SA: President leaves his mark on young global CEOs

President Cyril Ramaphosa has told an organisation of young global CEOs to use their influence to play a greater role to make a positive impact on society.

Addressing a gala dinner of the Young Presidents Organisation (YPO) Global Leadership Conference at the Cape Town International Convention Centre on Wednesday night, the President also encouraged them to explore business opportunities not only in South Africa, but also in Africa, which he said has “vast untapped potential and a huge appetite for investment”.

He said this on the back of a YPO Global Leadership Survey, released in January, which revealed that an overwhelming 93% of YPO affiliate CEOs believe that business must play a far greater role in making a positive impact on society for the benefit of all people.

“This perspective has led me to think of five tasks that I believe the YPO family needs to be preoccupied with, seeing that the majority of your members believe that business should make an impact on society for the benefit of all people,” President Ramaphosa said.

The YPO is a premier global leadership organisation for more than 27 000 chief executives in over 130 countries and the global platform for them to engage, learn and grow.

Its members harness the knowledge, influence and trust of the world’s most influential and innovative business leaders to inspire business, personal, family and community impact.

Today, companies run by its members are diversified among industries and types of businesses and they collectively employ more than 22 million people globally and generate $9 trillion in annual revenue.

President challenges global CEOs to five tasks

The President said the “business of business” should not just be business and that focusing on profits alone should not be the yardstick.

He said instead, business leaders should make stakeholder value the benchmark of a company’s performance.

“This talks to focusing on recognising the challenges that the people of the world face and crafting a shared future in which their challenges are addressed.”

He said the business of business should be to create value for society, which is a task that business leaders cannot ignore.

The second task, the President said, is for business leaders to be enablers of opportunities by leading a revolution of training and education amid the challenges that the fourth industrial revolution brings.

“Here, both government and business must join forces to provide workers with the skills and qualifications they need to participate in the digital economy, for instance, by being able to tap the opportunities created by artificial intelligence,” he said.

Thirdly, the President said global leaders should encourage innovation to fuel economic growth on a continuous basis with new products and services.

“Business needs to lead in this regard,” he said.

He said the fourth issue that leaders should be seized with is to have the courage to address tough issues and tough questions.

“How can we secure the future of those whose jobs will be eliminated by machines? How do we create new sectors of the economy? How do we address the challenge of widespread unemployment?”

President Ramaphosa said the fifth task is for business to remain engaged with all the key stakeholders and especially government.

“Relationships between business and government are often fraught with conflict.

“A business must always have the courage to engage government and collaborate with government, even as it might seem difficult.

“Business should, however, not seek to capture government because that always leads to disastrous ends. Part of this task means that business must never be found wanting when it comes to adherence to integrity and ethical behaviour.

“In other words, business must rid itself of corrupt practices and be seen to be dealing with corruption effectively.

“What is significant is that this perspective that encapsulates these five tasks is embraced by important players in global business,” he said