Becoming an Amakhosi (Chief) of Innovation

by Patrick Hearn

Last year the World Bank published a report on the economic situation in South Africa. In a continent that is seeing tremendous growth, the Bank stated “With the same amount of economic resources – natural resources, capital, and labor – South Africa produced 6 percent less in 2016 than in 2007. A critical contributing factor to this deterioration is the insufficient innovation efforts of private firms, in absolute terms and in comparison with peers in the last decade”.

A few Alé’s ago, I wrote about the “Pride of Lions” that was being created by the South African President with a specific mandate to achieve $100B USD in new Foreign Direct Investment into the country. One third of the annual Gross Domestic Product. The push was made all the more urgent when countries in Africa such as Botswana, Rwanda and Angola were seen as better choices to make investments than South Africa. Something up to recently would have been laughed at by South Africans.

This urgency is not just Foreign Direct Invest (FDI). By some, close to 3 million jobs have been lost in South Africa due to the decline of its manufacturing base (largely to China). This, combined with a loss of trust in institutions has put a shadow on what in 1994 was called the “New South Africa”.

In the shadow of Artificial Intelligence, Machine & Deep Learning, Robotics, Bio-Engineering, Micro-Manufacturing we have seen, according to experts, technology outpacing human adaptability. Yet, there is a dawn approaching. It’s called Innovation and with it, the practicality of learning faster and governing smarter.

According to Elon Musk “What makes innovative thinking happen?...I think it's really a mindset. You have to decide.” And decide South Africa can and must. In less than two weeks, Holistic Innovations will be in Johannesburg for a very simple purpose, to create an opportunity to disrupt/leapfrog in Africa focusing in increasing innovation capacity and capability. In next week’s Alé, we will review the State of Innovation and how to bridge the gap. Until then “Go Chiefs”!!!



Patrick Hearn