The CEO Initiative was implemented shortly after a cabinet shuffle in which then finance minister Nhlanla Nene was replaced by the relatively unknown Des van Rooyen, a former mayor.
Markets plunged on the news and Gordhan quickly replaced Van Rooyen.
During his address on 4 July Gordhan said that although agriculture and the agribusiness industry are important parts of the government’s nine-point plan, they are still neglected.
“Progress has been made but there are huge opportunities available to us to create jobs, ensure food security, to be able to export …”.
Gordhan said that regardless of differences, when it comes to national interest, everyone has to work together. He said that business needs to show it is a social partner in the South African economy and society.
“It also needs to take its own initiatives, spend its own money and its own time and many CEOs have actually gone out and done that.”
Returning to the CEO Initiative Gordhan said: “Over 60 CEOs came to that meeting … What that initiative was based on is something I think needs to be taken to every sector of society and business communities, based on the fact that there is a national interest or national concern for which we need to take responsibility.”
After sharing CEO Initiative ideas such as establishing a youth empowerment services scheme and a small business fund, he challenged delegates at the conference to: “in the next 24 hours … generate some ideas”.
“Say these are our initiatives, these are our contributions to ensuring that we keep the economy growing.”
Gordhan added that the sector needed to take its existing creativity and experience and apply these to the challenges it faces.
“If we all bring our minds together with the right level of goodwill and compassion – and it needs a bit of heart too – then we will begin to offer an impetus in this particular sector and surprise your critics.”
He said active collaboration between business, labour and government is necessary, and that: “This includes continuing with an agricultural chapter of the CEO Initiative – I hope your leaders can put this together.”
Gordhan agreed with comments that there was too much policy-making and not enough action. He also highlighted issues such as economy of scale, job creation, and economic inclusivity, among others.