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South Africa needs to boost leadership skills to live up to Bric hopes

24 January 2011

South Africa's ascension to the Bric group of major emerging economies will demand greater leadership and management skills for it to keep pace with its partners, the head of a major executive training group has said. 

Liza van Wyk, CEO of AstroTech said, "Although the Johannesburg Securities Exchange rose 15% last year, compared to China's Shanghai composite which shed 10%, overall we have not kept pace with the rapid growth of our Bric partners.  

"China has backed the inclusion of South Africa into this powerful group because China has moved fast to become Africa's dominant trading partner, but we need to ensure that is something that benefits Africans as much as Chinese and the only way to do that is to ramp up our management and leadership skills." 

Van Wyk said leadership courses and those for new managers especially around tricky human resource and emotional intelligence issues and export skills were heavily subscribed courses in 2010. "Early bookings for 2011 show businesses are still concerned about the level of expertise of new managers. And managers in turn are concerned about the skills capacity of staff.

"Bric with its core membership of rapidly growing economic giants, Brazil, Russia, India and China have very hard working, low unionised and highly skilled workers that in most instances earn less than their South African counterparts. For South Africa to be recognised as a true partner, and not just a gateway to the continent, we need to become more competitive in prices, wages, productivity and passion passion to succeed and a willingness to endure short term sacrifices for long term growth and development. It is imperative that we reduce the amount of joblessness in our society."

South Africa, with a $285-billion economy, and comparatively low growth of about 3%, lags its Bric companions. South Africa's economy is less than a quarter of the size of Russia's and only slightly larger than China's sixth-richest province.

However, the four economies have been looking for markets away from the heavily regulated economies of north America, Europe and parts of developed south east Asia and sub-Saharan Africa's economy grew from $322-billion in 2000 to $931-billion in 2008, according to the International Monetary Fund, although it has slowed significantly, in line with international markets, over the last two years. 

South Africa is expected to push harder for the 15-nations of the Southern African Development Community to integrate trade and policies, the community has lagged on integrated economic systems to its ongoing disadvantage, Van Wyk noted. "If the leaders of SADC can show greater commitment to economic integration then we could see the economies of the whole region show much needed growth and real economic clout."

South Africa's rand has strengthened since it was invited to join Bric, partly in expectation of an inflow of funds from realigning Bric portfolios.

Eagles, or "emerging and growth leading economies" of which Bric is a key component are tipped to contribute about 50% of global growth over the next decade and will have most of the world's consumers. Eagles include China, India, Brazil, Indonesia, South Korea, Russia, Mexico, Egypt, Taiwan and Turkey. South Africa is on an economists watch list of 11 other up and coming states dubbed the "Eagles Nest." 

"2011 could be an exceptionally important year for South Africa's economy," Van Wyk said. "The decisions made this year by business and political leaders will have a profound impact on economic growth or stagnation. The growing economies of the world, like China, are giving us a shove forward. We already sit on key bodies like the United Nations Security Council, now South African leaders and citizens need to provide the sort of impetus that the country needs to rebound out of recession and back to sustained growth." 


Liza van Wyk, CEO AstroTech 011 582 3200 cell: 082 466 8975 or

Issued by Charlene Smith Communications