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Absa Achiever Breakfast celebrates community’s resilience

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“No country with our size economy has produced more globally competitive companies than South Africa, and if you take the top 100 companies, they have been overwhelmingly started by Jewish South Africans.”
by NICOLA MILTZ | Sep 06, 2018

So said business educator, Professor Nick Binedell, the founding director of the Gordon Institute of Business Science, who was the keynote speaker at the Absa Jewish Achiever breakfast last Friday.

“We face uncertain times… of course we’re in trouble, no one can deny it. Yet, we are a resilient country, and the Jewish community has shown remarkable resilience. It is a community that has made a totally disproportionate contribution to this country, culturally, politically, and most notably in the business community.”

Howard Sackstein, the Chairperson of the Jewish Achiever Awards and the SA Jewish Report, welcomed this year’s illustrious nominees and VIPs.

“We believe in this amorphous thing called community. We believe that we are better together than we are apart. We believe that as a community, strong in our diversity, united but not uniform, together we can create miracles. We can build cities and business empires; we can paint, and sing and dance; we can innovate and undo; we can be the light of political leadership; and the net for those who cannot thrive. And the glue that binds us all together is the SA Jewish Report – the public square of our community – the one source of trusted news and opinion of our people.”

Sackstein explained that this year’s theme, Re-Generation, was chosen because it played on the theme of the “We-Generation” (the selfish generation).

“More than ever, the time is ripe within our country to start to rebuild out of a winter of despair. The process of rebirth is too important to be left to others. It is up to us to be the regeneration, to take responsibility, to lead and to be a light unto the nation… and may the sparks and embers we create with these awards light the fires of our regeneration.”

As the title sponsor of the Absa Jewish Achiever Awards for the past 15 years, Absa’s Oscar Siziba, the Managing Executive of the Relationship Banking Coverage segment for Gauteng and Limpopo, spoke of how the bank valued its relationship with the community.

The Jewish community, albeit small, had a “big heart”, and had made a massive difference to the country, he said.

Highlighting Absa’s theme of “Africanacity”, he said it was the bank’s goal to make sure that Africans, like those in the Jewish community, continued “to help and find solutions that deal with the challenges that our country and all our communities face”.

In a somewhat more sombre tone, Jeff Gable, Absa’s Chief Economist and Head of Research, outlined the state of the economy, saying that “Ramaphoria” had “faded to hard realism” or “Ramareality”.

“It has been a difficult period,” Gable said, pointing out that domestic demand “had [experienced] very little momentum”, that private-sector investment had been under pressure, and consumer demand had also slowed.

Gable said South Africa was in an environment in which consumers weren’t spending and businesses weren’t investing. The hope was to have the right political outcome, which would create a surge in business confidence. There was positivity for a short while, but it had started to slump, and the challenges were not going away any time soon. He said the number one thing holding South African manufacturers back was political uncertainty.

Binedell said it took “HBW – hard bloody work” to make it in this environment, and businesses needed to “leverage whatever the fire was within them”.

“We will never succeed if we don’t unite, and take on board the needs of all of our citizens,” he stressed.

Referring to the re-emergence of talk of emigration, he said, “You’ve got three options: you can leave the country, or you can stay and build another country – the one we believe in. The one thing you shouldn’t do is stay and emigrate.

“We want to be in a vibrant, healthy society. This community and the extraordinary contribution it has made is a huge asset to this country, but we have to reach out. We have to understand the other. We have to walk a mile in everybody else’s moccasins, and we have to take on board all of those who have been left behind.”

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