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Can project management lead to the successful outcomes of Ramaphosa’s economic stimulus package?
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In September 2018, President Ramaphosa announced an economic stimulus package focused on accelerating economic growth and facilitating job creation. South Africa’s NDP Vision 2030 - in terms of which the South African unemployment rate should fall to 14% by 2020 and to 6% by 2030 aims to create an additional 11 million jobs.

However, the success of this plan hinges squarely on the ability of government and its partners to effectively project manage the initiatives identified. As we have seen with countless other excellent strategies in the past – even the best-laid plans fall down if not executed effectively.

The South African Infrastructure Fund (SAIF) – which will be financed with R400-billion extracted from the national fiscus over a period of three years – is a key aspect of the NDP Vision 2030. The fund is fundamental to reduce the current fragmentation of spending on infrastructure and ensure more efficient and effective use of resources and create jobs, especially for the youth.

In support of this commitment to delivery and job creation, the President said that a dedicated execution team will be established within the presidency with the necessary project management and engineering expertise to ensure implementation of these SAIF projects.

Earlier this year, the Minister of Higher Education and Training published the National List of Occupations in High Demand and listed Programme or Project Managers as one of the scarce occupations in South Africa..

The acknowledgment by the government of the need for sound project management is not new. Fifteen years ago, in his State of the Nation address in 2003, President Mbeki said: “To ensure the proper execution of multi-sector projects, we will appoint dedicated project managers accountable to teams of relevant officials and the Executive, with the authority and responsibility to ensure implementation across departments and spheres of government.”

“To ensure the proper execution of multi-sector projects, we will appoint dedicated project managers accountable to teams of relevant officials and the Executive, with the authority and responsibility to ensure implementation across departments and spheres of government.”​

President Thabo Mbeki, State of the Nation address in 2003

Later, the Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative (ASGISA) also identified the lack of project management skills as a constraint for the rapid take-off of South Africa’s economic growth.

It is clear that project management skills are very much needed. An integrative and supportive approach to the economic stimulus package must include the optimization of training and career pathing of current and prospective project managers in South Africa. Training partnerships must be pursued to accelerate skills development. South Africa is facing an increasing unemployment rate of young people in our country. The knowledge of project management is a life skill that can facilitate career opportunities and spur entrepreneurial initiatives.

But how does project management facilitate successful execution to ensure that national priorities can be met? Good project management discipline systematically ensures that there is proper planning, it breaks down the implementation journey into tasks and milestones, contemplates risk eventualities and creates an orderly process which can be subjected to monitoring and evaluation.

Project managers must possess and apply specific knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to effectively manage projects. The purpose of project management is indeed to anticipate uncertainties that may influence the achievement of the project intention and respond with interventions to ensure that the project goal is still met.

So if the intention of the government is to ensure that the economic stimulus package creates the required economic growth - and consequential job creation, fundamental to this must be a more focused initiative and an intent to develop and advance project management skills in South Africa. The time to execute this is now.


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MC Botha is a Senior Lecturer Extraordinaire in Project Management at the University of Stellenbosch Business School and is the Head of the Post Graduate Diploma in Project Management at USB-Executive Development


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