STATE YOUR CASE | UNDP
objectives and those of the country, there has to be a planning instrument, which, in South Africa, is called the Strategic Cooperation Framework,” reveals Dr. Agostinho Zacarias, United Nations Resident Coordinator and United Nations Development Programme Resident Representative.
According to Zacarias, the Strategic Cooperation Framework, which in other countries is called the United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF), is the overarching planning document that guides all United Nations system organisations assisting South Africa. Consultations are conducted with various stakeholders in order to draw up this document, which will be the country development framework for a given period. The current Strategic Cooperation Framework was the basis for the development of UNDP Country Programme Document 2013 – 2017. UNDP’s country programme is fully aligned with the government’s 2009 Mid-term Strategic Framework, the National Development Plan and the New Growth Initiative. Coupled with discussions with various entities in government, the private sector and civil society, these elements provided UNDP with a clear definition of priorities which guide the country programme document for South Africa.
Priority areas have been identified and the possible role that the UN can play has been examined. Apart from supporting South Africa’s general and global growth, UNDP in South Africa will, in the main, ensure inclusive growth, governance and service delivery along with assisting in the greening of the South African economy. Zacarias notes that inclusive growth also entails promoting gender equality, women’s empowerment, human rights, and tackling HIV/AIDS issues. “We give preference to vulnerable groups: women and the youth are foremost in this regard. Creating sustainable work opportunities for this group is a top priority,” says Zacarias.
Although South Africa aims to create 5-million jobs in the next 10 years, Zacarias notes that this will only be possible through the provision of skills and the creation of job opportunities, particularly for the aforementioned vulnerable groups. Commencing at the grass-roots level is key for such a project; hence says Zacarias, UNDP has established a partnership with Business Unity South Africa (BUSA) and the Black Business Council (BBC), in a form of the UNDP-Private Sector Development Forum that is intended to support small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs), in order to improve their organisations through upskilling their personnel, and by helping them to benefit from technology updates so as to improve their efficiency and capacity.
The collaboration with BUSA and the BBC led UNDP to develop the Supplier Development Programme, bringing UNDP to closer collaboration with the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA), Gauteng Enterprise Propeller (GEP), Public Investment Cooperation (PIC), ABSA Bank and others, as organisations with the mandate of creating job opportunities in the market. “We have to create decent employment where individuals have dignity and find inspiration to continue in their own careers,” says Zacarias.
Stakeholder engagement with partners takes place on a regular basis and parties touch base on various aspects of the priority areas. “The intention is to have as many initiatives in the private sector as possible that will enable the country to deal with issues of reducing inequality and high unemployment rates,” reveals Zacarias.
2013–2017 UNDP South Africa Programmeof Action
Climate change and greening South Africa’s economy.
Service delivery and democratic governance.
South Africa’s regional and global role.
Programme management, and monitoring and evaluation.
Gender transformation and HIV/AIDS issues (which are given priority within all the above-mentioned areas, as they are significantly important to South Africa).
A Sustainable Future
Given that the country’s private sector is the engine for growth, it has to be kept ‘warm and running’ for the purpose of achieving a sustainable economy. Together with its partners, UNDP has various programmes in place to stimulate and foster growth in the private sector.
“Our main role here is to pass on technical skills that will contribute to uplifting the small companies into becoming normal suppliers of well-established and big corporates. In this manner, they will improve and expand their capacities,” states Zacarias. He alludes to the fact that some companies, formed about 20 years ago, are still clinging to 20-year-old technology which, ultimately, adversely affects their productivity and competitiveness, and this despite the fact that there are new technologies which increase productivity and efficiency.
“In monitoring the small companies, and their balance sheets and levels of technology and skills, we will help them reach the standards required by the big multinational corporates that they should be doing business with,” says Zacarias. In doing this, UNDP measures local companies against international standards, for instance against companies in China and India, so that these companies meet the standards for companies from which multinational corporates import. The key question to ask in this regard is: why are big multinational supermarket chains still importing meat and other goods from abroad when there are local companies that can supply the same product? Zacarias reveals that a recent study by UNDP showed that most small local enterprises do not adhere to international standards; hence the focus is on ensuring that they not only meet these standards, but can also compete globally.
Emphasis should be put on realigning the training offered by institutions and on the skills needs of the private sector. In this regard, given that a high number of graduates are unemployed, says Zacarias, it may not necessarily be a matter of a lack of jobs, but because the people available have the wrong or inadequate skills. He therefore urges the private sector to stand up and be counted in order to make this realignment a success.
