by Sharon Constançon, SACC Chairman

I’m sure many of us were relieved to put 2020 behind us and to start a New Year with fresh hope and enthusiasm. Still, a change in year hasn’t magically made the challenges that 2020 brought us disappear.

In the UK, Covid-19 infections and deaths have been rising dramatically, reaching a peak of 68,000 new infections and 1,564 daily deaths. In South Africa, the news is not much better, reaching approximately half of those numbers, with new strains of the disease being identified in both countries. The hope on the horizon is the rolling out of new vaccines which will hopefully stem the tide and allow us to begin to return to some new form of normalcy, with a sense of health and economic security. There are also encouraging signs of new treatments which can hopefully mitigate the consequences of becoming infected for some of those worst affected.

In the UK, Brexit is now behind us, removing the cloud of uncertainty that has for several years now made forward planning difficult for so many businesses, and while it remains to be seen exactly how the deal with the EU translates into practice, we at least know that once we have all adapted we can look forward to a more settled environment where it becomes possible to plan and develop our businesses in a more stable framework.

Looking at the positives, we are all now more resilient and adaptable than we were a year ago and as a result we can face the future with more confidence in our abilities to meet whatever challenges come our way in 2021. We’ve developed new skills and ways of working which have made us leaner and stronger than we were before.

Our challenge for this year is to put all that we have learned into full effect, and to do all we can to help both economies recover as rapidly as possible as soon as the necessary restrictions to guard our health and wellbeing allow.

South Africans are known for our “can-do” attitude, and this year we will need all of that if we are to succeed. South Africa was already facing many challenges, in governance and service delivery, and in creating an economy in which more of our citizens can participate and from which they can reap the rewards. If we’ve learned anything throughout 2020, it’s that what affects one of us affects all of us. All of our futures are intertwined, and the extreme poverty and exclusion which blights the lives of so many South Africans remains a threat to the security and cohesion of the entire nation. We must redouble our efforts to deliver on the promise of the New South Africa which is modern, innovative, vibrant, diverse and inclusive all at the same time.

The relationship between the UK and South Africa has never been more important, or offered more promise. To ensure that we get the best on both sides from this relationship an active, engaged and dynamic South African Chamber of Commerce will have a vital role to play.

The team at the Chamber certainly intends to do all we can to help this process, to continue to deliver quality content and information to empower you to do business more effectively, and to assist businesses in both countries to access markets and resources for our mutual benefit. To achieve this, your support and engagement with the Chamber will be vital. We can do so much more together than we could ever achieve alone.

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