Opening Remarks by President Cyril Ramaphosa at the meeting with the Black Business Council, Union Buildings, Tshwane
President of the Black Business Council, Mr Sandile Zungu,
CEO of the Black Business Council, Mr Kganki Matabane,
Leaders from business and Industry
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Allow me to begin by thanking the Black Business Council for initiating this meeting.
We are all keenly aware of the challenging economic climate and the urgency with which we have to improve the business and investment climate, create jobs and improve the living conditions of South Africans.
It is therefore encouraging that the business sector, particularly black business, is keen to engage with government.
Our success as a country depends on bringing all social partners together, and on using all available platforms for engagement.
The Black Business Council is an influential voice in articulating the position of the business community around key national economic issues.
You are to be commended for your enduring commitment to be partners in driving economic transformation and national development.
We have just concluded the second South Africa Investment Conference, which resulted in R363 billion in investment commitments.
As we look set to reach our goal of securing R1.2 trillion in investment over five years, what was most encouraging was that domestic investment in our economy is on the rise.
At the inaugural Investment Conference in 2018, local companies committed in the region of R157 billion.
This year, they committed just over R262 billion.
What this says to us is that local business confidence is slowly but surely returning.
Of course we welcome foreign direct investment, but it is our local businesses and industries that we really want to see ploughing capital back into our economy.
Local business must be at the forefront of our national investment drive.
When you reinvest in our economy, it gives confidence to foreign investors that this is a good place to bring their money.
What this trend signals is that our economic reform agenda is gaining traction.
It suggests that there is less reticence in the local business community to commit capital to new operations or to expand existing operations.
Since taking office at the beginning of last year, we have worked consistently to address the concerns of business.
We have worked to improve policy certainty and the ease of doing business, remove regulatory impediments, maintain macroeconomic stability, reduce public debt and fix our state-owned enterprises.
Policy reform has taken place in key areas like mining, oil and gas, telecoms, energy and immigration.
Measures to reduce the cost of doing business are being implemented, including reductions in rail and port tariffs.
Guided by the recommendations of the Presidential Panel on Land Reform, we are working on the implementation of our accelerated land reform programme.
We have a new enhanced industrial strategy founded on partnerships between government, industry and labour.
We recently concluded master plans in the poultry and clothing and textiles sectors.
Master plans are in development for other industries with high-growth potential such as automotives; gas, chemicals and plastics; metals; renewable energy; agricultural and agro-processing; and high-tech ICT industries.
An Investment and Infrastructure Office is being established in the Presidency to coordinate the country’s investment strategy and infrastructure drive.
We are in the process of setting up the Infrastructure Fund to leverage investments from financial institutions, multilateral development banks, asset managers and commercial banks.
Measures to stimulate the economy must be matched by prudent fiscal policies and sound macroeconomic management.
The newly-appointed Presidential Economic Advisory Council will contribute to greater coherence and consistency in the implementation of economic policy, and will advise on policies to spur inclusive growth.
Strengthening governance at our state-owned enterprises and restoring their finances to health is vital if we are to rein in public debt.
Energy security is critical if local industries are to flourish.
The Eskom board, working with government, continues to pursue a turnaround plan to address its huge debt, its liquidity problems and its operational challenges.
The appointment of a new permanent Group Chief Executive at Eskom is an important step towards restoring stability and forging a sustainable path at this strategic entity.
We are undertaking these measures in support of the overriding effort to address the unemployment crisis.
In my monthly meetings with leaders of government, business, labour and communities to track commitments made at last year’s Jobs Summit, we are focused on the practical work needed to protect existing jobs and create new ones.
As the Presidency, we have been working with stakeholders inside and outside government on a package of interventions to create pathways for young people into economic activity.
Ours is a singular determination to improve the business climate and to implement the reform that is necessary to attract more investment and create more jobs.
Ultimately, however it is the private sector that will create the bulk of the jobs that our country needs.
That is why engagements such as this one are critical.
We need you to work with us to remove the impediments that exist in the business environment so that business is able to take the lead in creating jobs and opportunities for our people.
We need you to work with us to fundamentally transform the economy.
As representatives of black business, you have a central role to play in the national effort to change the structure of our economy to ensure that it is representative, inclusive and benefits all our people.
Your experiences at the rock face of business transformation must serve as a guide as we seek to build on our achievements and address our shortcomings.
Your insights are particularly important as we work to strengthen the implementation of our broad-based black economic empowerment policies, ensuring that they achieve far-reaching and sustainable empowerment.
To fulfil its purpose, it is essential that broad-based BEE contributes to inclusive economic growth and job creation.
We should all be concerned about the slow pace of transformation in the workplace, particularly in the private sector.
This necessitates some serious introspection by business and clear strategies to promote employment equity.
We know that black businesses who do work for the State have a myriad of challenges, especially around payment for services.
Despite the introduction of a 30 day payment stipulation, we know that it is not being uniformly adhered to, and we are therefore working hard to fix the problems in this regard.
The Black Business Council has always maintained that business does not only have a responsibility to shareholders.
Business has an equally important role to play in building a more inclusive economy and society.
Businesses can and must be drivers of development and play a role in resolving our key national challenges of poverty and inequality.
We are reassured by the faith that black business has in this country and in its government.
We value your input on what more can be done to unlock the economy, which sectors should still be tapped to grow our economy and what strategies can have the greatest effect.
With these words I thank you once again for initiating this engagement, and I look forward to the discussions that will follow.
I thank you.