OPENING ADDRESS BY PRESIDENT CYRIL RAMAPHOSA AT THE 4TH SOUTH AFRICA INVESTMENT CONFERENCE, SANDTON, JOHANNESBURG

24 March 2022

We meet at a moment when our country, like many others, is facing huge challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Yet it is also a moment of great opportunity and promise.

For two years, our world has been battered by a pandemic far worse than any experienced in more than a century.
Our economy, like so many around the world, has been severely damaged.

Unemployment has deepened, resulting in the loss of almost 2 million jobs.
Businesses have closed and families across our nation have suffered great hardship.
But it could have been far worse.

Had we not acted swiftly to contain transmission and strengthen our health facilities, many more people would have gotten ill and many more lives would have been lost.

Had we not introduced an unprecedented social and economic relief package, many more businesses would have closed, many more jobs would have been lost and many more people would have gone hungry.

Not only did these measures provide vital support to those most affected by the pandemic; they also established a foundation for the recovery of our economy.

Due to the decline in COVID infections, hospital admissions and deaths, and thanks to the levels of vaccination and immunity, we have entered a new phase in the management of the pandemic.

We have been able to remove almost all restrictions on social and economic activity.
We are learning to live, to work and to build back and reconstruct with the virus in our midst.

This 4th South Africa Investment Conference could not be taking place at a better time, just as the country is casting off the long shadow of the pandemic and embarking on a concerted and determined recovery.

We are not unaware of the challenges our country faces. We know that our challenges are many, that they are complex and that they are protracted. But we are neither defined by these challenges, nor are we daunted by them.
Rather, we are dedicated to surely, steadily and decisively overcoming them.
I am not here to pretend that these challenges are not real. I am here to share with you about what has been done and what we are doing to meet these challenges.

I am here to say that as the government of the Republic of South Africa we are making progress along the difficult but necessary path of reform we embarked on three years ago, that we are starting to see the results.

Nowhere is this difficult path more apparent than in the sphere of energy. No economy can operate without a reliable supply of electricity.
That is why we have undertaken the most extensive transformation of our energy sector in nearly a century.

In December last year Eskom met its deadline of establishing a separate transmission entity, and is set to complete the process of unbundling into separate entities for generation, transmission and distribution by the end of this year.

We are moving ahead to facilitate a competitive market for electricity generation, and the establishment of an independent state-owned transmission company.

We have a deficit of some 4,000 MW of energy supply. We are working with the private sector to fast-track investment to unlock a potential 4,000 MW of embedded generation. We have increased the licensing threshold for embedded generation projects from 1 MW to 100 MW.

Last year, we launched bid window 6 of our Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme.
This is going to add new generation capacity to the grid over the next two years, mainly through wind and solar power.

And so, even as the country continues to experience intermittent load shedding, we are moving with pace and determination to bring new generation capacity online in the shortest possible time.

We are doing so while undertaking the far-reaching reforms that will secure a reliable, affordable and sustainable supply of electricity well into the future.

For South Africa’s economy to realise its potential as a supplier of products to markets across the world, it needs roads, railways and ports that work.

While we undertake a range of measures to improve operational performance, we are also implementing structural reforms to increase investment, introduce new technologies and skills, and improve efficiency in our rail and port infrastructure.

The establishment of the Transnet National Ports Authority as a separate entity may not, at first glance, seem particularly transformational, but it is a long-overdue structural reform that will have a profound effect on investment in ports infrastructure.

Transnet will soon start the process of providing third-party access to the freight rail network, a development that will encourage more efficient use of some of our country’s most valuable infrastructure assets.

Last week, we concluded the first significant spectrum auction in close to two decades.

This is going to unlock valuable spectrum for mobile communications that will have significant benefits for consumers and businesses, and will facilitate the deployment of broadband infrastructure across the country.

Soon we will be completing the migration of our TV signal from analogue to digital, unlocking much of the country’s digital potential.

Our state owned enterprises have been a huge drain on the fiscus over the years. Our reform process is aimed at bringing this to an end.

Like many other countries, we are transforming our entire approach to state owned companies so that they are better able to fulfil their vital social and economic functions.

We have revised our Critical Skills List, which will enable us to attract skilled professionals to work and do business in South Africa.

It is our ambition to be an economy and a society that is open to global skills, that attracts talent, expertise and innovation.

We are establishing a special unit in the Presidency to deal with bureaucratic red tape and to improve the operating environment for businesses and to reduce the cost of doing business.

These reforms are not insignificant. Nor are they superficial. These reforms are contributing to an economy that, despite the setbacks of the last two years, is developing and transforming.

We see signs of this everywhere.
We see this in Postmasburg, a small town in the Northern Cape, where the country’s largest concentrated solar powered plant is being built as part of our Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer’s Programme.

