SPEECH BY FORMER PRESIDENT F W DE KLERK
TO SCHWARZKOPF PROFESSIONAL , AUSTRALIA
SUN CITY, 28 SEPTEMBER 2002
It is a great pleasure for me to be able to address you here in Sun City this morning.
I should also like to welcome you all here to South Africa – and wish to congratulate you on your choice of venue. We have a great deal to offer tourists and visitors
- Excellent value for your Australian dollars;
- Splendid game reserves;
- World class resorts – like Sun City;
- Beautiful beaches and mountains;
- And an exciting spectrum of cultures and peoples.
Another advantage is that very few South Africans are likely to raise the question of sport with you. You will probably meet very few South Africans who will admit that they have ever heard of cricket or rugby. The memories of our most recent encounters are still too fresh and too painful to bear too much repetition!
So as you travel about South Africa please observe the following simple rules:
- Spend your money freely and buy as many bargains as you can – remember the more you spend, the more you save;
- Please don’t feed the animals in the game reserves – which you might end up doing if you do not heed the warning signs not to leave you car; and
- Above all, please don’t mention rugby or cricket.
Of course, you must also remember that you are here to work. Don’t allow yourselves to be distracted by the casinos, shows and golf courses.
Concentrate on hairdressing.
So when you go game-viewing in the Pilanesberg Reserve next door try to focus on the relevance of the experience to the topic of hairdressing.
In fact there is a lot that we can learn from nature – even in this time of globalisation.
During the past decades we have begun to lay the foundations of a new supranational global economic and information community:
- Mass jet transportation has brought every corner of the earth within the reach of a single day’s travel – not only for businessmen but for hundreds of millions of tourists.
- Satellite telecommunication now makes it possible to communicate with anybody, anywhere at any time and has enabled us to view breaking news and sports events on the other side of the world.
- The internet and the world-wide web have given any person with a modem instant access to information on any subject from sources all over the world.
- A globalised economy is emerging: Countries, companies and workers cannot ignore the benefits – and the threats – of increasingly sharp competition for markets and investment. The fact that your company is holding this conference here in South Africa is a good example of this reality.
Globalisation confronts us – not only with breath-taking opportunities – but also with awesome challenges:
- The first is the continuing gap between rich and poor throughout the world. Although the first world has attained undreamed of prosperity and liberty, billions of people have still live in poverty, conflict and tyranny.
- The second is the need to ensure that future human development takes place in harmony with our fragile global environment.
- The third is to deal with the uncertainties and challenges that are being generated by our rapidly changing environment.
One of the central implications of globalisation is that we can no longer ignore crises and grievances in distant countries. Non-performing economies cannot be consigned to a basket-case category outside of the mainstream of the world economy. The reality is that the gap between the poorest and richest fifths of the world’s nations has widened from 30 to 1 in 1960 to 78 to 1 in 1994.
The world cannot accept a new de facto apartheid between a rich white north and an impoverished and unstable black south. In a shrinking world, the problems of one region will inevitably become the problems of other regions and ultimately of the whole world:
- Diseases like AIDS – which first appeared in Africa – do not observe international boundaries;
- As we saw a few years ago, economic crises in emerging markets can have serious negative consequences for the whole of the global economy; and
- Conflicts and instability in distant societies can reverberate throughout the whole international community.
Neither can the first world dismiss ongoing conflicts in distant third-world countries with 30 second segments on the evening news. Many of these conflicts have their roots in poverty and under-development. Eleven of the thirty poorest countries – including Rwanda, Burundi, Afghanistan, Sudan, Liberia, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo – have in recent years been wracked by devastating wars. On the other hand, there has been very little conflict in the twenty richest countries.
Our second great challenge of leadership in the new millennium will, I believe, be the need to live in harmony with our global environment.
In recent decades we have been receiving increasingly urgent signals that our environment can no longer sustain the current pace of human and industrial development:
- At the end of 1999 the human population finally exceeded six billion – four times greater than it was in 1900;
- In 1998 the hole in the ozone layer above the Antarctic reached its largest size ever;
- The 10 warmest years in this century all have occurred in the last 15 years. Of these, 1998 was the warmest year on record.
- The snow cover in the Northern Hemisphere and floating ice in the Arctic Ocean have decreased.
- Globally, sea level has risen 4-10 inches over the past century.
- Worldwide precipitation over land has increased by about one percent.
We dare not ignore these warning signals.
We cannot allow the mindless and wholesale assault on our fragile environment to continue. We must ensure that our governments move beyond declarations and lip service in their efforts to protect the global environment. Our future and the future of our children depends more on this than perhaps on any other factor.
Perhaps, these first two leadership challenges are part of the single overarching challenge of managing the accelerating processes of change that confront us on all sides.
We can make the following three observations about change:
- it is accelerating;
- it is unpredictable; and
- it is fundamental.
