If we want to build a modern, resilient country that is able to adapt to the challenges of our fast-changing world, then we have to make sure we remain future-focused.
We cannot live in the past and cling to failed ideas from the past, the way our government loves to do. We must look ahead and plan ahead.
Our biggest challenges in this country are our sky-rocketing unemployment and high levels of poverty, and this will remain so for many years to come.
But if we are not cognisant of how the global challenges of the 21st century – climate change, the proliferation of disease and technology – will impact on poverty and unemployment, then we will fall even further behind.
This starts with building a capable state staffed by qualified, fit-for-purpose individuals. We need a government that is agile and responsive. And we need our cities and towns to be at the forefront of driving growth through not only clean governance but also through innovative ideas.
The expanded unemployment rate here in the Eastern Cape is 46%. That means almost half of all working-age citizens in this province cannot find a job.
That is a shameful statistic and one which requires all of our attention. If we are to have any chance of turning this around, then we will need to transform our towns and cities into modern economies, attractive to both businesses and citizens alike.
This is why it is crucial that we embrace new ideas and new technology that can open doors to investors as well as deliver services to citizens. And not only at national government level. New thinking and innovative ideas should be the key focus of all levels and spheres of government if we are to prepare ourselves for the future.
Koraal Street in Jeffreys Bay is a good example of this kind of thinking. Almost 2km of it is being resurfaced using recycled plastic material as a binder in the asphalt, and it should be completed by the end of October.
It is the first time that this technology is being trialed in South Africa to build an eco-friendly road.
The recycled plastic replaces a large portion of the bitumen in asphalt, which is made from crude oil. There are multiple benefits to using this material.
For starters, it takes tonnes of plastic from our landfills and prevents this from breaking down and leaching into the groundwater. It is strong and resistant to wear, with significantly fewer potholes, cracks or breaks.
And then there is the employment aspect, with the potential for hundreds of jobs not only in the construction of the roads but also upstream in the collection and sorting of the waste.
This particular product has been extensively tested and does not leech plastic particles into the environment – unlike some so-called eco-roads that end up doing more harm than good.
If this pilot project is successful, then this could have a major impact not only on the quality of our road surfaces but also on our environment.
But this isn’t the only exciting pilot project being undertaken by the DA-led Kouga municipality. Elsewhere they have also started testing a special kind of concrete normally used in the underground roads of mines to fill potholes.
This special concrete dries rock hard within an hour and could be the answer to the municipality’s daunting pothole problem.
When it comes to innovating solutions and the use of technology, DA governments across the country are setting the standard.
The world will not wait for South Africa to catch up. It is up to us to leave the 20th century and all its out-dated ideas behind and meet the challenges of the 21st-century head-on.
Because only then will we succeed in building sustainable and integrated towns and cities, and building one South Africa for all.
Leader of the Democratic Alliance