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South Africa Investment Conference

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President to lead third South Africa investment conference

President Cyril Ramaphosa will host the third South Africa Investment Conference on Tuesday and Wednesday 17 and 18 November 2020 as part of expanding South Africa’s efforts to grow domestic and international investment.

In 2018 Ramaphosa embarked on a R1.2-trillion at the time investment drive to stimulate sustainable, equitable and inclusive growth as the foundation for socioeconomic transformation in the country.

The 2018 and 2019 South Africa Investment Conferences interactions among leaders from government, business and civil society generated investment pledges of R664-billion. These commitments constitute an important contribution to the South African Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan that was recently announced by Ramaphosa.

The 2020 conference will showcase new investment opportunities for South African and global businesses and for development financing institutions, multilateral development and other institutional investors.

Government is mobilising the public sector, private sector and civil society in economic activities that will put the economy on a sustainable recovery trajectory.

The conference programme will profile the strengths and comparative advantages South Africa offers investors and trade partners in a period of growing African integration through the African Continental Free Trade Area. The free trade area will be the largest of its kind since the formation of the World Trade Organisation, given Africa’s current population of 1.2 billion people, which is expected to grow to 2.5 billion by 2050.

The 2020 edition of the South Africa Investment Conference will host a limited number of guests at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg, Gauteng, and will be open to the public through online streaming.

Third investment conference a boon for SA’s economic recovery

South  Africa’s third investment conference, to be held on 17 and 18 November 2020, looks set to be bigger and better than the previous two conferences held in 2018 and 2019 respectively.  

At the inaugural South Africa Investment Conference (SAIC) held at the Sandton Convention Centre in 2018, President Cyril Ramaphosa pronounced that over the next five years, South Africa would embark on an ambitious investment drive to attract about $100-billion worth of investments into the country. 

In the midst of global gloom, this is an opportune time for South Africa to demonstrate to investors that it can safeguard and grow their investments, says Phumla Williams, Director-General of the Government Communication and Information Systems

This is aligned to the sixth administration’s commitment to grow the economy and address the high unemployment rate by creating much-needed jobs, particularly for the youth in the country. This year the conference happens at the time when the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) has impacted negatively on the global economy, resulting in massive job losses.

South Africa may not be able to escape the sobering predictions made by observers of a persistent economic depression caused by the pandemic and other changes in geopolitics. However, the country is known for its resilience and capability to overcome challenges. The country’s strong and stable financial sector has enabled it to weather many storms, including the 2008 global financial crisis. It continues to remain an attractive investment destination with its rich ecosystem and biodiversity. 

The third SAIC will build on investments that were attracted during the first and second investment conferences, which delivered investments projects worth over $42-billion. Some of these projects have been completed and others are still underway. Despite the slow trajectory of economic growth in South Africa owing to the Covid-19 pandemic, the initial target to attract $100-billion is still on track, as the country has already bagged half the targeted investment amount. 

The SAIC and the monetary figures that are being mentioned may not be enough to give confidence to unemployed people and those who were further dragged into poverty following the national lockdown. However, South Africans can  be assured that this investment drive and many other activities that the country is doing to get the economy growing will make a significant contribution towards building a secure and prosperous future for every citizen.

In the midst of global gloom, this is an opportune time for South Africa to demonstrate to investors that it can safeguard and grow their investments. With a strong and reliable banking and telecommunications infrastructure, as well as several well-developed and advanced economic sectors, South Africa stands out as an ideal springboard for trade, business and investment.

As Ramaphosa outlined last week, South Africa has taken many tangible actions to promote a conducive investment environment, with a focus on easing the ways of doing business and tackling corruption. Government has moved to increase South Africa’s competitiveness as a country by taking steps to address challenges at critical state-owned entities. New executives and boards were appointed at Eskom, and rail and ports; and critical issues such as infrastructure bottlenecks raised by investors as a constraint to doing business in South Africa are being addressed. 

The Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan announced by President Ramaphosa recently continues to be anchored on a partnership that involves government, labour and business. It also hinges on creating a conducive business and investment environment that will continue to attract both foreign and domestic investors.

The plan is critical in the drive to unlock greater job creation and faster economic growth to create a fertile ground for investment. The success of the plan depends on private-sector investments. As the country builds new infrastructure projects such as roads, bridges, dams and new energy generation projects, the full participation of the private sector will be indispensable.

