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Industry Experts: What We’d Like To Hear From SONA

The Business Exchange

Support for entrepreneurs needs to feature high on the agenda of this year’s SONA. Entrepreneurs are the backbone of our economy and, with unemployment at a staggering 35%, we simply have to pull out all the stops to encourage entrepreneurship, and offer the relevant support, information, infrastructure and whatever else is needed to ensure that entrepreneurs are nurtured and developed. Government alone cannot solve the myriad challenges our economy faces, but entrepreneurs, by their very nature, are resourceful, opportunistic problem- solvers who thrive in the face of a challenge.

David Senker, Founder & CEO, The Business Exchange

Striata Africa

We are definitely in a digital economy and many small to medium businesses are struggling to compete within these changing dynamics. Over and above this there are many South African consumers who want to participate in this digital economy but are constrained by the high cost and availability of smart devices, high cost of data and the ease of connectivity. Although it is not entirely the government’s responsibility it would be great if there was stronger support and initiatives around moving more into the digital world, allowing broader and easily accessible connectivity which will then bring more and more South Africans into the digital economy. Opening up the digital economy benefits everyone!

Ross Sibbald, Commercial Director, Striata Africa


The technology sector is vital to South Africa’s economic recovery, and prioritising digitisation and transformation across industries – particularly in the public sector – is critical to the country’s success, which I hope will be a focus in this year’s SONA. The industry has the potential to become a leader in developing innovative approaches to fields like education and healthcare. However, it is critical that, when South Africa considers digital transformation, the local context is taken into account. Adopting mobile-first strategies, which account for varying network levels and speeds, is one example. Additionally, it entails serving as a facilitator of certain essential services in specific locations.

Greg Gatherer, Account Manager, Liferay Africa 


South Africa is a rapidly developing and youthful market with enormous potential.Closing the skills gap should be a top priority for the government and all citizens must have the opportunity to be digitally empowered.

Government should continue to work alongside community stakeholders and businesses to ensure that training initiatives are put in place and that training scales up to match digital demand, accelerates recovery and growth, and provides digital opportunities to all. South Africa has the opportunity to be a net provider of global digital skills if it acts now to work with education and tech companies to address the skills requirements across all segments of society. SONA needs to address a commitment to bridging this widening skills gap, that is fundamental to the success of the country. 

Salesforce wishes to acknowledge several government-led initiatives that focus on digital skills including the National Digital and Future Skills Strategy, Presidential Youth Employment Intervention, and the Presidential Commission on the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Robin Fisher, Senior Area Vice President, Salesforce Emerging Markets 

Hoorah Digital 

A focussed, strategic approach to digital transformation needs to be a key priority as we work to rebuild the flailing South African economy. 

Digital transformation starts with an actionable plan for investing in digital capabilities, including training in digital skills to ensure our young workforce is able to participate competitively in the digital economy. At the most basic level, an investment in digital capabilities can save government money by making specific functions faster and more efficient. Digital systems and processes are geared for efficiency, and we need to embrace that benefit across industries. 

We need the 2022 SONA address to be solutions-focussed, and prioritising digital transformation, across sectors, is central to ensuring the solutions for our economic and social challenges are relevant, sustainable and actionable. 

Reagan Kok, CEO Hoorah Digital 

The Anzisha Prize

Youth entrepreneurship offers the greatest potential to end the jobs crisis in South Africa.  

In 2021, South Africa’s unemployment rate for people between the ages of 15 – 24 reached a catastrophic high of 64.4%, potentially the highest in the world. The recent World Bank economic analysis for South Africa suggests that young entrepreneurs are one of the country’s best hopes for solving the jobs crisis – highlighting how self-employment accounts for just 10% of all jobs in the country compared to at least 30% in similar economies like Turkey, Mexico and Brazil. This echoes our own research which has shown that younger entrepreneurs are Africa’s hidden job creators because they are more likely to hire other young people as they grow.

