(Graphic: John McCann/M&G)
The World Economic Forum (WEF) and South African stakeholders are hosting a meeting in Johannesburg with various stakeholders and businesses, to share ideas on how to help President Cyril Ramaphosa to unlock his $100-billion investment plan to stimulate economic growth.
The meeting is expected to be attended by 24 ministers, including Minister of science and technology Mmamoloko Kubayi, Public Enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan and Ebrahim Patel, the minister of economic development.
Ministers will sit in various commissions to discuss topics ranging from inclusion and innovation to the fourth industrial revolution and entrepreneurship.
Addressing media at the meeting on Thursday, Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene said that this is the first of a series of gatherings to be held by government on growing South Africa’s investment potential. “This is certainly one of the ways for us to achieve the mammoth task that the president announced and as government, we will be building this investment book of $100-billion.”
Ramaphosa announced his $100-billion investment drive as part of his “new dawn” policy as president to bolster growth for the country. The president hopes to achieve this over the next five years.
Nene pointed out that some of the investments pledged by companies — such as luxury car manufacturer Mercedes Benz and Old Mutual — in the past week were a sign that people are beginning to heed the call made by Ramaphosa.
“On Monday we welcomed Old Mutual back into our shores, which will bring about $10-billion and that reduces the target to $90-billion”. On Tuesday the German car manufacturer announced it will invest R10-billion in South Africa as part of its expansion of its East London plant.
Nene said the 2.2% contraction in the South Africa economy seen over the last quarter meant that the target set by Ramaphosa was high but remained positive that government will achieve it.
Elsie Kanza — head of Africa at WEF — told journalists the meeting was not an investment fair but that local businesses and global leaders were gathered to help the president to deliver the reforms which South Africa needs to grow the economy and create an environment to further investment and curb youth unemployment.
“We stand behind President Ramaphosa as he seeks to build a new dawn of national renewal,” Kanza said.
“South Africa’s state-owned institutions have been a source of pride since the end of apartheid but today more and more people are losing faith in them. As the country continues to fight against corruption, we will explore ways to restore pillars of good governance”, she added.
Nene agreed the country’s parastatals remain a risk, saying government was in the process of looking at their business models. He further added that Eskom remained a threat to South Africa’s investments. “Eskom remains indeed is a threat to our investment strategy going forward is an area that we are paying attention we are starting to address issues of governance.”
Innovation and the digital age will be a priority discussion point at the meeting to help South Africa create jobs, fight inequality, poverty and unemployment which remain stubbornly high.
“WEF will advice South Africa on how to assist small medium enterprises and to create a better environment for venture capital and corporate venturing”, she said.
Nene said the trade war between China and United States is cause for concern for South Africa, saying he is worried about the posture the US is taking because it undermines multilateralism.
President Cyril Ramaphosa is expected to close the meeting on Thursday.