By Nyiko Shiburi
Finding innovative solutions to tackl ing South Africa’s unemployment problems and deep-seated economic issues are critical for driving growth.
So much focus has rightly been on how lockdowns associated with the Covid-19 pandemic have brought the country’s economy to a stuttering halt and resulted in an increase in unemployment, but the reality is that these challenges existed in our country, before the arrival of the pandemic.
According to Statistics South Africa’s Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS) in 2019, the country’s rate of unemployment sat at 29.1% in Q3 of that year – a number which caused alarm as it was noted as the highest rate since Statistics SA started measuring unemployment using the QLFS in 2008. The most recent QLFS puts that number at 32.5% and, while the loss of any job radiates catastrophic consequences for families, that increase swelled the total figure by 700 000 people to 6.5 million, meaning that an unacceptable 5.8 million were already unemployed.
Tourism – which contributed 3% of South Africa’s GDP and supplied 4.5% of the country’s jobs before Covid-19 – is a major local industry which has been one of the hardest-hit by the slump.
It’s not just towering hotels, luxury lodges and airlines that have been affected by this – it’s the people who shuttle new arrivals to their hotels, those who grow and supply food for our fine restaurants, the ones who painstakingly hand build intricate, beautiful souvenirs for sale at our attractions and those who share our country’s rich history by guiding visitors through them.
The people of the beautiful Eastern Cape are hugely-dependent on income from tourism and their livelihoods have been decimated by its absence – the province has the highest unemployment figure in the country, with more than half of its people of working age, unemployed in Q4 of 2020. The need, then, is for diversification of skills – here and across the country – to help tackle these numbers.
With international travel remaining largely forbidden, M-Net produced its first-ever version of Survivor South Africa on local soil this year, setting the show on the Wild Coast in partnership with the Eastern Cape Development Corporation (ECDC).
While this was a notable first for the rich history of the show and added an additional layer to the challenges of participating, it also meant that the show was able to contribute to the local economy on a large scale – a task broadcast platform MultiChoice and producers Afrokaans took to heart, resulting in an investment of over R10 million in the local economy.
One-hundred-and-three people from the surrounding area were employed across all departments of the show during production, learning new crafts under an experienced international-level crew who produce world-class content.
A TV show is about more than the cast, presenter and the end product that viewers settle in to watch – it requires carpenters, set builders, production assistants, camera and grips assistants, lifeguards, security personnel, painters, drivers and art department assistants to bring the rich story to life, and Survivor South Africa trained people from the region in all of these new roles.
The production team harnessed the skills and stocks of local wood and steel suppliers, local artists, craftsmen as well as food and drink suppliers and hotel personnel, the numbers of which had to be increased to accommodate the influx of crew and support staff.
Much of the building material for the different challenges was also donated to the local schools and communities, to add value to the people’s everyday lives. A major benefit is that these skills are transferable, allowing people to bring them to bear in other industries, motivated by their experience of learning from some of the best people in the world, in their fields.
The beauty of the region springs to life on the screen – the rugged coastline, plunging waterfalls, rich bush and arresting climate makes it a perfect location for a show like Survivor South Africa.
Showcasing the area on a global platform like Survivor could easily make it a go-to destination for other versions of the show which are produced everywhere from America to Australia. If – when – those shows come knocking, they’ll also be able to call on skilled local people with experience in producing and supporting world-class productions.
This is one show, in one province, filmed for one season and it would be easy to dismiss the numbers as insignificant in the face of unemployed millions and lost industry billions – but ask those 103 people what direct impact that R10 million investment has had on their lives, those of their families and so many facets of the area. It’s not the solution to our country’s unemployment and economic issues, but it’s a “green shoot” of our own nurturing, which will be pollinated widely by those whose lives it touched – and we believe that millions more can reap rich crops from innovative initiatives such as this one at a time when adaptability has never been more important.
Nyiko Shiburi is the CEO at MultiChoice South Africa.
*The views expressed here are not necessarily those of IOL or of title sites.
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