This is the third in a series of views on the establishment of the Western Cape’s recently-announced Economic Development Partnership.
The EDP will be a success because there is a need for it. After 18 years of getting to grips with a new democratic governance model for the country, provinces and local government we have a much better understanding of what is required to get the economy to grow at an accelerated pace. Most of the diagnostic work and experience tell a similar story – we cannot break out of the constraints of slow unequal growth without tackling the soft issues as well as creating investment opportunities.
By soft issues I mean the quality of relationships, network, leadership and the role of identity. The level of social capital and social capital formation often is an indicator of a society’s ability to get things done.
The parts of those issues that the EDP will tackle are to build partnerships for economic cohesion in order to achieve accelerated growth. Such cohesion requires leadership and consensus amongst economic development agencies, stakeholders, government,business and labour – the essence of a partnership.
The EDP then has a very important role to play as a catalyst, a role which currently is vacant.
To be successful the EDP needs to establish a track record of credibility that it is not an agency for any particular stakeholder or political agenda. Its independence must not be contested and it has to remain secular in securing its victories.
Success breeds success. The EDP cannot yet claim a track record and the biggest challenge is for it to build that track record through innovation – by doing what has not been done before. To do this it must speak with its own voice.
It is not axiomatic that complex problems must have complex solutions. Likewise the prospect of the EDP being able to play a catalyst role and bring about greater economic development cohesion to the Western Cape isgood because the Western Cape is more socially fractured than most provinces. The Western Cape has not been politically stable, has serious identity issues and is less capable of mobilising social capital.
The Western Cape lacks the space for common purpose to be pursued for the interests of inclusive growth. The EDP can create that space without it being a negotiating forum.
Will the EDP be just an alignment of interests, or will it achieve much more? I find that the analogy with a positive catalyst to be the most useful way to think about it. A positive catalyst speeds up a chemical reaction without being consumed by it. So too the EDP can act as a catalyst for economic growth without becoming an apex body (an association of associations).
The big question for many will be “What’s in it for me?” My approach to that is “opportunity”.
The EDP will unlock opportunities which previously were not available/accessible and members have a duty to ensure that they are optimally positioned realise those opportunities. The flip side is: “What is the opportunity cost in not joining the EDP (on the assumption that it is effective?”
My personal hope is that it is so successful, that it becomes widely emulated.
By Ashoek Adhikari
Ashoek Adhikari is the General Counsel at Media24. He is an attorney by profession and after practising law he moved into the public sector, where he held various positions in the provincial administration of the Western Cape in the portfolios of environmental and cultural affairs, social services and poverty alleviation, housing and local government. Before moving to Media24 he was the chief operating officer in the Office of the Premier.
He was active in the governance of the attorney’s profession and served as a councillor of the Cape Law Society from 1998 and as vice-president from 2001 to 2004, during this time he chaired the Law Society of South Africa’s transformation committee and served on the steering committee of the Minister of Justice to draft the transformation charter for the attorney’s profession. He is currently the chairperson of the audit and risk committee of the Attorneys Fidelity Fund, Deputy Chairperson of the Isandla Institute and a director of Welkom Yizani.