Why it’s crucial to collaborate

COMMENT

It may be a cliché, but if one wants to get things done more efficiently, one needs to work together instead of in silos. It is how we, as a nation, 26 years ago, managed to overcome some of our most pressing problems. Toppling apartheid, for instance, wouldn’t have been possible if all the different stakeholders had worked in silos, selflessly.

The year 2020 will require us, once again, to join hands in collaboration to help our beloved country rise from the Covid-19 pandemic.

The past few months have been far from easy, in that regard. Besides losing thousands of lives to the virus – lives of people who were loved and are now dearly missed – Covid-19 has shaken our country’s society and economy to their core.

Over the second quarter, our GDP has plummeted by a whopping 51% while unemployment has skyrocketed to a record high. According to the Centre for Development and Enterprise’s executive director Ann Bernstein, the number of jobless South Africans has jumped from 10.3-million individuals prior to Covid-19 to just more than 12-million now. Young people are affected the most, she said, noting 70% of South Africans between the ages of 15 and 24 are not in school, nor working. Let that sink in for a moment. We know this doesn’t just affect these young men and women.

In the meantime, hunger and poverty have risen exponentially, and with that many other socioeconomic problems.

The situation we are facing as a nation may at times seem impossible to overcome. Nevertheless, I believe we can win this fight faster than we think we can, just like we have won battles in the past. That is not because I am an optimist, but because I am a realist. South Africans are hardier, braver, and more determined than they give themselves credit for. The past has proven this time and time again.

There is a “but”. 

We will only be able to leave the socioeconomic implications of Covid-19 behind when all stakeholders – citizens and residents, politicians, entrepreneurs, innovators, government, academics, and civil society – are prepared to work together on an equal footing. We will also have together with one common agenda and towards one common goal: a country in which everyone, not just a select few, can thrive regardless of where their cradles have stood.

This is where the spirit of ubuntu comes in, described by Afrika Tikkun’s patron, Nelson Mandela, as “the profound sense that we are human only through the humanity of others” and that if we are to accomplish anything in this world, “it will in equal measure be due to the work and achievement of others”.

Only by joining hands and leaving our egos and agendas aside can we amplify the things we are already doing to move beyond the Covid-19 era. The mammoth challenge we are facing is way too big, multi-layered and deep-seated to be tackled by just the government or civil society. Besides many actors, it requires a multitude of skills, resources, and ideas, which can’t be provided by just one or two stakeholders.

Afrika Tikkun’s successes largely rest on our collaborations and partnerships with others, from the government to private sector partners. Alone, we can only do so much. Joining hands with others is the most powerful way to amplify your activities.

There is another reason why we should work together as equal partners. 

The current state of affairs affects everyone, from the single mother who doesn’t know how to feed her family, the unemployed graduate, the CEO who may have to retrench his or her employees, and the entrepreneur who is struggling to get seed funding for his or her innovative social enterprise. While our circumstances differ, this storm is hurting everyone. 

To navigate its waves, and help others do the same, it is not more than fitting we join hands as one. It is the only way we will get far, faster.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Mail & Guardian.

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