inequality, and unemployment.
Our Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan prioritises the need to overcome abiding constraints and provide sustainable solutions to intractable problems of poverty, inequality and unemployment!
Central to the plan’s objectives is in the words of our President: “to forge a new economy in a new global reality.”
Climate change is one of those new global realities. Climate change poses both risks and opportunities to our society and economy. On the risk side extreme weather events including storms, droughts, and rising sea levels, are already part of our lived reality.
In the last week of January more than 20 people died in Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Eswatini and South Africa, as a result of the destruction caused by tropical cyclone Eloise. We were reminded once again how vulnerable the developing world is, to extreme weather events.
Nevertheless, due to the advanced early warning systems of our SA Weather Service, and the impressive coordinated response of our Disaster Management capability, at national, provincial, and local government level, we were able to take advance measures to manage some of the worst impacts of the storm on both people and infrastructure.
This process was assisted by the implementation by all levels of government of adaptation strategies arising from the National Climate Change Adaptation Strategy that was approved by Cabinet last year.
South Africa is in the process of updating its Nationally Determined Contribution in terms of the Paris Agreement, and will submit it to the UNFCCC before COP 26. Our Climate Bill will be tabled in the National Assembly by mid-year.
What we now need is a better and more mainstreamed understanding of the climate transition risk our historical growth trajectory poses to the long term sustainability of our economy and society.
In his State of the Nation address in February this year, President Ramaphosa did not shy away from these challenges nor did he fail to indicate how we must address them.
In noting that Eskom, our largest greenhouse gas emitter has committed in principle to net-zero carbon emission by 2050, the President stressed the importance of the work of the Presidential Climate Change Commission that has subsequently met for the first time on 19 February.
This Commission decided to advise government on how to develop a clear plan to take us from an aspirational commitment to a low carbon, climate resilient economy and society to the reality of new technology, new investment, and above all new jobs.
The Commission will provide the much-needed institutional mechanism to bring together government, civil society, business and labour to advise government on the just transition.
It will further leverage partnerships and collaboration across all relevant sectors to implement programmes that encapsulate the just transition in a coherent and coordinated manner.
In this regard, it is important to note that Eskom has announced it will shortly release a call for proposals to repower and repurpose Komati power station in Mpumalanga. Studies to facilitate similar initiatives are underway for Hendrina, Grootvlei and Camden.
Investment in the green economy and green technologies provides strategic advantages for our country: it opens access to new green financing opportunities; it offers the possibility of significant proven job creation; it has the potential to localize production and services which will build small and medium enterprises and of course it enhances our long term competitiveness while mitigating our transition risks.
The green industries component included in our own Reconstruction and Recovery plan highlights the diversification of South Africa’s energy sources; retrofitting public and private buildings to improve energy and water efficiency; revitalisation of eco- tourism, hard hit by travel bans; research and development in the agricultural space of drought resistant crops and cultivation methods; support for small farmers in the forestry space; and building the circular economy in the waste management space.
The path towards a transition to a low carbon economy, and climate proofing our infrastructure, requires a high level of cooperation with traditional donors, partners and the private sector, to enhance access to massively scaled-up finance, technology and capacity-building support.
The global decline in grant finance for mitigation and adaptation, is a real concern to African countries due to the fact that many of us face a growing debt burden. Consequently, we do need solutions to financing climate action other than increasing our sovereign debt.
It is in this context that I am excited by the Indalo initiative. First and foremost this initiative specifically targets climate mitigation and adaptation projects. Secondly, I know you share many of the sustainable goals that underlie our green recovery initiative. Thirdly, your approach will ensure that through this partnership our Department can enhance its reach to the most vulnerable communities in our country.
Of course I would not be fulfilling my mandate today if I do not end with some words of advice and encouragement to our entrepreneurs from Monica Musonda, the Founder of the Zambian food processing company Java Foods. Monica's vision is to revolutionize the eating habits of the youth market by offering them affordable and nutritious food options made from local products.
She was named by Forbes Magazine and Africa Investor as one of the leading Young Power Women in Business in Africa inn 2013 and 2014 respectively. She says:
’’Have a vision and passion. Be courageous, focused and disciplined. Lastly, persist… it is definitely not easy”.
Fellow participants, these are interesting, difficult and demanding times. There are great risks, but there are also important opportunities to reset our economy on a more inclusive and sustainable path: a path that will overcome the abiding constraints of wasteful resource use, dangerous carbon emissions and exclusion of young and talented people from economic participation.
To create a greener, better and more inclusive future we need young entrepreneurs with courage, passion and discipline. Indeed it won’t be easy! But our future is in your capable hands!
I Thank You