On Thursday, Discovery Hosted the 9th Discovery Leadership Summit titled “Inspiring Minds”, which brought together some of the world’s most brilliant thinkers to share their leadership strategies and insights on issues relating to business, economics, government and science.
Hosted at the Sandton Convention Centre, which was decked out in colourful African inspired prints, it promised a world class line-up with thought provoking and stimulating content. While there were talks I found more interesting and engaging than others, overall what they promised was delivered.
The general theme of the event was one of optimism and upliftment, from Discovery CEO Adrian Gore’s opening remarks, appealing for positive leadership and optimism that drives energy down, to Former US President Bill Clinton’s closing remarks, that South Africa is a beautiful country with potential we shouldn’t screw up.
In case you missed it, below is a summary of the key notes of each speaker.
Adrian Gore, Founder and CEO of Discovery
Adrian Gore brought the case of vision-based leadership. He spoke about the tendency we have, to be individually optimistic but collectively pessimistic; and how the figures show that South Africa is in fact in a better position than it was.
Our GDP is higher, he said, there is an increase in black people in the work force, better schooling, better housing, and fewer HIV infections. He also believes that South Africa is bigger and more relevant than we think. “South Africans are confidently wrong”, he said. Our problem is that we see our problems as insolvable.
According to Gore, problems are the norm and every 18 months or so, a new critical issue crops up, a trend he sees continuing. However, each issue is solvable and in cases already solved.
He called for leaders to change the narrative, not ignoring problems but to start thinking of problems as solvable which means seeing the potential in our economy and investing in it. Putting his money where his mouth is, Gore said that Discovery was committed to investing R13BN into South Africa over the next 5 years.
Dr Patrice Motsepe, CEO of African Rainbow Minerals and Stephen Koseff, Former CEO of Investec in Conversation with Bruce Whitfield
Dr Patrice Motsepe and Stephen Koseff spoke about business potential, optimism and the way forward. “Growth matters”, said Koseff, “we have to grow our economy and find the secret to success and part of that is optimism”. It’s important to uplift society, “we live in society, not off it”.
Motsepe stressed that optimism needs to be instilled into the poor living in rural areas. “The challenge is that there are many poor, marginalise, unemployed South Africans who are primarily black and we need to ensure that the optimism which is factually based, and that the same hope is instilled into them”. He also believes that we need to change the narrative held by many White South Africans that it’s going to get worse.
The solution Motsepe said is growing entrepreneurship and creating jobs. Entrepreneurship helps grow an economy, creates jobs and grows the middle class – all needed for success and growth. And that he said, lies in the Private Sector. “The secret to success is creating an environment where everyone can succeed. [An environment that is] the best place for business. Side by side.”
He also noted that while scepticism can be good, this idea that you’re either on my side or my enemy needs to stop.
Lord Jim O’Neill, Economist and Former Commercial Secretory to UK Treasury
Jim O’Neill, spoke about the rise of the BRICS. BRICS is an acronym that O’Neill came up with and it stands for Brazil, Russia, India and China – the worlds leading emerging economies. He believes that China is the most important to the world economy, currently bringing in over 50% of the world’s GDP. “The future of the world economy is more dependent on the Chinese consumer than any other thing in the world”, he said.
Despite popular thought O’Neill clarified that the S in BRICS was intended to be a plural “S” and not for South Africa. South Africa’s population and workforce is not big enough to considered an official BRICS country. Despite that, he said that if South Africa improved productivity levels, among other interventions, there would be a turn-around in economic outcomes. Specifically, by looking at what South Korea has done to take it from the level of the wealth of an African country to that of a European country.
O’Neill also discussed the threat of antimicrobial resistance “It doesn’t distinguish between colour, economic status or political systems. It affects all seven billion of us and we need to do something about it”.
According to the World Health Organisation, rising drug resistance is one of the top three biggest threats to global healthcare. If a solution is not found, he warned, we could see it result in 10 million deaths a year by 2050. His list of solutions, he calls the 10 commandments included increase public awareness; improving sanitation and polluted environments causing illness and increased use of antibiotics; reducing unnecessary use of antimicrobials in agriculture and promoting the development and use of vaccines. It is South Africa’s efforts in AMR that justify that S in BRICS standing for South Africa, he said.
Professor Clayton Christensen, Authority on Disruptive Innovation and Efosa Ojomo, Founder of Poverty Stops Here
Professor Clayton Christensen and Efosa Ojomo discussed how a pull effect is better than a push effect at truly changing economies.
Innovation, they explained is the key to prosperity. They explained the cycle of innovation. It starts with the idea, a product available only to a select few affluent members of society (like the first car or personal computer). It then can become a market creating innovation – which make products affordable and accessible. Market creating innovations are essential for creating growth and jobs. Then comes sustaining innovations, which involves making good products better. This improves margins and market share but creates little net growth. Eventually that product goes through efficiency innovations which makes it affordable. For a healthy economy, all the above innovations are needed.
Using the example of Ojomo noodles, who used innovation to bring instant noodles to an African population looking for cheap and easy to make meals; they stressed how instead of pushing for solutions we think can work, we pull for innovations that have the power to create new markets and new jobs.