During the past century – and particularly since World War II – there has been an exponential acceleration in the pace of change. Our society probably has changed more during the past ten years than it did in the first ten thousand years of our development as a species.
Change is also unpredictable. Some of the main developments that have fundamentally transformed the world, were entirely unforeseen only fifteen years ago: think of the internet and the world-wide web; the collapse of the Soviet Union and international communism and AIDS.
The change that we are experiencing is also fundamental. It affects virtually every aspect of our lives.
- It is changing the relationships between men and women, husbands and wives and parents and children.
- It has profound implications for the traditional family. 30% of mothers in Europe are now unmarried.
- It is affecting our value systems and traditional conceptions of morality.
- It will continue to transform the way we work; the way we spend our free time and the way we communicate and obtain information. Tom Peters has predicted that within the next ten years the United States might lose 90% of its traditional white collar jobs.
Everywhere the forces of change are in full flood. They are obliterating the familiar and comfortable landscapes in which we grew up. Like flood victims, they leave us clinging to the few certainties that have not yet been inundated.
The question for us as countries, as companies and as individuals is how we should deal with the uncertainty that this accelerating, fundamental and unpredictable change is bringing to our lives.
As I suggested earlier, we can perhaps learn something from nature – since uncertainty is the basic state of nature – and of most human history.
When you go to the Pilanesberg Reserve see if you can find a good water hole. Watch the impala, zebra and wildebeest as they emerge from the bush and make their way to drink at the water’s edge. Who knows, somewhere nearby lions might be lying in wait. At any moment there could be an explosion of muscle, dust and claws. You could get to watch the eternal and uncertain drama of survival in a harsh and unsympathetic environment.
The animals that will survive will be
- those that are the most alert – those that are the most acutely aware of the faintest scents on the morning breeze or the slightest movement in the grass.
- It is those animals that are in the best condition and that possess the best survival skills.
- It is those that move most swiftly and that can change direction most quickly.
Don’t feel too sorry for the impala. The fact is that the environment in which your company is operating is just as uncertain and just as dangerous. Whether we are individuals, companies or countries, we all face the same challenge of survival in a harsh, competitive and uncertain environment.
The challenge to leadership in the globalised world will be to develop the skills that we will need for survival.
Like the impala and zebras, we must also be acutely aware of the slightest changes in our environment;
- If we are not at the cutting edge of our industries or our professions we can easily be left behind in the dust.
- we must know what our competition is up to;
- we must know who is crouching in the grass waiting to pounce;
- we must stay abreast of the latest technological innovations;
- we must be able to sniff the slightest changes in the market and position ourselves accordingly.
We must be fit and possess real skills;
- At the end of the day it is also the individuals, companies and countries that are leanest and trimmest that will survive.
- It is those who are leaders in their industries and who are growing muscle and not fat who will succeed;
- it is the companies that have the most motivated and best trained employees that will flourish.
We too must have the flexibility to adapt and change direction quickly.
The theme of your conference is “step up the pace”.
- Believe me, if you dawdle from the waterhole you will end up as breakfast for the lions.
- Being able to move and to change direction quickly to meet new market challenges is also a key survival skill for individuals, companies and countries.
- Those that become complacent and set in their ways are not going to survive – any more than the antelope will who amble down the same well-worn paths to the waterhole every morning.
These are some of the skills that we in South Africa have tried to cultivate to help is to deal with our rapidly changing environment. South Africa’s recent past is very relevant to a rapidly changing world precisely because – through good luck or good management – we have shown that it is possible to manage historic forces of change – that we can avoid catastrophe and move toward a better future.
Because we accepted the need to manage change we were able to achieve most of the primary objectives that we set ourselves in 1990:
- we have one of the most democratic constitutions in the world;
- we have rejoined the global community;
- we have adopted economic policies and approaches that are, by and large, sensible and effective. We are well positioned for sustained high economic growth.
- we have done all this with surprisingly little violence and with a great deal of goodwill.
Nevertheless, we dare not rest on our laurels. Our main challenges now will be to ensure that
- our constitution takes root in the hearts of all our people;
- that we nurture relationships between our different communities and that
- we work together to address the very real problems that confront us, including crime, unemployment, poverty and AIDS.
The reality is that the process of change is accelerating. The greatest challenge for leadership in this new globalised environment will be to learn how to navigate on the flood of change. Clinging to the treetops of the past offers no long term solutions.
At the beginning of this new millennium we will all have to confront difficult and uncomfortable challenges:
- Can we remain prosperous, free and at peace when so much of mankind is still impoverished and subject to tyranny and war?
- Do we have the will to repair the damage that we have done to our fragile environment?
- And finally, will we ever be able to reassert control over the forces of change that we ourselves have unleashed?
These are questions that I believe are just as relevant to you in Schwarzkopf Australia as they are to individuals, companies and countries throughout the world.
How we respond to them will determine our success as individuals;
Your success as a company; and
The survival and success of our species in this exciting and rapidly changing new environment.