President of South Africa Encourages YPO Members To Create Impact Beyond Profit
By Mary Sigmond, YPO
With an invitation to become partners on building an inclusive, sustainable global economy that benefits all peoples, the President of the Republic of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa, began his address to more than 2,000 global business leaders and guests of YPO at the 2019 YPO EDGE in Cape Town, South Africa, on 6 March.
“We are here this evening to invite you to become our partners on this journey of inclusive growth, which will create employment, reduce inequality and offer business a meaningful opportunity to make a positive impact in society.”
Each year, business leaders from around the world gather for the YPO EDGE, the organization’s premier visionary showcase of thought leadership and innovation. For two days, participants from more than 130 countries convene with world-renowned thought leaders to address key issues in business, politics, science, technology, philanthropy and the humanities.
In attendance at the event in Cape Town were the President of the Republic of Rwanda, His Excellency President Paul Kagame, 2018-2019 YPO Chairman Pascal Gerken, YPO CEO Scott Mordell, YPO EDGE Host City Chair Paul Berman, and members of the African diplomatic core and deputy ministers.
“What distinguishes YPO from any other organization is that we trust each other, we learn from each other and we try to make each other better,” says Berman during the evening’s opening remarks. In thanking President Ramaphosa for joining fellow leaders, Berman pointed to the extraordinary leadership skills of the president of South Africa.
“We could not hope for a finer example of true leadership than the manner of which you have transformed the mood of an entire nation since taking office,” says Berman.
“True leadership is seldom easy. It takes enormous empathy and genuine concern for those we lead. To stir in them the desire to contribute to a greater cause and an understanding of true partnership to create this greatness.”
YPO has expanded its presence in Africa in recent years, with more than 700 members in 21 chapters across the continent. As Africa’s working age population is likely to double to 1 billion in the next 24 years, surpassing both China and India, President Ramaphosa encouraged leaders in the audience to explore the opportunities that exist not only in South Africa, but across the continent.
“Africa is the next frontier of global growth. It has vast untapped potential and a huge appetite for investment.”
Ramaphosa also voiced his appreciation for the emerging perspectives of YPO members expressed in the YPO Global Leadership Survey released in January. He pointed to the overwhelming 93 percent of CEOs who believe that business must play a far greater role in making a positive impact on society for the benefit of all people.
“I believe that business should adopt a contrarian posture to Milton Friedman’s maxim — that the business of business is business.The business of business should not just be business,” he says.
Ramaphosa encourages leaders to think about and embrace five important tasks:
- Profits alone should not be the yardstick. Instead, we should make stakeholder value the benchmark of a company’s performance.
- Train and educate. Government and business must join forces to provide workers with the skills and qualifications to participate in the digital economy such as tapping into the opportunities created by AI.
- Encourage innovation. This is a necessity to fuel economic growth on a continuous basis with new products and services.
- Summon the courage. Take on and address the tough issues and the tough questions facing the planet.
- Remain engaged. Even though collaboration may be difficult and frustrating at times, engage with all key stakeholders, especially government.
“I am pleased that gathered within this hall tonight are men and women who are astute and very much aware that we all have a responsibility to work for sustainable and inclusive growth,” Ramphosa says.
“Let us all work together to make the world a better place for all the people who live in it.”