Having supported entrepreneurs between the ages of 15 and 25 since 2010, it is clear that governments need to aggressively incentivise entrepreneurship in this age group. Intervening early – while young South Africans are still in the basic education phases – could put thousands on a path not to just be job seekers but job creators too. Policymakers must mandate entrepreneurship learning and practice within all schools. Incentives and tools for larger businesses and investors to actively engage youth-led ventures would accelerate the growth of a vibrant SME sector. 

The Anzisha Prize and many other sector players are actively encouraging investors, teachers, parents and public officials to “think younger” when it comes to entrepreneurship as a key lever to create pathways to the economy. It would be a powerful signal to see the 2022 State of the Nation Address (and the National Budget) tabling tangible plans to put very young entrepreneurs at the heart of economic growth and education policy.

Josh Adler, Executive Director of the Anzisha Prize.

Radisson Hotel Group 

In 2021, the travel and hospitality industry was extremely disappointed with being largely left out of President Ramaphosa’s immediate recovery plans during his State of the Nation Address (SONA). However, this past December showed the impact the sector – driven by domestic tourism – can have. 

We hope that this year’s SONA will outline more support to this critical job creating sector and to the country’s economy as a whole. Strategic intervention is essential if we are to move beyond the international travel bans and realise the goal of raising tourism numbers to 21 million per annum by 2030.

At Radisson Hotel Group, we remain confident about the possibilities and endeavour to continue uninterrupted in our development plans both here and throughout the rest of the continent.

Tim Cordon, Senior Area Vice President Middle East & Africa, Radisson Hotel Group


The tourism sector has been amongst the hardest hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, and the full effect of the crisis on the sector is yet to be determined. Even though there are positive signs of recovery, much needs to be done to rejuvenate tourism, returning it to the levels it reached before the pandemic.

Tourism supports a vibrant and complex value chain in South Africa, with the industry contributing R75 billion to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Revival of the industry, and expanding its contribution to the economy, is critical, not just for the jobs and businesses that it supports, but because it will be a catalyst for a broader economic recovery.

To help elevate tourism out of the pandemic-induced crisis, the government needs to fast track economic inclusion and support SMMEs by creating demand, as well as matching it with a quality supply of services. Central to this is ensuring greater use of technology to unlock an even wider market to SMMEs, as modern travellers search for stays, and pay for them, online.

South Africa’s tourism potential is vast, and efforts to revive the sector should be done with a view to long-term sustainable growth, bolstering resilience, and unlocking the industry’s full potential. It is important for the government to invest in social tourism in terms of creating a travel scheme that will encourage local travellers as part of domestic recovery. 

Another possible point to consider for inclusion:
– While it may be assumed that domestic travel will pick up, this may not immediately be the case. The domestic travel market is impacted negatively by a weak economy, which puts pressure on household disposable incomes. As such, any measures towards a more resilient economy will be welcomed by the tourism sector. Government should consider subsidising travel for the local community; this will support SMMEs in travel and tourism with traffic and reduce the cost of travelling for the travellers.

Tshepo Matlou, Head of Marketing and Communications at Jurni


One of the many industries that have been harshly impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic is the NGO sector. There is an increase in needs from vulnerable communities, due to a rise in unemployment, gender based violence and child abuse. Due to the trauma of the last two years, there is also a rising need for mental health services for those that cannot afford it, and educational support to learners who have fallen behind with their school work.

Corporate funds have also been less available to support community initiatives among CSI departments in the private sector.

In fact, South African companies spent 7% less on corporate social investment (CSI) in 2021 – or an estimated R10.3 billion – down from R10.7 billion the year before, according to the annual Trialogue Business in Society Handbook, due to Covid-19 and a weaker economy.

Consequently, non-profit organisations are struggling and, on behalf of Valcare’s membership network of over 200 non-profit organisations, we appeal to the government to acknowledge the issue during this year’s State of the Nation address and to increase their budget for social development investments. We further urge the government to always channel funding through registered, credible non-profit organisations to ensure that actual, sustainable social impact is achieved.

Ivan Swartz, CEO, Valcare