Many would have predicted the surge in business confidence when Cyril Ramaphosa became president of South Africa in December. Just as predictable was the inevitable dip back down in May.

Fair or not, it seems very similar to the hype cycle of technologies. When a promising technology like blockchain first enters the market, euphoria buoys its reception. Soon after, though, sentiment dips as the realisation dawns that much preparation work lies ahead within the technology ecosystem enabling it and the end-user communities adopting it. Invariably, a significant amount of time then passes as the market regains lost confidence and the technology landscape matures.

The lesson here is that sentiment often has little to do with the technology itself (or in this case, the man), and mostly with our outsize expectations of it (or him).

Solving our own problems

What we need to realise is that our new president is just one man, that the rest of Team SA – especially the innovative private sector – also has a role to play, and that we can all need to take more confidence in our own ability to build a thriving economy.

Although government can be expected to do the unique jobs that tax is being collected for, some elements of this job can be, and are being done successfully by private enterprise. So where are the opportunities?

Successful, innovative businesses often start by “focusing on the things we hate, that frustrate or irritate us, and by finding solutions to them*”. As citizens we cannot wait around for government to solve all our issues, we need to take the initiative and find or create innovative business solutions.

An excellent example of this is Curro’s response to the poor state of education. The high value of their shares is due to aggressive growth and an expanded range of private educational institutions – but also to the fact that not all are hugely expensive.

Even when government has a role to play – for example environmental protection – many private companies have stepped in with a paid-for business model. Here we think of businesses collecting domestic recyclable waste, e.g. Mama She’s Waste, ECOmonkey Recycling and many more, reducing the pressure on landfill waste sites.

Communities have just as big a role to play in making life better. Rooftop gardens in the inner city are just one, providing work and food and reducing food miles. And there are many more.

No accident

What’s clear is that business confidence cannot be an accident of good fortune. Much of the time, it needs to come from that famous South African can-do attitude, and there’s ample opportunity if we focus and act on resolving our own problems, whether individually or collectively.