The world is changing fast and to keep up you need local knowledge with global context.
The problem with economics is you don’t just flick a switch and the lights go on. How South Africans wish it were so… The man tasked with steering the ship around is President Cyril Ramaphosa, and while change is slowly starting to happen, cynics will complain that there’s too much talk. But if we are honest, Ramaphosa has only really had full control of the reigns since 22 May, when he was elected president by the National Assembly to his first full term. And it’s not as if the pitch he took over was neatly mowed and ready for a game of cricket. It had been plundered for at least nine years, and is in serious need of repair. He’s also faced with some monumental challenges of the present, while also trying to undo the legacy of the country’s past. A job not many would sign up for. But his administration have put things in place to get the wheels of change moving. And at a breakfast at the World Economic Forum on Africa, Ramaphosa laid out the challenges, the initiatives and the need for partnerships in order to help turn things around. Here’s this full speech. – Stuart Lowman
Keynote address by President Cyril Ramaphosa during Ease of Doing Business seminar at World Economic Forum on Africa
Allow me to begin by thanking Brand South Africa for organising this seminar.
This is a valuable platform to share insights on what is being done and what can still be done to improve South Africa’s position as a global investment destination.
This seminar takes place at an important time.
A new administration has come into office, following elections in May, and is finalising the Medium-Term Strategic Framework, which details government’s programme for the next five years.
In just over two months time, we will be hosting the second South African Investment Conference, as we work towards achieving our goal of securing R1.2trn in new investment.
While the quarterly growth figures announced yesterday are encouraging – and may suggest the green shoots of recovery – the reality is that our economy is barely growing to address the challenges our country is currently facing.
And while the economy is creating new jobs, they are not nearly enough to bring down the overall rate of unemployment.
We are dealing with the challenges of the present while working to undo the devastating legacy of our past.
We are hard at work to stimulate growth, ensure economic stability and restore the credibility of state institutions.
We recognise the urgency with which we need to reform our investment promotion architecture to remove policy, regulatory and other impediments.
South Africa currently ranks 82nd among 190 economies in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index.
While we may not see the results of our efforts immediately, this administration has set itself the ambitious goal of being in the top 50.
We have developed a roadmap with short, medium and long term goals and are actively engaging with organised business on reform action plans according to a number of key indicators like starting a business, property registration and taxation.
We will be expanding the One-Stop Shop approach to ensure potential investors are not shunted between different departments and agencies in search of support and services.
All of us in this room share a common goal, to make South Africa the destination of choice for ease of doing business.
We all want to build an economy that is more equitable and from which all South Africans can benefit.
In pursuit of this effort, there has been demonstrable progress in the implementation of the Economic Stimulus and Recovery Plan.
Reform of our visa regime is ongoing and it is improving.
A list was recently issued of new countries with tourism growth potential that will receive visa waivers.
We will soon be piloting an e-visa programme as part of our immigration modernisation drive.
A critical skills list is being developed to guide future plans to attract highly skilled immigrants.
Measures to reduce the financial costs of doing business are already being implemented.
There have been reductions in port and rail tariffs.
We have moved to clear up uncertainty in the policy space with the finalisation of the Mining Charter and the release of the policy directive for the release of high demand spectrum.
Work on a draft Oil and Gas Bill to guide the development of these burgeoning economic sectors is at an advanced stage and the Integrated Resource Plan that outlines the trajectory of our energy planning is close to finalisation.
In support of accelerated industrialisation, we are refining our industrial strategy to focus on a number of key growth sectors including renewable energy, agriculture, and oil and gas.
I said in the State of the Nation Address in June that we want to strengthen public-private partnerships in infrastructure development.
The construction and upgrade of roads, schools, dams, hospitals, clinics and human settlements are key to social upliftment and job creation.
Furthermore, there is immense investment potential in economic infrastructure like energy plants, transportation, telecoms and fibre optics.
We have set aside R100bn over 10 years for a national Infrastructure Fund and will be working with private investors and international financial institutions to leverage further finance for infrastructure.
In the past year we have taken measures to root out corruption in the public sector and to restore stability in key state institutions.
New boards and management are in place at a number of our state-owned enterprises, and they are busy with turnaround plans to restore their operational and financial position.
We have taken decisive measures to address the situation at Eskom, working with the leadership of the entity to fix operational challenges and improve its financial position.
Government has committed funds over the next three years to assist Eskom to meet its obligations on condition that it takes the necessary steps to return to financial sustainability.
A special paper that details a holisitc plan for the future of Eskom is being finalised.
A comprehensive plan to create more new economic opportunities for young people will be driven by a special unit located in the President’s office.
Existing initiatives that incorporate private sector participation like the Youth Employment Service will be expanded.
More funds will be made available for the Expanded Public Works Programme that provides work opportunities to millions of South Africans in labour intensive sectors.
The National Youth Service will be expanded to absorb an additional 50,000 young people a year.
Funding has been set aside for the township and rural entrepreneurship fund.
In partnership with the private sector and NEDLAC we also are working to implement the agreements of last year’s Jobs Summit.
On Monday, we held the first monthly meeting with leaders of business, labour and communities to tackle the country’s employment crisis.
Over the next few months, the committee will address key constraints to greater investment and growth, such as the cost of doing business, security of electricity supply and policy uncertainty.
Each meeting will focus on a particular sector of the economy where intervention is needed to prevent job losses and stimulate far greater job creation.
This approach is informed by our determination that we can only address the challenges we confront through partnership.
We will only be able to meet our targets if we have all sectors of society on board, including the private sector, which is the main source of job creation.
We have seen the progress being made through the Public-Private Growth Initiative where investment projects are being development in over 19 sectors.
All of these measures to grow our economy must be underpinned by macroeconomic stability.
This includes a firm commitment by this administration to fiscal prudence, to stabilising public finances and to managing the national debt-to-GDP ratio.
The new macro organisation of government I announced earlier this year will, once fully implemented, assist in reducing the cost of government.
It will also enable us to review and where necessary dispense with government entities and programmes that have proven to be unviable or not cost-effective.
Some of the economic measures we have put in place may take some time to demonstrate returns, but they have nevertheless been impactful.
We are resolute that what we have done so far is both correct and necessary.
We continue to pursue economic growth together with our developmental aspirations.
Investing in South Africa is not just about securing decent returns.
It is also about staking a claim in the future of a great nation that has the means and the drive to become one of the world’s most vibrant economies.
An economy that is fertile ground for companies and businesses who are prepared to invest in human capital to take advantage of the opportunities presented by the 4th Industrial Revolution.
I call on all investors present here today, particularly local investors, to be part of this new momentum.
We want and need foreign direct investment, and scaled up domestic investment is the necessary catalyst.
We all want to see a South Africa that is thriving and prosperous.
We all want to see a South Africa where all our citizens enjoy equal opportunity to make a better life for themselves.
Despite the difficulties, this is a country that is bursting with opportunity.
We all have a shared responsibility to nurture these opportunities so that we can realise the South Africa we want.
Cyril Ramaphosa: The Audio Biography
Listen to the story of Cyril Ramaphosa's rise to presidential power, narrated by our very own Alec Hogg.