SA on a hard sell at World Economic Forum

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DAVOS-KLOSTERS, Switzerland, January 22 – South Africa is on a hard sell strategy at the World Economic Forum in Davos in Switzerland, eager to position itself as a primary emerging market allied to world-class infrastructure.

President Cyril Ramaphosa will lead a strong team to the 2019 WEF annual meeting as South Africa aims to ramp up international investment in a bid to overcome slow economic growth and despairing levels of unemployment.

Ramaphosa left South Africa on Monday for a range of international engagements, including an address to the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) Global Commission on the Future of Work in Geneva before meeting up with Team SA in the twin Alpine towns of Davos-Klosters for the World Economic Forum which runs all of this week.

Earlier this month the World Bank cut its 2019 projections for economic growth in SA from last year’s estimate of 1.8% to 1.3% while the country itself has been absorbed by the revelations emerging from the inquiry into State capture which has laid bare the apparent rot at many government departments and other state entities.

But a buoyant Team SA insists the economy is poised to achieve a higher growth trajectory, citing recent political developments, including governance reforms on state-owned entities, as well as efforts to root out public and private sector corruption, which have been widely welcomed.

This has “resulted in a clear recovery in business, investor and consumer sentiment” the SA delegation said in a statement on Monday.

Indeed, a year ago, Ramaphosa attended WEF 2018 as deputy president of the country but having taken over as African National Congress party president from Jacob Zuma only weeks before.

The 2018 gathering in Davos took place amid growing calls for Ramaphosa and the ruling ANC to deal decisively with Zuma who was seen as a major impediment to investment and growth due to myriad corruption and state capture scandals.

It would take until Valentine’s Day before Zuma exited as head of state, allowing Ramaphosa to take the reins of both party and state and he will be arriving at WEF leading what many perceive to be the A-team.

Gone are the likes of the tainted former finance minister Malusi Gigaba. Ramaphosa will be accompanied to Davos by Finance Minister Tito Mboweni, Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Lindiwe Sisulu, Minister of Trade and Industry Rob Davies, Minister of Public Enterprise Pravin Gordhan, Minister of Economic Development Ebrahim Patel, Minister of Communications Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, Minister of Health Aaron Motsoaledi and Minister of Energy Jeff Radebe.

Presidential Investment Envoys Trevor Manuel and Jacques Marie and a range of leading business personalities will also form part of the SA delegation.

Monday’s statement added that “confidence in the South African government’s ability to address structural impediments, including the achievement of greater policy coherence, consistency and certainty, as well as its focus on entrenching a business-friendly and investment-supportive environment, will attract investor interest and increase capital spending, from both domestic and foreign sources, in the domestic economy.

“These developments, alongside a substantially improved global economic outlook, augur well for South Africa’s very open economy, with significant catalytic ramifications for investment prospects across a wide variety of sectors.”

Policy uncertainty or jitters revolve mainly around the state’s implementation of land expropriation without compensation and an ongoing debate in the ruling party over the future of the South African Reserve Bank.

But putting its best foot forward, SA will be trading on its position as one of the world’s “most sophisticated and promising emerging markets, offering a unique combination of highly developed economic infrastructure and a vibrant emerging-market economy”.

And despite glaring inequalities and huge socio-economic hurdles to overcome, it remains one of the largest economies on the African continent, accounting for approximately 16% of continental GDP, and counted among the world’s industrialised nations.

The statement from the South African government delegation in Davos painted SA as “the most developed, diversified, technologically advanced and industrially integrated economy on the African continent”.
The selling card also lists the country having advanced financial markets infrastructure, with the Johannesburg Securities Exchange (JSE) being Africa’s largest and most developed, and one of the world’s top 20 exchanges.

World-class transport and ICT infrastructure are also viewed as key to selling SA as an investment destination, with the country having the highest number of secure internet servers in the region.

“The country’s internet infrastructure is the best on the continent, with upload and download speeds much higher than those of other regional economies,” the statement added. “This helps to make South Africa an ideal location for investment in software and information technology, data centres, creative industries and other activities involving high internet usage.”

South Africa also retains its status as one of the leaders in mineral resources, being among the world’s top producer of minerals such as platinum, rhodium, chrome, manganese and vanadium. South Africa holds 80% of global manganese reserves, 72% of chrome, 88% of platinum-group metals (PGMs), 40% of gold and 27% of vanadium.

WEF’s Global Competitiveness Index 2017/18 ranked SA 61st out of 137 countries in terms of overall competitiveness, with the country scoring well in the categories of Strength of Investor Protection (21), Protection of Minority Shareholders’ Interests (30), Efficiency of Legal Framework in Settling Disputes (31), Quality of Air Transport Infrastructure (25), Internet Bandwidth (11), Mobile-cellular Telephone Subscriptions (27), Capacity for Innovation (30) and 29th in State of Cluster Development.

– African News Agency (ANA)