Caster Semenya, Olympic Gold Medalist and World Champ
Caster Semenya discussed self-love, self-worth, the need for women to brand themselves better and why she’s chosen to fight the IAAF rule. For details of the conversation between Caster Semenya and Redi Tlhabi, click here.
Caroline Webb, Management Consultant, Economist and Leadership Coach
Caroline spoke about the 3 tweaks she employs daily to make everyday a better day. For details of the talk by Caroline Webb on How to Have a Better Day, click here
David Cameron, Former UK Prime Minister
David Cameron spoke of leadership, how he decreased deficit in the UK and how South Africa can write its own beautiful story.
He stressed that how leaders lead in dangerous times – where there is corruption, climate change and economic uncertainty – is incredibly important. According to Cameron, a good leader will not shy away from doing difficult things and making hard decisions. A good leader will be able to do difficult things alongside other people. And a good leader can communicate his plans and decisions and create alliances. He said that it is crucial for leaders to listen to people’s concerns.
Cameron also believes that Geography isn’t destiny, governance is destiny. That the belief that some countries are just poor, and others are rich is false. He gave examples of neighboring countries, where one does better than the other.
Chatting to Redi Tlhabi, he said he thinks that South Africa is at a moment of great political greatness and turnaround. He said to thrive, a country needs to strengthen the building blocks of democracy and the quality of rule of law, respect human rights, be transparent and protect people and their rights.
He then got personal and spoke about the importance of genomic sequencing and DNA testing. Something close to his heart, after losing his son to a genetic condition. He believes that genomics, – understanding and sequencing the genome – will drive healthcare in the future. “It will be possible to make faster and more accurate diagnoses. But it is also a moral issue for world. This technology, I believe, should not only be for developed countries but should be available to every country,”
President Cyril Ramaphosa
Current South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa, took to the stage to discuss our legacy, leadership and land reform.
He began with stating that history has bequeathed South Africa with a devasting legacy of poverty, inequality and underdevelopment. He said that the world is in desperate need of leadership, not leaders.
He stressed that he believes that South Africa is embarking on a new dawn and we are determined to succeed. He said that if we are to create a South Africa that is free and equal – we need to strive for a growth that is inclusive and sustainable. And push to include those who were previously excluded – blacks and women of all colour.
He brought up the controversial topic of land reform, something he believes is absolutely necessary; but assured the crowd it would be done fairly, transparently and within the laws of our constitution.
He promised to reconcile the hunger people have for land as well as the fears people have about land, to find a durable and sustainable solution going forward. Doing things, he said in a way that subscribes to the Madiba way of doing things.
Bill Clinton, Former US President and Hillary Clinton, Former Secretory of Sate in conversation with Adrian Gore
Former US President Bill Clinton and Sectary of State, Hillary Clinton were the keynote speakers of the Discovery Leadership Summit and sat down with Adrian Gore to discuss democracy, Land Reform and Artificial Intelligence.
Hillary Clinton compared a healthy society to a 3-legged stool, each leg representing a functioning, effective and honest government; a productive, dynamic and successful private sector; and a flourishing non for-profit civil society. Each leg has to be stable, although in most of the world they are not. Democracy, she said, is not up to one group – there’s something everyone can do.
She also said that she believes that we’re in different times now, especially with social media, and democracy must evolve with the times. She cautioned against reverting to the me vs them narrative, which as history has shown does not end well.
Bill Clinton echoed her sentiments stating that freedom is fragile and that there’s a lot at stake to make sure that South Africa retains its democracy.
When asked about how to give the disenfranchised hope, Hillary said that we have to find our story – Madiba’s legacy had a strong story people could grab on to, what’s the current story?
On the subject of corruption, Hillary said that transparency is the best thing, while Bill Clinton said that there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. We can look at countries with the least corruption and model off them.
Perhaps the most interesting part of their discussion what the one around Artificial Intelligence. Hillary urged for more thoughtful international discussion – around Artificial Intelligence. She said that left to our own devices, people will never stop innovating and inventing unless there’s guidelines. And that we need to figure out boundaries.
She said that Artificial Intelligence can be a very scary concept and that we need a better understanding as ordinary citizens what we want to accept and where we draw the lines.
She believes that the most valuable commodity in the world today is your personal data. And for about 15 years people have been freely giving it away. It’s been used to follow you around social media, she said, with ads of things you looked it. It’s used to figure out where you live, where you go and your interests. She also put forward the case of AI taking away jobs, like in the case of self-driving cars.
Bill Clinton ended the conference with the final words “You live in South Africa, forget about everything we said unless you have a friend in America you can call and tell them to vote. You have an incredible country, do not screw it up”
In mentioning the above conversations, it feels necessary to say what I believe many were thinking. As keynote speakers, the talk with Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton felt underwhelming and a somewhat of a let-down. They have a reputation for being dynamic speakers and the conversation at times felt awkward and unprepared, which may have been due to the last-minute decision on their part to have Adrian Gore “interview ” them. On the flip-side, out of all the political leaders who spoke, they were the most unscripted and unlike the others didn’t come across like they were trying to sell themselves, ideas or campaigning; but rather having a conversation and sharing their own opinions.
Overall, it was an incredibly organised and well put together event, with some incredible speakers who left much food for thought.
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Thank you to Discovery for inviting us to the Summit.
Images provided by Discovery.