by Leigh Callipolitis
4 minutes read

A recent survey undertaken by the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) found that public-private partnerships (PPPs) were key to increasing the efficiency and responsiveness of government while allowing for public sector entities to be more engaged in innovation and technology. It is, said the OECD, relationships across both sectors that drive transformation. It is the theme across most bodies of research when it comes to public and private sector engagement – a shared vision and collaboration can create solutions that change the shape of the economy and help overcome complicated societal challenges. For Hlubi Madikiza, digital transformation sales executive for public sector at Altron Systems Integration, it is also a shared responsibility. 

“Organisations need to understand the role they play within the country and recognise that the public sector is not the sole problem solver for the challenges faced by the country,” he says. “The private sector has to show up. The question shouldn’t be – should the private sector engage? It should be – how can the private sector provide sustainable support that helps the public sector overcome problems and together drive the advancement of South Africans.” 

There has to be a shared departure point for both public and private sectors to ensure the country steps away from a legacy of inequality, unemployment and complexity towards improved access to services, healthcare, and security. These are goals that would benefit all stakeholders, but to achieve them there has to be cohesion and collaboration. 

“The challenge is that PPPs have had a cloud over them with actors not behaving in the right way, but moving forward it has become important that we normalise the engagement between the private and public sectors,” says Madikiza. “We need to not let the engagement narrative of the past colour how these sectors move into the future. Respect for the laws of the country and government procurement processes is critical.” 

Another challenge often felt by organisations dealing with government is its siloed approach. Typically, procurement within the public sector is verticalized which makes it challenging to navigate across data, infrastructure, applications, especially at a time when most solutions are bundled and converged. The state has to find a better way of procuring converged solutions that span multiple transversals and that deliver turnkey results.  

“We need to reach a point where government can define the desired outcome so the solution then is built around the results rather than within silos,” adds Madikiza. “The private sector also has to find a better way of working with public sector counterparts by providing visibility into how they can collaborate on solving problems together. This is an important step at a time when there’s a lot of uncertainty around what the public and private sector conversation needs to look like.” 

Resolving these complexities and moving forward to a richer collaborative future asks that both sectors be more open to what the other has to offer, and provide. The reality is that digital is a key component in transformation for the country – it will change service delivery, improve citizen connectivity, drive education, and simplify accessibility. Combining the shared business and situational understanding from both sides of the equation allows for solutions to emerge that are built around real needs, and that resolve very real challenges. 

“There is a massive opportunity for public and private companies to change the experience for citizens through technology applications that bridge the gaps but moving forward, there needs to be a fresh approach to these relationships and collaborations,” says Madikiza. “The days of private sector companies simply chasing tenders should be over, we now need a laser focus on Government’s challenges and solutions built around outcomes. The private sector has to show up with proven solutions and capabilities that have clear proof of value so every Rand of taxpayer money has the outcome expected. We can ill afford white elephants and never-ending projects in this country.” 

Private sector has a responsibility to put its proverbial best foot forward, bringing the skills, the value, the solutions and the technology that will make lasting change. And the sector has to articulate these to government so limited resources are spent as wisely as possible.  

“The private sector has a role to play in driving the development agenda of the country and we need to show up in the best way possible,” concludes Madikiza. “The call to arms is clear, now we need to enable the state and the future of the country with partnerships built on ethical foundations and the goal of achieving measurable outcomes.”

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