By Kingsley Makhubela, Brand South Africa CEO
The new year was eagerly awaited by many South Africans. 2016 had been a challenging year during which our people and institutions were severely tested. We can be proud of the fact that both our institutions and people have emerged stronger and more resilient than before. Once again, South African citizens have demonstrated that we are able to stand against challenges and equally, to stand together to create the conditions for change.
This spirit has been manifest in, amongst others, government and business coming together to find durable solutions to our resistant challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality. Consistent efforts to address these challenges have seen South Africa retain its investment ratings despite expectations to the contrary.
Our Nation Brand has also made strides amongst competitors and this has resulted in our improved performance in the annual Anholt-GfK Nation Brand Index released in November. South Africa stands at 35 out 50 countries compared to 38 out of 50 countries in 2015. This is an important index which tells us how South Africa is perceived in a range of areas. The country’s improvement in this Index again tells us that the government, business and civil society are collectively playing their part to move our country forward.
At the same time, South Africa improved in 10 of 12 pillars assessed in the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index. Again this speaks to the consistent way in which government, business and civil society are working together to ensure our Nation Brand inspires our people and delivers on the promise of a better life.
This collaboration between government, business and civil society has equally generated many domestic successes for the country:
- An assessment of the New Growth Path job drivers indicate that more than 2 million new jobs have been created since the adoption of the programme in 2010
- South Africa has been prioritising new investment to ensure the transformation of the economy. In support of this objective, the Industrial Development Corporation last year approved R14.5 billion in new investment, the largest sum in its 76-year history and 26% higher than the preceding year. Significantly this included R9 billion in transactions involving 54 black industrialists, so broaden economic participation. In addition, R1 billion was approved for youth-owned enterprises, showing that we are serious about implementing the Youth Employment Accord. A further R1.2 billion was made available to women-owned enterprises, which is an increase of 59% on the previous year. This is aimed at ensuring women can take their rightful places in economic transformation and participation.
- The IDC is also driving new investment and commitments to improve the competitiveness of South African companies, with its initiatives in the past financial year saving and creating 15 000 jobs.
- In addition to this, the IDC partnered with the Beijing Automotive Industrial Corporation (BAIC) in 2016 to set up a new R4.3 billion auto-plant in Nelson Mandela Bay that in the first phase will produce up to 50 000 vehicles for the domestic and African market, with planned employment of 2 500 workers during the construction phase and 800 permanent production workers in the plant.
- Government has also provided support for a My-spaza Township Enterprise Development Project to introduce 42 wholesalers to 28 spaza shop operators to partner with them and provide funding for structural/ infrastructure upgrades of the spaza.
Our Nation Brand rests on each citizen and collectively on the sectors of government, business and civil society. Our achievements, albeit it modest in the face of challenging global and domestic headwinds, and ability to weather domestic and international storms confirms that we can work together to build a globally competitive country.
We have also demonstrated that we are a nation which upholds and lives by the principle of Ubuntu. We started 2016 with Operation Hydrate which saw millions of litres of water being donated to our people who were affected by one of the most serious droughts our country has experienced. We concluded the year with Operation South Africa which saw millions of rands being collected for the people of Syria. Our humanity is intact and we are indeed good global citizens.
Team South Africa will work hard Davos this week to position the country as a globally competitive investment destination. We will say to the world that we are open for business, we are resilient, our democracy is maturing. We will draw inspiration from the millions of our people who work to build this global competitiveness and we will fly the flag proudly.