South Africa is experiencing a profound youth crisis, thanks to poor education standards and dire job prospects. The reason for this is a devastating relationship between poverty, childhood deprivation, and economic growth. Stats SA’s recent report on Poverty Trends reflects that more than 30.4 million people – more than half of us – were living in poverty in 2015.

Staggeringly, poverty was highest amongst children aged 17 years and younger. Combine these catastrophic figures with the profound levels of unemployment among young South Africans, and it is clear that without urgent intervention we are heading for disaster.

Our economy must grow at 3% on average to maintain job prospects; it is currently at around 1.1%. If predictions for the rest of the year are accurate, we will be lucky to crack 1.5%. Stakeholders at every level agree that the achievable rate of economic growth is directly linked to the skills of the population. This is where business can have the greatest impact.

In the World Economic Forum’s 2016-17 Global Competitiveness Report, South Africa’s primary-education system ranked 126th, and the higher-education and training system 134th of 138 countries, despite our government spending approximately R243bn, or about 16% of total consolidated spending, on basic education in 2016/2017.

Education is the single most important investment in social capital needed for all South Africans to participate in the economy. Our education crisis surely can’t just be a funding problem.

Rather, a lack of leadership and management capacity – no funding – is holding South Africa back.

IQbusiness is sharing expertise to solve everyday educational challenges through Partners for Possibility. Education leaders can only unlock critical change by identifying and implementing strategic priorities and effectively managing budget and resource allocations – something we do every day.

Developing business-ready talent is something we’re tackling through an ambitious training programme. We challenge other SA corporates to join us.

Adam Craker is chief executive: IQbusiness.

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