Q: What should business and civil society do to help articulate the way forward?
A: The starting point would be to acknowledge some of the contributing factors that inflamed the devastating unrest. The economy was struggling for a few years which was suddenly exacerbated by the pandemic and its long-drawn impact thus worsening unemployment and poverty.
The way forward is a journey that starts with rebuilding trust and confidence, followed by more actions than words and a shared responsibility to continue to do the right thing and hold others accountable for the same. We will all need to be committed to economic and social reforms with an emphasis of sustainable community building as the foundation.
Q: What should business leadership do to extend the partnership so more people feel they have a stake in the enterprise we call KZN?
A: More businesses will likely have to adopt shared value as part of their strategy and operations. Leaders should promote that their workforces remain a part of and invested in the various communities we serve. We will need to continue to commit to an inclusive economy with social cohesion.
FNB remains committed to uplifting the educational and health needs of our society. We have provided significant support to the early childhood centres and their families, old age homes and frail care centres as well as support to public health care facilities. We are committed to increasing our footprint within the township economies, stimulating entrepreneurship and employment with the cost effective and business coaching tools available.
Q: How do we resuscitate the economy? If you could identify three key priority areas, what would they be?
A: The KZN economy will strongly rebound if trust and confidence levels improve. Three focus areas to accelerate the bounce back in the economy would be the following:
- Promote and support small business development.
- Public private partnerships to unlock the potential of the province’s key strategic assets.
- Continued private-private partnerships as this was one of the positive outcomes of leveraging off each other during the crisis.
The bank is providing relief to clients by starting with personalised calls to customers offering empathy and support. Various finance relief measures are offered to directly impacted clients and would be similar in some respects to the relief offered to good standing clients arising from the pandemic. FNB have instituted mobile ATM’s and have mobile branches available to accelerate access to banking, in particular for the SASSA grant recipients. We continue to encourage customers to use our digital channels for most needs, including the FNB App, Online Banking and Cellphone banking.
Many South African businesses have adapted from one crisis to another and we will continue to support our clients rebuild their businesses and restore their dreams.
Q: How do we learn from the mistakes of the riots; how do we create alternative strategies to strengthen our vulnerabilities like on the N3 at Mooi River, for example, where the entire economy is choked by a blockade?
A: Our Province has four main corridors which could be a serious advantage more than a threat:
- Air: King Shaka and the Dube Tradeport has massive potential.
- Sea: Our two ports, Durban and Richards Bay, could be globally competitive.
- Road: Our N3 corridor through Gauteng can connect us through Africa.
- Rail: There is significant potential given the scale of transport of various goods and people let alone the carbon footprint resulting.
Q: What have been the big losses in key sectors that you are aware of? Apparently citrus and dairy losses alone were huge.
A: The wholesale and retail sector will likely bounce back following the insurance and rebuild process. Agriculture will also strengthen as the economy strengthens. Industries such as tourism and hospitality are likely to be the most severely impacted until sufficient action and awareness is created to increase confidence levels. The manufacturing sector may also have to face challenges of volatility in exchange rates and electricity supply. Entrepreneurs are resilient and many have survived one crisis after another and we hopefully will adapt and respond to the environment.
Sector focused solutions and partnerships are critical in ensuring an accelerated recovery. We will promote thought leadership discussions to connect like-minded people, consider customised finance solutions and restore the KZN economy.
Q: What is your estimate of the damage and loss to the KZN economy as a result of the July unrest?
A: Tricky question. At face value it seems that first estimates publicly available suggest a R20-billion direct impact. The indirect impact of cost to supply chains is yet to be determined. We are hopeful that large multi-nationals remain invested and resident in our province and that businesses that were damaged/destroyed commit to the rebuild. Confidence levels are probably the most noteworthy fix and this is invaluable as it would then allow us all to unlock the full potential of our beautiful province together.