Henning Rasmuss, Director, Paragon Group, says that Covid-19 has laid bare challenges that could lead to constructive behaviour change for individuals and companies.

Henning Rasmuss, Director, Paragon Group.

What are the positive challenges that Covid-19 has laid bare, which deal with how well we as a nation can be? Perhaps it is these early-stage realisations that are the most positive, and that will lead to constructive behaviour change for individuals and companies.

As an economy:

  • South Africa needs to make the things that we consume, and we need to buy our own stuff from ourselves.
  • We need to be more self-reliant. Being self-reliant is not the same as being isolationist.
  • We need to build real productive capacity to be able to respond to crises.
  • We need to make work for our own people, in factories that produce what we need – in good and bad times.
  • Political leaders need to be held accountable when the cash reserves of the State are robbed blind: We cannot start another future crisis with a bad hand of cards.

As a society:

  • We need to be more law-abiding as a group of people. The rule of law has to be respected on a daily basis, so that we can appeal to the ‘common good’ when it is necessary.
  • The law has to work for everyone.
  • Government has to prove that it deserves respect – respect is like a currency with a trading value.
  • We need a new citizenship project in which we are all active players. No more free-loaders, no more delinquent citizens. Active participation on the part of all.

As designers:

  • We need to design with the highest common multiple, not with the lowest common factor.
  • We need a different form of capitalism, where best value trumps lowest price. Our obsession with lowest price makes us unwell.
  • Pro-poor development outcomes – not ‘policies’ – need to be our priority.
  • We need to enable people to make a decent living and to live in decent environments.
  • We have to realise that we are part of a community, and that we all rely on each other.
  • We have an individual role to play as citizens, first of all, to design the society we want through our own actions. Design by doing.

What will this crisis deliver?

  • It will show up system failures in service delivery for what they are: Life-threatening.
  • It will make us reassess every part of our businesses as a company community.
  • It will deliver strong and mobilised communities that will not take empty promises any longer.
  • It can cause a deep change in the working relationship between Government and Business, based on trust and mutual interdependency.
  • The decades-long disdain and mistrust between Business and Government could be swept away by working together to tackle this crisis.
  • It can lay the basis for a new social compact around the Ruling Party’s central mantra:  ‘A BETTER LIFE FOR ALL’.


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