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INNOVATE South Africa

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Africa Tech Council

INNOVATE™ South Africa

From my perspective, one of the biggest challenges facing South Africa is a double-edged sword: our ability to cope, even in the midst of crisis and chaos.

South Africans are good at dealing with crises. We’ve had practice.

For as long as anyone alive can remember, South Africa has leapt from one knife edge to the next. From the 1960’s student protests to end of apartheid, to the AIDS crisis, to becoming the crime capital of the world, to surviving load shedding and the state capture debacle, South Africans have learned to live with and through chaos. We make a plan, we make do, and we carry on.

This survival instinct has made South African businesses lean, agile and resilient. However, our survival strength in difficult conditions becomes our weakness when it leaves us complacent, defeatist and even accepting of a certain baseline of danger, dysfunction, crime, and corruption. Surviving through seemingly perpetual crises can leave us feeling like victims rather than actors in charge of our own destinies. It can lead us to accepting calamity passively rather than mustering up the courage to rally against wrongs, fight for our future, and fix the underlying problems.

We need courageous leaders and builders now more than we ever have before to step up and design those solutions. Now is not the time for acceptance, now is the time for action. Our debt-and-scandal-ridden government is not going to solve our problems (with what money?). Foreign aid is not going to come to the rescue (the rest of the world has its own problems to contend with). The economy is not going to re-start itself. No. Only proactive individual action can get us unstuck from the endless crisis-reaction cycle of the present now and onwards into future worth working towards.

Now, this said, I and my colleagues at Flux Trends are hugely optimistic about the pragmatism – or rational optimism we have seen amounts the young people in South Africa we work with. There is a growing sense of personal responsibility among the upcoming generation who have realised that if they want the future fixed, not just papered-over, they will need to do the fixing themselves. Rational optimism is not just blind hope or passive Panglossian acceptance; it is positive action.

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