Media Statement: Post-Barack Obama Lecture Dialogue: Is ‘Inclusive Capitalism’ a Realistic Economic Vision for the Future?
Date: 12 September 2018
From: Nelson Mandela Foundation
Following the huge appeal of the 16th Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture (NMAL) delivered by former US President Barack Obama, the Nelson Mandela Foundation hosted a follow-up dialogue on the lecture on 11 September 2018 focusing on “inclusive capitalism”, a term used by President Obama in his speech offering on an economic vision for the future. The dialogue served as a platform to engage with some of the key themes, critiques and contradictions surrounding the lecture.
The dialogue was facilitated by Siki Mgabadeli and the panel consisted of Nelson Mandela Foundation Chief Executive Sello Hatang, author Sizwe Mpofu-Walsh, Obama fellow and activist Koketso Moeti and Senior Researcher at the Centre for Competition, Regulation and Economic Development at the University of Johannesburg, Pamela Mondliwa. The conversation was far reaching and broad, expanding to the links between capitalism and race, the nature of democracy and power as well as the global ecology and new technologies.
Mondliwa questioned how different “inclusive capitalism” is from current systems noting that the remedies outlined by President Obama – such as collective bargaining, the need to break down monopolies and the promotion of competition – are already part of current systems. However, these systems yielded little in way of progress in reducing inequalities. In particular, Mondliwa argued that we understand little in terms of the relationships between the economy and “power” and how this “power” manifests itself.
Moeti was particularly critical of inclusive capitalism. In her view inclusivity in the capitalist sense is used to make “the poor” a market, to exploit or to give lesser quality goods and services. She used the varying costs of data as an illustration of price discrimination and exploitation of the poor. She noted how data is often more expensive for poor people who can’t afford data bundles whereas the wealthy can afford to buy data in bulk and save. She argued that we should place the service of humans and the environment at the centre of the economy.
Whilst most of the panel and those in the audience found it difficult to offer radical new visions, Mpofu-Wash, argued that, “We must adopt a much more experimental approach instead of tying us down to ideologies. We should be willing to try new things instead of holding on to these old dogmas.”
Hatang emphasised the role civic movements play in society and expressed how they are a catalyst in offering people an opportunity to actively participate in democracy and restore a feeling of belonging – an ideal linked to the idea of inclusiveness.
The wide ranging conversation offered many more questions than answers and will allow for further reflection for the work of the Nelson Mandela Foundation going forward. The Nelson Mandela Foundation intends on hosting more dialogues that will provide an opportunity to engage on issues raised by President Obama.