Category Risk Management

Tackling challenges in South Africa

28 February 2024 Myra Knoesen

Interconnected risks, including climate, inflation, cyber, and political risks… is this a wake-up call for better risk management?

How can leaders navigate the ongoing uncertainty and build resilience amid unpredictable and unprecedented change?

FAnews spoke to Christopher Palm, Acting Chief Executive Officer of the Institute of Risk Management South Africa (IRMSA) to get his response to the current risks facing South Africa.

Interconnected web of challenges

According to Palm, the South African risk profile is characterised by the occurrence of numerous crises simultaneously or in rapid succession, resulting in a complex and interconnected web of challenges for governments, organisations, and societies. 

“Over the past eight years, South Africa has faced recurrent risks that have persisted and intensified, paving the way for the current situation. Economic challenges, including stagnant growth, high unemployment, and persistent inequality, have consistently ranked among the major risks facing the country,” he said. 

“Concerns over corruption, governance, the rule of law, and breakdowns in public service delivery have also been recurring themes. South Africa has experienced a surge in social unrest, with protests and riots fuelled by issues such as inadequate service delivery, poverty, inequality, unemployment, and political corruption. Environmental risks, particularly related to climate change, extreme weather events, and water scarcity have also emerged as significant concerns. Furthermore, technological disruption, cyber vulnerabilities, and the rise of artificial intelligence and automation have added to the complexity of the poly-crisis,” he continued. 

The need for SA to address these risks

IRMSA’s 2023/24 Risk Report released earlier this year highlights the urgent need for South Africa to address these risks collectively. 

“The country must urgently respond to the impacts of climate change, resolve the persistent energy crisis, and confront a deteriorating infrastructure situation. Ethical and visionary leadership, along with measures to address persistent inequality and unemployment, are also essential for sustainable progress,” said Palm. 

If left unaddressed, Palm highlighted that the consequences of these risks could lead South Africa towards becoming a failed State, or worse, a mafia State. “IRMSA’s Risk Reports over the past nine years have repeatedly emphasised the outcomes associated with these risks, which have materialised to varying degrees. In addition to domestic challenges, South Africa must also navigate international threats and opportunities, such as changing global trade patterns and geopolitical tensions.” 

Risk-response strategies

In response to the current risks facing South Africa, Palm said the proposed risk-response strategies the country should be adopting are: 

  1. Prioritising policies and investments that foster economic growth, stimulate job creation and provide economic support. Emphasis should be placed on sectors with significant potential for job generation, including small, medium and micro enterprises, green industries, technology, and tourism.
  2. Tackling high levels of inequality through the implementation of policies promoting social and economic equity. Measures such as progressive taxation, enhanced access to education and healthcare, and land reform should be employed.
  3. Investing in education and skills development to enhance workforce quality, promote innovation, and increase overall productivity.
  4. Creating a supportive environment for entrepreneurship and Small, Medium, and Micro Enterprises (SMMEs). This should include encouraging innovation, providing access to finance and business support services, and streamlining bureaucratic processes.
  5. Strengthening governance and combating corruption by fostering transparency, accountability, and democratic institutions. Measures should be taken to uphold the rule of law, ensuring equal treatment for all citizens.
  6. Investing in public infrastructure, with a focus on digitising basic public services, improving energy and water resources, and enhancing public transportation.
  7. Addressing the challenge of climate change through the promotion of sustainable development, reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, and preservation of biodiversity and natural resources.
  8. Promoting innovation, research, and development to boost high-tech industries and enhance the country's competitiveness on the global stage.
  9. Combating crime and violence through increased investment in law enforcement, improvements to the criminal justice system, and addressing the root causes of criminal activity.
  10. Adopting a comprehensive and integrated approach to risk management, including the establishment of effective early-warning systems and disaster preparedness.
  11. Strengthening international partnerships and engaging more effectively with the global community. 

“These risk-response strategies are not new, however, what is needed are bold leadership and equally bold decisions to address these threats and opportunities facing South Africa,” he concluded. 

Writer’s Thoughts

Palm's insights underscore the critical need for proactive and decisive action to address the multifaceted risks facing South Africa. By implementing the recommended risk-response strategies and fostering strong leadership, South Africa can navigate the challenges ahead and emerge stronger, more resilient, and better equipped to seize opportunities for sustainable growth and development in the face of uncertainty. Do you agree? Please comment below, interact with us on Twitter at @fanews_online or email me -


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