Investors prefer to invest in a corruption-free and economically stable country, hence South Africa has introduced several practical measures to deal harshly with acts of wrongdoing to improve public trust and boost investor confidence. 

One of the most significant steps taken to deal with corruption is the establishment of an open tender system, which introduces far greater transparency and accountability to the entire tender process. Equally important is the decision to prohibit any relatives of office bearers to do business with government. 

South Africa is going to this investment conference buoyed by the growing African integration through the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), which offers many opportunities for the country and the continent. 

The AfCFTA agreement aims to create the largest free trade area in the world and bring together 1.3 billion people across 55 countries, with a combined gross domestic product valued at R7-trillion. This is a huge opportunity for the continent and global investors. As a gateway to many African markets, South Africa stands ready to do everything possible to sustain a positive investment climate and believes the economic spin-offs will spill over to other African markets. Collectively, Africans will continue to work together to get policy and legislative conditions right to ease the business environment and attract more foreign direct investment to the continent. 

Phumla Williams is the Director-General of the Government Communication and Information Systems.

Telkom reaffirms commitment to national investment drive

The third annual South African Investment Conference (SAIC) gets under way in Johannesburg this week. For two full days, the focus of the investment world, both foreign and domestic, will be turned towards our country and our economy, showcasing the opportunities that exist here for innovation, growth, mutual prosperity and the revival of our economy. 

Since President Cyril Ramaphosa launched his investment drive in 2018 — with the aim to bring R1-trillion of inward investment to kickstart South Africa’s economy — there have been two such summits held during the month of November. Both have been incredibly successful. The November 2018 and November 2019 events both resulted in over R360-billion in investment pledges across multiple sectors that we need to revive and grow if we are to turn the economic situation around. 

Sipho Maseko, CEO of Telkom, says the company’s fortunes are inextricably tied to the success and growth of this country’s economy

From the very start, Telkom has been one of the main participants and sponsors of the summits, and a supporter of the president’s investment drive. Over the period since the first summit, our investment commitments have exceeded R18-billion. 

This commitment is driven by the reality that as a proudly South African company our fortunes — and the livelihoods of our 15 000-strong South African workforce — are inextricably tied to the success and growth of this country’s economy 

In addition, Telkom is a listed company in which the South African government holds a 40.5% shareholding, as the largest single shareholder. In the previous two years before the Covid-19 crisis, our company paid out in excess of R3-billion in dividends to the national fiscus. But our value-add and our commitment to South Africa goes beyond mere financial dividends. 

Telkom is a leading information and communications technology (ICT) services provider, the oldest and most diversified in South Africa, operating the most ubiquitous network. Our offering includes fixed-line, mobile and data services, and IT services. 

Increasingly in the 21st century, these services are the very backbone on which the rest of the economy rests, from financial services, to manufacturing, tourism, agriculture and food production, and professional services. In the era of the fourth industrial revolution (4IR), it is no exaggeration to say there is no economy without the information and communications network provided by Telkom and similar companies. 

It is therefore of the utmost importance that oversight and regulation of our sector is aligned with the singular national goal of supporting and growing the sector so that it plays its rightful role in ushering us towards the 4IR-driven economy. 

Moreover, the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic presents a window of opportunity for the ICT sector to reset and make a significant contribution to economic recovery. The release of high demand spectrum and the emergence of frontier technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), 5G, the Internet of Things (IOT), digitalisation and Big Data could rapidly advance South Africa to 4IR and create opportunities to revolutionise how sectors such as energy, water, mining, manufacturing, agriculture, financial services, and public administration are managed and delivered.

Sadly, current policy and regulatory instruments entrench the duopoly of the two largest mobile telecoms provider, and leave Telkom, the main challenger company, in the invidious position of being forced to question the actions of the regulator ICASA (Independent Communications Authority of South Africa). 

The Competition Commission has called the mobile telephony sector a “stubbornly concentrated market”, with Vodacom and MTN constituting an effective duopoly. Together, their market shares account for 80% of revenues and more than 70% of customers.

The highly concentrated nature of the South African economy is one of the key challenges we would urge the state and regulators to pay attention to. If we do not break the power of monopolies and duopolies, we will not unlock the entrepreneurship, innovation, and the value locked into our country’s SMME sector. Given the rapidly changing nature of economies, this would be a lost and irretrievable opportunity. It will take many years or a generation for the ICT sector to recover from inept policy and regulatory intervention.

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