BUSA is a confederation of business organisations that includes chambers of commerce and industry, professional and corporate associations, and unisectoral organisations. Its function is to ensure that business plays a constructive role in the country’s economic growth, development and transformation, and to create an environment in which businesses of all sizes, in all sectors, can thrive and be competitive.
BUSA represents the views of South African business on macroeconomic and high-level policy issues that affect it both nationally and internationally. It represents its members on national, social and economic matters in statutory and non-statutory structures and at international forums, and participates in global events on their behalf.
As national governments enter into international policies and customs and trade agreements, the private sector in each country needs to work to influence not only its own government but also regional and international forums and intergovernmental structures. This is why BUSA represents South African business in regional and global forums that bring together the private sectors from different countries to discuss and advance common interests.
In the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and other forums, BUSA works with other private sector organisations to:
- Facilitate policy harmonisation, integration and trade.
- Reduce cross-border barriers to investment and sustainable growth.
- Promote evidence-based decision making that is conducive to business and social development.
Integrated regional markets with efficient procedures and common policies reduce the cost of doing business. They enable businesses to take advantage of economies of scale and generate opportunities for investment in Africa’s natural resources, social and economic infrastructure, youth population and growing markets. They also enable business to learn from experiences in other jurisdictions and create common areas of opportunity.
South Africa’s economy is one of the largest on the continent. While it was mainly built on primary and secondary industries such as mining and manufacturing, growth has shifted to tertiary industries, in line with global developments. Currently, key sectors in the economy include finance, real estate, business services, manufacturing, and wholesale and retail trade.
The size of the South African economy, its diverse structure and its integration in global trade and finance mean that South Africa has emerged as a key representative of Africa at global forums. For example, in 2018 it will become the chair of the Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa (BRICS) group. BUSA also represents South African, SADC and African business interests at the International Labour Conference, which sets out policies for the International Labour Organization (ILO) (www.ilo.org).
However, South Africa’s leading role and profile in many organisations and forums has led to significant demands being placed on the private sector and BUSA for support. For example, the SADC Private Sector Forum (www.spsf.org.bw), the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment) have all acknowledged that they require a partnership with business if they are to succeed. While these different initiatives may complement each other, it is beyond the resources of national and regional organisations like BUSA to meet the expectations of all of them.
Challenges for business organisations include a lack of financial resources and fundraising capacity; limited research and development capacity; competing priorities; and often having to react to new policies and regulations. As a result, BUSA has needed to carefully prioritise its resources to ensure the maximum benefit for businesses and the country.
Locally, business engages robustly with government and organised labour, as well as representatives of civil society. Their strong consultative relationship in forums like the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) benefits South Africa by providing a strong representative voice for business.
Smaller countries and their businesses are sometimes reluctant to participate in regional and other economic integration programmes as they are not in a position to influence and benefit from them. To help build a common private sector approach to trade and other issues, SADC, for example, has identified the need to:
- Facilitate the development of SADC chambers and business associations through a sustainable capacity enhancement programme, among other initiatives.
- Improve the capacity of national and regional statistical systems to provide the data needed for regional integration.
The way forward
In SADC, BUSA:
- Represents South African business interests. It is the South African representative on the SADC Private Sector Forum, which supports regional integration initiatives. Among other initiatives, BUSA has been a leading contributor to a guide to labour laws in all SADC countries. The guide targets compliance with labour laws through ease of doing business and understanding. Over time, the forum will also provide a platform for improved policy harmonisation in SADC.
- Represents business in the South Africa Decent Work Country Programme, which seeks to promote decent work as an integral part of national development strategies. BUSA is also the South African business representative in the SADC Decent Work Programme.
In Africa, BUSA:
- Participates in the African Union through Business Africa, where it works towards Agenda 2063, the strategic framework for socioeconomic transformation of the continent over the next 50 years. Agenda 2063 focuses on infrastructure and energy; economic affairs; the rural economy and agriculture; trade and industry; civil society; and the diaspora.
- Participates in the World Economic Forum on Africa.
Internationally, BUSA participates in:
- The leadership of the BRICS Business Council.
- The Commonwealth Business Forum.
- Bilateral engagement with national business representative counterparts across many countries.
- The ILO at the International Labour Conference. BUSA represents South African, SADC and African business interests on a range of issues, including labour market issues, skills development and the future world of work, and bringing informal businesses into the formal economy.
- The International Organisation of Employers (IOE), through which the international business community engages with the Group of Twenty (G20) governments.
- ILO and IOE programmes and events aligned with BUSA’s objectives. Through the ILO, BUSA has embraced Agenda 2063 and the Sustainable Development Goals.
Cooperation between national business organisations and regional and international business groupings strengthens their ability to advocate for regional economic integration and improved local policies and conditions for business. It helps ensure that international policies and frameworks are conducive to business and contribute to sustainable societies.
BUSA. Strategic Plan 2017-2019. March 2017.