The issue of policy consensus is critical to South Africa’s developmental trajectory. That is the view of the United Nations Development Programme’s newly-appointed Resident Representative to South Africa, Economist Dr Ayodele Odusola, who assumes the role later in June.
Speaking exclusively with SABC News in New York ahead of his move to Pretoria, Odusola emphasised the need for the country to move beyond the pre-election discourse of uncertainty to find much-needed agreement on policy moving forward.
As the new UNDP Resident Representative, Dr Ayodele Odusola will be responsible for promoting and supporting pro-poor policies and inclusive economic growth in South Africa.
“I know the growth prospect is a bit bleak, but that’s just a transitory process because the way I see South Africa with the opportunities that are there, the government is so dynamic. The new regime is so focused on what they want to achieve and at the same time, in making sure they move people out of poverty by 2030 with that and the composition of the new cabinet. Putting so many youth and young people there, it shows the government is keenly interested in agility. And at the same time, having 50-50 in terms of men and women, it shows that the government really wants to be an inclusive government and with that I strongly believe that they are setting the right trajectory on development front.”
But uncertainty prevails whether on the implementation of the country’s land policy, the restructuring of state-owned enterprises or the mandate of the Reserve Bank that has spilled over into public view.
“The issue of consensus is very critical. In development management, consensus matters, especially under a political dispensation. If there is no consensus, the losers will block it. And what we want is a win-win framework where everybody, irrespective of the spectrum of the ladder you belong, you see yourself in that policy arena and that’s the kind of thing we’re looking for. Now once there is a win-win framework, we agree (on) a kind of consensus, everybody becomes an advocate of the issue rather some people working for it, others working against it and that’s where consensus matters on development issues.”
Odusolo, who soon leaves his position at UNDPs Chief Economist and Head of Strategy for Africa, believes it is important for each country to develop based on their local development context and to take the bad with the good.
“SA plays a strategic role, not only on the continent but in the world. And we need the past to determine what the future is going to be. And what I take out of it is for us to have a kind of reflection of what we’ve had over the past and does this really reflect what we intend to be in the next 50 years. So, what I see is for us to take the good things of what we have experienced since independence in 1994 to date and then plug it into our development trajectory. If there is any negative thing we’ve seen, we need to really see how can we make this a thing of the past and charting a new way forward.”
Asked if he embraced the notion that the country endured 9 wasted years under former President Jacob Zuma, he answered: “I don’t believe any year is wasted. I believe it’s a pointer to the lessons we have to watch out for – that’s the kind of development. The experience of the past is what you use to inform or refine what we expect in the future. So, nothing is wasted because it’s better for us to go through a teething problem at the early stage than to experience the same teething problem when you are on top and then the consequences of it will be more grievous than when you experienced at the early stage of your development status. I think it’s part of the development we have to go through.”
Dr Odusola previously served as a senior economist for UNDP in Pretoria in 2009 and returns a decade later as the man in charge to assume his new role on 24 June.