Speaking at South Africa’s inaugural investment conference in Sandton, President Cyril Ramaphosa took the opportunity to address the elephant in the room — which could possibly deter investors — the issue of land expropriation without compensation.
Accelerating the provision of land to the “poor and marginalised” is critical to addressing “inequality nearly 25 years into our democracy”, Ramaphosa said, but he reaffirmed that government is committed to property rights and that any investment in South Africa would be safe.
“Together with robust legislation to protect foreign investments, an independent judiciary and the firm rule of law, our Constitution should allay any fears that investors may have of factories being expropriated.”
Over 1 000 local and international delegates gathered on Friday at the Sandton Convention Centre to hear Ramaphosa’s keynote address which was clear in its message: the only way the economy is going to grow and strengthen is through building partnerships.
The exclusion of millions of South Africans from skills development, employment and ownership of assets is the “greatest impediment” to the growth of the economy which is why government has placed economic growth and job creation at the forefront, according to Ramaphosa.
In his speech — aimed at attracting investors into the country — Ramaphosa described South Africa as “a land where the soil is rich and the oceans teem with life, where the beautiful vistas of our country are spectacular and its diverse people are vibrant and resilient.”
Aside from his poetic descriptions of the country, Ramaphosa also highlighted reasons why South Africa is a “country that is rich in ways that we often don’t appreciate”, including that the country is an emerging market, has a progressive Constitution and independent judiciary, abundant natural resources, an advanced financial services and banking sector, world class infrastructure and a young trainable labour force.
In April this year, government embarked on an ambitious campaign to raise $100-billion in new investment over five years to ensure that the economy grows and Ramaphosa says this was done with the “understanding that no meaningful growth and no significant job creation would be possible without a massive surge in productive investment”.
As part of this drive, four presidential investment envoys — Phumzile Langeni, Jacko Maree, Mcebisi Jonas and Trevor Manuel — travelled extensively to meet potential investors and have been able to secure pledges from several countries and companies which will be announced on Friday.
Ramaphosa also went at great pains to explain to delegates that the country is working through some of its problem areas such as the state of state-owned enterprises where the leadership at such entities has been changed.
He also spoke on the commission of inquiries that have been established into allegations of state capture, the South African Revenue Service and the Public Investment Corporation.
Another major focus in Ramaphosa’s address was the importance of infrastructure which government sees “as a critical enabler of growth and job creation” and is why a state infrastructure spending has been consolidated into an Infrastructure Fund which was announced as part of the stimulus package.
“We intend to use that fund to leverage investments from development finance institutions, multilateral development banks, asset managers and commercial banks,” Ramaphosa said.
A team of architects engineers, town planners and other experts will oversee the implementation of an “extensive infrastructure programme” in areas such as water, transport, energy, telecommunications and social infrastructure.
Ramaphosa acknowledged that the road to progress is going to be long and arduous but that investment into the economy would ensure that South Africa progresses.
“We invite you to become valued partners in realising the vision – and sharing the benefits – of a new era of renewal, an era of discovery, an era of prosperity and progress and promise,” Ramaphosa said.