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EF: 2020 was the year of diagnostics, 2021 the year of vaccines, what do you think 2022 will be the year of?
MK: 2022 will differ from 2020 and 2021 as we were all caught unaware by the pandemic. As a country, it will be a year of big agenda items that need to be dealt with, such as the issue of universal healthcare. This focuses on the disparity between those who have access to private healthcare and those that rely on public provision.
It is a year that will highlight the ability of working together. 2020 and 2021 saw the formation of the Solidarity Fund and B4SA which are independent organizations from the government. We saw business mobilize itself and the private sector work both in and amongst itself, along with the public sector in dealing with the challenges of the pandemic.
2022 is a year that will no longer just carve out COVID-19 as something that is worthy of attention as there are many other demands on people's time and attention. This can be achieved by institutionalizing the vaccination programs to a particular degree as well as formulating and implementing vaccine rollout programs with the government. Another focus is on building public-private sector collaborations that are focused on prioritizing the limited number of interventions as we work on building the capacity as a country to address critical issues.
EF: What is your perspective on the partnership between the public and private sectors?
MK: In lesser dire situations it does seem difficult to get them working together, however, 2020 and 2021 brought the public and private sectors together as we saw several companies set aside their differences and quest for profit to work together as the COVID existential threat was big enough to create a convergence of effort and create a common goal to focus on.
There are a number of ongoing opportunities for partnerships. Businesses need to assemble teams that have the requisite skills, experience and insights to be trusted counterparties to the government in discussions that have to take place in order to avoid conflicts that cannot be solved.
EF: Could you elaborate on how you see the private sector in addressing some of the key social and economic concerns in South Africa?
MK: The private sector has identified and tabled six or seven work streams to the government, one being the investment environment and ease of doing business which includes red tape, or the energy sector to provide fixable, reliable, predictable and affordable services to the public at large. The private sector has also been dealing with other areas such as crime, corruption, mal-administration and alleviating pressure on the transportation infrastructure. As a business, we have acknowledged that we can mobilize the resources, finances, skills, expertise and capacity that can work through these issues and implement initiatives that can progress that work and increase confidence levels in the South African economy and more broadly the South African environment.
EF: What is the role of healthcare in developing the economy?
MK: It is critical especially if we localize production of raw materials and equipment by having strategic foresight and organizational capability, and the will of people to work together. It requires a high level of collaboration and cooperation between the private sector and the public sector, both in South Africa and abroad to make sure that we are both economically efficient and not dependent on importing critical items.
Whilst we are behind in eHealth and eLearning, the last two years have taught us that we can work and educate people very efficiently remotely and we will see shifts in addressing challenges of accessibility and the provision of basic healthcare and education to the public at large.
EF: What top three strategies would you choose to implement sustainability for business growth?
MK: The first is that we need to have a much longer-term horizon in terms of the investments we are prepared to make, and to have people aware of the complex and dynamic environment within which we exist and that it is not just the responsibility of the government but everybody. We need to walk that journey together.
The second is we have to accept that the unemployment and poverty levels are untenable and unsustainable without working together to drive economic growth and activity.
The third is making sure we have appropriately represented representative workforces who are suitably skilled, open-minded and strategic, and that we need to have leaders who design and implement solutions in order to get real traction from government and that address issues that have arisen.
EF: What advice would you give to investors looking to put a stake in South Africa?
MK: South Africa has got the systems, the infrastructure and the people, so be encouraged not only by the stock of existing investors but also by the fact that we have a government that is more attentive and cooperative than we have seen for a long-time.
EF: What would like to be remembered for in 5 years' time?
MK: Creating a unique dynamic and capability within South Africa of convening businesses on a very inclusive basis to make individual resources available. Recalibrating our level of energy so that in the long haul we have made differences in people's lives with positive contributions.
EF: What are you going to celebrate at the end of this year?
MK: As a business, if we can establish an institutionalized modus operandi where we can really bring business to the party alongside governments and other social partners in meaningfully addressing economic challenges, then that will be something to celebrate. Establishing the capability and starting on that journey. Success breeds success, so that's how I would like to get to the end of 2022 with hopefully fewer people having been impacted by poor health along the way.