Global viewpoint from South Africa
A view from Tim Lombard

Global viewpoint from South Africa

It was Desmond Tutu who coined the phrase "rainbow nation". And South Africa certainly is a colourful place to live and work.

We are a diverse nation. And with diversity, tolerance becomes a survival mechanism. Our political landscape is a mess. It contrasts with our geographic beauty. What lie beyond the beautiful mountains of the Drakensberg and the sandy beaches of Cape Town and Durban are the challenges of poverty, crime, corruption and, ultimately, economic uncertainty.

Yet, among many South Africans, there is a sense of optimism. I guess it stems from the cynical feelings of having bottomed out. And many of us in business believe that where there are challenges, there lies opportunity.

I have been in the media industry for more than 25 years. I have seen remarkable progress and astonishing stagnation. Our ad agencies garner international accolades and our arts are revered throughout the world. Yet we are still seeing newspapers and magazines as they were in the 70s, finding it difficult to find their place in a digital world.

Ad agencies are predominantly white. And few are doing anything to encourage diversity

Our print media is still very white-dominated. In fact, many print magazines are published in two languages: English and Afrikaans. Strange when you think that neither is the home language of more than 80 per cent of the people here. Other traditional media channels, such as radio and television, are doing a better job and diversifying themselves through the products they deliver. Yet their masters are traditionally white. While they scramble to introduce an array of schemes to produce black ownership and employment equity, they are doing little to encourage real skills development at grass-roots level.  

And this, in a way, transcends into the rest of the media landscape. Ad agencies, especially digital ones, are predominantly white. And very few are doing anything to encourage diversity.

This leads me to opportunity. If the majority of people in South Africa are not being encouraged, trained or considered for positions in our industry, imagine the possibilities if this were the case.

Yes, we live in challenging times. Our ability to grow as a nation depends on our willingness to encourage and connect. Our industry, like all others, needs a unified and positive approach. It is only then that we will be able to experience a real South African miracle. The real rainbow nation.

Tim Lombard is the managing director at Jellyfish South Africa