Encouraging the mobility of labour across borders is another way that South Africa can address the issue of high unemployment among graduates. Zacarias says that not only should they be allowed to work in neighbouring countries, but regional protocols also have to exist in order to allow for volunteer programmes wherever opportunities exist regionally. In the private sector there are about 800 000 vacancies while there are about 600 000 unemployed university graduates. So the issue is that of skills mismatch and lack of opportunities for young people. He also cites the example of Europe, America and Latin America where countries allow young people to come into the job market without jeopardising the positions of those who already have employment.
Providing Incentives in order to Retain Skills
In an effort to encourage the retention and transfer of skills, Zacarias cites the example of the recently concluded agreement between PRASA and Alstom which stipulates that 65% of the components needed for the project have to be locally available or produced. He says that this translates into local skills development by companies to ensure that they are able to meet that 65% stipulation.
In South Africa, where the pool of scarce skills is under threat as a result of trained and experienced personnel emigrating to greener pastures, Zacarias says that encouraging career growth is one way of incentivising employees so that they feel that their organisations care for them. However, any such incentive programme will have to ensure continuity, and this is where all parties in education and business should come to the fore. “By continuously developing employee’s skills and adequately remunerating them, they may stay with the organisation for longer,” suggests Zacarias.
The German scenario is an apt example of individuals being successful in their careers without necessarily having a university degree. It demonstrates that one can grow through vocational or on-the-job training that is equivalent to college training and which is recognised in the system. Through a combination of experience and training, such individuals might end up being an engineer with recognised skills without having obtained a formal university education.
Creating industries that foster technological innovation is another way in which South Africa can win the battle of skills retention. “Stakeholders should try to incorporate innovation in the industry as a fundamental function. It is critical in today’s environment to innovate continuously,” says Zacarias. He explains that the focus should not be on short-term gain, but on long-term value, with companies positioning themselves as good corporate citizens that contribute to sustainability.
A case in point in this regard is Vietnam, where most of its young people are employed in the information and communications technology sector. Zacarias notes that, here, young people have been instrumental in revolutionising their own societies and Vietnam so that it has become a fully-fledged knowledge economy.
Social Upliftment for a Better South Africa
The trend in South Africa has been to leave social upliftment to the state. As a result, the state collects the revenue and sees to investment in social infrastructure for the purpose of social improvement. Zacarias states that, nowadays, such an approach is no longer effective and that companies need to realise that social upliftment emanates from within the organisation too. “Companies that tend to perform well are those that have registered a level of stability where employees are happy, as they feel that their companies are affording them access to education and to health for their families in their communities,” he advises.
This is where, explains Zacarias, the issue of ‘dignified employment’ comes in. “There is a need to ensure that all who find employment are ‘dignified employees’ whose jobs allow them to live in a society where they belong by giving them access to education, sanitation and health.”
He recommends that companies invest in social change early on, as, in its absence, profit margins may be adversely affected through low productivity or even sabotage such as embarking on strikes. However, companies cannot do it alone – there has to be a concerted effort by local government, company management and communities.
“Communities should view the companies in their midst not merely as work providers, but also as potential providers of so much more. To get to this point, they need to feel that the company is something of their own, rather than being detached from it,” Zacarias points out.
“As the UN, we favour growth of a country that is inclusive. There is always a possibility of supporting communities so as to fully integrate them into the economic supply chain. In this regard, there should be efforts to empower communities to become part of the economy in one way or another, thereby assisting to uplift such communities. This will be the key to ongoing stability and development in both South Africa and the regions surrounding it,” Zacarias concludes.
UNDP in South Africa
UNDP is the leading global development agency for transformational change. It helps empower lives and builds resilient nations so that they can withstand crises and can improve the quality of life of everyone.
UNDP South Africa office is one of many across more than 177 countries and territories, and offers global perspectives and local insight. UNDP in South Africa is a key partner in the country’s vision of greater prosperity and improved lives.
The overarching goal of the strategic partnership between the government of South Africa and UNDP is to advance South Africa’s strategic priorities to bring about a better South Africa, a better Africa and a better world.
UNDP South Africa’s programme of support is consistent with the government’s New Growth Path that is designed to accelerate the implementation of employment-creation programmes and schemes.
UNDP partners with people at all levels of society, principally with the host government, the UN system, civil society organisations, the private sector, intergovernmental organisations, and foundations.
Global Expertise Made Locally Relevant
Supporting South Africa to meet its developmental responsibilities, and when and where appropriate to meet its regional and global responsibilities; including peace and security, is one of the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) core aims. UNDP works in close cooperation with public and private sectors to achieve its goals of improving the lives of South Africans, building resilient societies and empowered nations.
“Our work is not isolated from the work of the other United Nations agencies but has to be complimentary and needs to be fully aligned to the objectives of the country. In order to marry our
by Andrew Ngozo