We see it in the upgrades to the passenger terminal at Durban harbour, as part of a public private partnership with Transnet.

It can be seen at the Toyota plant in KwaZulu-Natal where the first hybrid vehicle produced in South Africa is being manufactured.
It can be seen in Cape Town where the Nant SA vaccine manufacturing campus is being built.

It can be seen in Gqeberha in the Eastern Cape where the largest pharmaceutical manufacturing site in Africa, owned by Aspen Pharmacare, is producing products for domestic consumption and export.

These are all places where investment commitments are being realised, where plants are being built, where jobs are being created, and where production is underway.

We are supporting these investments with a renewed focus on expanding the country’s economic and social infrastructure.

We have established the Infrastructure Fund, with a R100 billion allocation from the fiscus over 10 years, to leverage blended financing from private investors and multilateral development banks for infrastructure.

We have prepared a pipeline of projects in water, sanitation, energy, transport, digital infrastructure, agriculture, agro-processing and human settlements.

Construction on a number of these catalytic projects will commence this year.
A Presidential Climate Finance Task Team has been established to lead the mobilisation of funds for our just transition to a low-carbon economy.

Headed by former Reserve Bank Deputy Governor Daniel Mminele, this task team will lead engagements on the R131 billion just transition partnership with the European Union, France, Germany, United Kingdom and the United States.

This partnership will involve repurposing and repowering some of the coal plants that are reaching the end of their lives, and creating new livelihoods for workers and communities most impacted by this change.

All this work is part of the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan that we put in place in October 2020 to drive growth and job creation in the aftermath of the pandemic.

The measures that form part of the plan underpin the social compact that we are building among social partners, and specifically between government, labour, business and the community constituency.

We seek a new consensus that draws together the resources, capabilities and efforts of all sections of society to achieve our common goal of a rapid and sustained recovery.

We see this social compact in action through initiatives like the Youth Employment Service, which is a collaboration between government and business to provide work experience opportunities to unemployed youth.

We see it at work in the Presidential Employment Stimulus, which has provided job and livelihood opportunities to over 800,000 people in the 17 months since it was established.

We see this social compact at work in our infrastructure programme, in the several industries that have developed masterplans to expand investment and production, and in our demand-led skills development programmes.

This is supported by a macroeconomic framework that is clear, stable and prudent.

We are working to steadily reduce our deficit and debt burden.

We are shifting public spending away from consumption and servicing debt towards supporting capital investment, productive activity and social development.

It is nearly four years since we embarked on the ambitious drive to raise R1.2 trillion in new investment over five years.

Despite the impact of the pandemic, by the time of the 3rd South Africa Investment Conference in 2020, we had raised a total of R774 billion in investment commitments.

We are two-thirds of the way to reaching our target.

Of the R774 billion committed, around R316 billion has so far been invested.

Of the 152 investment pledges, 45 projects have been completed.

A further 57 are under construction.

Fifteen have been put on hold, in several cases due to the impact of the pandemic.
The investments that have been realised since our first conference have created job opportunities, increased localisation and expanded local value chains.
They have brought skills, technology and know-how into our economy.

Whether it is a young person employed in a data centre, a worker at an auto plant, or a small business supplier to a renewable energy plant, these investments are changing people’s lives.

The chance to earn a decent livelihood is fundamental to the dignity and worth of every human being, and it is these investments that are making the difference.

Today, at this 4th South Africa Investment Conference, many companies will come forward to make new investment commitments.

They will do so because they see opportunity in this country.
They see beyond the difficulties and challenges.
They see reform and progress.
They see an open society that has enabled us to weather many storms.
They see a strong and vibrant democracy, a diverse media and an active civil society.
They see durable institutions, an independent judiciary and the rule of law.

After a decade of state capture, they see a country that is confronting corruption and criminality, and that is rebuilding its law enforcement agencies and strengthening the capacity of the state.

They see a well-regulated banking, financial and taxation system and a transparent budget process.

These investors see a Constitution that enshrines the rights of employer and employee alike, that advances the rights of the landless as it does those of property owners, that protects workers and businesses, and that prevents the arbitrary exercise of power.

As we continue along the path of reconstruction and recovery, I call on all investors, entrepreneurs and business people to be part of this journey.

As investors, you need to know that your investments are secure, that the operating environment is stable, and that you are supported by policy certainty and regulatory safeguards.

You need to know that the measures we are taking to tackle crime and damage to infrastructure are having an effect.

Your investments are making are a difference in local economies and in people’s lives.

We therefore invite you to be part of South Africa’s growth story.

We invite you to be part of a young, dynamic, resilient nation positioning itself at the forefront of progress and change.

We are forging ahead to transform our economy, to unlock our country’s potential and to create meaningful livelihoods for all our people.

And we are determined to leave no one behind.

The Diplomatic Informer
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