Can South Africa compete with the other BRICS countries to attract top international executive leadership to our shores? I believe we can. This country has a whole lot to offer. We are in an amazing time zone – we are halfway between East and West, which means we can trade with ease in both directions. As an investment destination, we are seen as a gateway to the rest of Africa. And once you’re here, let’s face it, it is very hard to leave.

But to encourage further investment and to ensure we remain globally competitive, we will have to take definitive steps to attract and retain the best international talent. Yes, we’ve come a very long way in a short time. We are transforming rapidly and are creating a well-diversified economy. But there is still a lot needed in terms of more structural reform so that we can truly say we are competitive in a global marketplace – and as a result attract the top talent from around the world.

So how can we make our country more appealing for senior executives to take up positions and relocate their families here? Corruption and crime of course remain a big issue and need to be addressed. I believe we also need to look at the following:

  • Communications technology should be easier to use and much cheaper. Projects such as Isizwe, which is bringing free wifi to our country and connecting people for education and economic development, are a brilliant idea. But we need to get moving much faster in this sphere if we want to remain globally competitive.
  • Access to quality education is crucial. South Africa needs to be seen internationally to be working hard towards producing an educated, skilled workforce. I believe we have a marvellous opportunity here – why can’t South Africa become an education hub for the rest of Africa, a go-to destination for other African countries to get a quality education?
  • We need to rethink how we treat skilled workers in terms of immigration laws. We really are missing great opportunities here – we are excluding potentially very talented people from the workforce for protectionist reasons rather than thinking how they can help grow our economy.
  • Executive remuneration remains important. This is a contentious issue, but we will have to continue to pay our foreign executives top salaries if we wish to keep them here. They really can earn much more elsewhere, and the competition among multinational companies globally is fierce.
  • We need to make it easier for people to start businesses. This means cutting out burdensome red tape and onerous regulations, and introducing more tax incentives. We must try and encourage innovation through tax breaks. An interesting idea – creative types love Cape Town, so why can’t we develop our Mother City into a creative hub and draw innovators from all over the world?
Jamie Robertson

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