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Dear Mr. President,

Firstly, I applaud you. You are an inspiration. You need no reminding that our hopes and dreams as South Africans are resting heavily on your shoulders. That is a responsibility few would accept with the grace that you demonstrate.

Thank you for addressing us at the Young President Organisation (YPO) Annual Conference this past week and for sharing your vision for our country, beginning with eradicating the corruption that has plagued our recent past and burdened our people.

I, too, have some passionate ideas for our country to help our nation move forward into a new era and reduce inequality. Please grace me with a moment to share some of these thoughts.

I would like to impress upon you and plead you to completely embrace technology and digitalization. With incredible tools at our fingertips, emerging countries truly have an opportunity to transform lives and reduce inequality by utilizing technology to develop efficient and effective solutions to our Health, Educational, Employment, and Transport needs.

Education, in particular, is such a crucial priority for the long-term future of our economy and for bridging the gap between those who have and those who have not. This is an area with much low-hanging fruit. For example, if we are to provide free, high-quality education to our people—especially tertiary education, as has been promised—we must do so in an affordable and effective way. Technology and digitalization are the solutions. Rather than focusing on sending learners to costly universities, we can embrace the opportunities that lie in e-learning and focus on getting data connectivity and simple, affordable tablet computers into the hands of students. This will allow them to complete an array of affordable and readily-available online courses, degrees, and certifications. I cannot emphasize enough how quickly and easily we could save on the trillions already set aside for free education by embracing this thinking, all while educating our people much faster. Similar opportunities exist in Healthcare, Employment, and Transport as well.

If I may suggest a book, “Connecting the Dots” by John Chambers which explores how countries like India, France, and Israel are benefiting from such thinking. Mr. Chambers has done some amazing work with these countries and has seen the ways lives are transformed and countries are pulled into prosperity with this perspective.

I also would like to suggest that you speak to us—the small and entrepreneurial businesses. I promise you will gain insight into innovative and creative thinking and ideas. But we need help with the current employment legislation and requirements. As much as our personal ambitions may be to build businesses with thousands of employees that provide opportunity for many families, we are forced to employ as few people as possible by policies that incentivize us to reduce employment.

Of the emerging countries that have succeeded, they often have often done so on the back of manufacturing. South Africa has an opportunity to grow its manufacturing base, but not while nonsensical policies and tariffs are in place. An example of such policies are the import duties on fabrics, making local clothing manufacturing unnecessarily prohibitive.

Lastly, and most importantly, please continue to connect with and embrace your people and speak directly to us from the heart. The country needs your leadership from which hope springs. We appreciate your communicating regularly and at a level that connects with us as individuals—as people of South Africa who are all in this together wishing for a prosperous future for us all.

Yours faithfully,

Cuan Chelin

Proudly South African