SA still an investment destination of choice

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

The NDP may not be perfect, but it continues to be a guide in our vision to tackle poverty, inequality and unemployment, writes Phumla Williams.

Oliver Dickson’s lopsided view of our country’s investment prospects cannot be left unchallenged lest it misleads Business Day’s readers.

For starters, Dickson should be reminded that when this democratic government appointed a panel of eminent persons to contribute towards the development of the National Development Plan: Vision 2030 (NDP) it did so fully cognisant of the enormous challenges it will face as it reconstructs our country in line with the constitution.

For more than 300 years, SA was ruled by a racially exclusive, discriminatory and exploitive system. The majority of the citizens — in particular Africans — were completely excluded from any economic development of this country. Undoing this was never to be as easy as some may want us to believe.

His myopic assertion that our country is a poor investment destination rings hollow and fails to appreciate what the government has done over this short democratic period and what it continues to do in taking the country forward. 

Dickson’s view that our “poor investability lies in the fact that we have no clear political and economic vision for the country” is unfortunate. SA has a road map spelt out in the NDP. It may not be perfect, but it continues to be a guide in our vision to tackle the triple challenges facing the country — poverty, inequality and unemployment.

Under the stewardship of President Cyril Ramaphosa, his R1.2 trillion investment drive announced four years ago has reached an impressive 95% of this ambitious target. Both domestic and foreign investors continue to see SA as an investment destination. Numbers do not lie.

From the first SA Investment Conference in 2018 to the fourth earlier in 2022, the country has attracted over R1.14 trillion in commitments across a wide range of economic sectors. These investments are deliberate and calculated decisions by investors. They continue to view SA as a potential investment destination. The incoming investors display a strong vote of confidence in our ability to overcome our most pressing challenges, some of which are linked to the legacy of apartheid.

When engaging with potential investors the government has never extenuated the existing socioeconomic and political problems affecting the country. It openly and unstintingly acknowledges that it is gradually emerging out of a very difficult period where policy missteps and the unfortunate ruinous effects of state capture have retarded its progress.

The ambitious investment efforts are emboldened by the high-profile political mandate, led by President Ramaphosa and his executive, to unequivocally build investor confidence and create a business-friendly environment. The President continues to lead this drive with honesty and keeping to his word in navigating through these challenges towards growing the economy and creating the much-needed jobs.

As an economic hub and gateway for potential investors and tourists SA has unveiled the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan (ERRP) to mitigate the socioeconomic setbacks that were aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The ERRP remains our immediate common programme to rebuild the economy, sustain economic growth and create enough jobs to reduce poverty and inequality. Operation Vulindlela is an innovative intervention led by the presidency and the Treasury to accelerate the implementation of structural reforms and support economic recovery. It aims to modernise and transform network industries including electricity, water, transport and digital communications, which are key sectors in driving economic growth.

The government remains steadfast in dealing with the constrained electricity supply. It has since undertaken several new energy generation projects, which will eventually end the intermittent load-shedding in the country. Such interventions in the energy sector include unbundling Eskom into three entities — transmission; distribution and generation. Tackling other constraints such as corruption, strengthening governance, improving revenue collection and creating a safe and secure environment remains part of the government intervention measures.

As investments translate into new factories and jobs in communities, greater economic activity around the country will begin to reignite economic growth and boost confidence in post-COVID-19 economic recovery.

The responsibility to create a conducive environment that attracts inward investment does not rely on the government alone. South Africans have a vested interest in promoting the country in a globally competitive environment. Dickson may be reminded that this shared responsibility is out there for everyone to see and commend the patriotism we continue to see.

Let me commend communities who continue to work with law-enforcement agencies to expose those who continue to vandalise our economic infrastructure; communities that continue to pay for the services they are provided and rally others to do so; investigative journalists who continue to expose acts of corruption in both the private and public sectors; nongovernmental organisations that continue to intervene in communities and build the so much need social cohesion.

Lastly, let me commend the men and women who continue to harness our young democracy by exercising their democratic right to go out every five years to vote for the government of their choice; the men and women who hold public servants accountable for delivering on what they are being paid for.

The situation may appear dire to Dickson, but significant inroads continue to be made by government, business, civil society, the media and patriotic citizens. This augurs well for the better future we envisage for us and future generations.  

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

*This article first appeared on Business Day Live on 16 MAY 2022