Clem Sunter is one of our country’s top and also an international scenario planner, who has consulted for China, the Zanu FP, and Botswana, but never the ANC. Addressing the Thursday Club over lunch at Buitenverwachting yesterday, Sunter encouraged the audience to ‘not get too downcast, as we are still in the Premier League‘, he said. Chef Edgar Osojnik prepared a generous 3-course meal, many guests not being able to finish all of it.
Clem Sunter attracted attention in the ‘Eighties with his ‘High Road, Low Road’ scenarios, and has been speaking all over the world, writing books, and hosting strategy workshops with corporates and even governments. He has used the analogy of a fox, being smart in its competitive environment, and the title of the books now refer to the fox, and their website is named www.mindofafox.com, one of the top five strategy websites in the USA!
The table shared bread plates, with a French and an olive roll, sunflower seed loaf, and garlic and herb focachia, served with butter. Our Amuse Bouche was a slow-roasted pork belly, which was served with lentils, peppers, spring onion, baby gem salad, and garlic cream. When the large plate of prawn bisque served with a seafood spring roll was served as the starter, the guests already said that they would not be able to finish all their food, as the main course was still to come. Surprisingly the spring roll remain crispy, despite being in the bisque.
For the main course we were served pan-fried beef fillet encrusted with onion marmalade, which was set in porcini a la crème, with potato strudel, broccoli, cauliflower, and ham-wrapped beans, a challenge to finish for the foxy guests.
It was good that Sunter started speaking at this stage, so that we could focus on his talk. Sunter referred to flags rather than scenarios, and identified the following international flags:
* religious wars of beliefs, not seen in a thousand years, he said. Within Islam, the war is between Saudi Arabia and Iran. He spoke of an ‘Arab disaster’, Western intervention having failed. He highlighted Syria and Libya as ‘total disasters’, made worse by the ‘porous‘ or non-existent boundaries between countries, leading to thousands of Libyans to leave their country. Nigeria and Somalia are also problem countries. Economic misery could lead to a second Hitler coming, Sunter predicted. The terrorist attacks in Denmark, and in Paris, form part of this flag.
* a very red flag is Russian President Vladimir Putin, which country is facing its third level of economic sanctions from the USA and Europe. For the USA exports to Russia make up 10%, but Europe (and Germany in particular, as the country is its largest trading partner) is very worried about further economic sanctions, and possible military conflict. Of concern is that Russia has more nuclear weapons than the USA.
* a grey flag is the aging of the world population, the lifespan of the population having doubled since the 1900s. This affects the global economies, and healthcare in particular. The recent UK election was fought on the NHS, Sunter said, there being a shortage of bed, ill patients not wanting to return home, and referred to ‘bed blockers’. Japan’s economic growth is flat now, having been 7% per annum forty years ago, feeling the aging population trend the most. Europe is heading there too, Sunter predicted, and shared that Italy’s population growth is negative already. Soon China will have more 50+ year olds than younger citizens, due to its one-child policy, affecting its boom, economic growth reducing. The USA is showing healthy growth. But the excitement lies in Africa, which has the youngest population in the world, and is ‘the place to do business’ for many international companies.
* the anti-establishment flag is the anger of the middle-class against the rich, as the economies do not meet their expectations, inequality being at levels going back to 1880! He predicted that the new Scottish parliamentarians will become like the EFF in the UK Parliament. Greece could exit the Eurozone if it does not repay its loans in future.
* Climate change is a green flag, and there is no doubt that the world is warming. Australia is hard hit by this trend already, having suffered its two hottest years ever in 2013 and 2014. Temperatures of 50+C have been recorded for the first time. Water in the Murray River is evaporating so fast due to the heat that the river no longer flows. Rising sea levels from part of this trend, and the Antarctic in particular is threatened, a rise of 1 meter being possible. The Indian Ocean Islands (e.g. Mauritius, Seychelles) could be threatened. Furthermore the frequency and swing of extreme weather events is increasing, the USA experiencing blizzards, twisters, and extreme drought without snow on their mountains in California, a 40 year drought being predicted for the state. Sunter said Silicon Valley has the largest number of foxes, but that they did not foresee the Californian drought. All the weather changes are due to man-made emissions, and in future the carbon footprint of every product will have to be declared on the packaging, Sunter predicted.
South African flags identified by Sunter were the following:
* corruption is on the increase, with politically-connected businesses winning contracts but not able to deliver, affecting infrastructure.
* infrastructure problems, Eskom affecting everyone in the country. Eskom switching Soweto off for seven hours last weekend, a punishment for not paying their electricity bills, could lead to a revolution, Sunter speculated. The municipal elections next year will be interesting, as the ANC will try to perform better due to its fear of not being re-elected. Sunter predicts DA successes.
* leadership must be inclusive to maintain the High Road, as was the leadership style of the late President Mandela. His successors do not come close to this.
* there are many pockets of excellence in our country, including Buitenverwachting restaurant matching any international restaurant. He said that nothing about Vancouver matches Cape Town, except for skiing facilities not far outside the city. Universities must work on representativeness, but this cannot be at the cost of excellence.
* last but not least, it is the entrepreneurial spirit that will keep us on the High Road. ‘Same old, same old‘ means a steady decline. South African-born Elon Musk is the world’s leading entrepreneur, and his Tesla power wall will be used by every South African household, so that when Eskom has sorted out its problems, no one will need Eskom anymore! Sunter was critical of the DA in the Western Cape for not developing an entrepreneurial economy. He visualised the Cape Town Stadium being one massive open air market, reflecting the entrepreneurial product of the locals. An inclusive economy must be created, and schools must encourage entrepreneurial development.
Looking back at my notes of the talk by Sunter at the Thursday Club last year, new flags are the religious wars, and the revolution of the middle class. The other international trends were flagged lat year too. The afternoon event ended off with coffee and petit fours, a collection of chocolates and biscuits, leaving the attendees with lots of food for thought.
Disclosure: I was invited to attend the lunch by Sandy Bailey, who runs the Thursday Club and Public Relations for her client Buitenverwachting. It is the second year that I have attended the lunch addresesd by Sunter.