Our top 10 selling points at Davos – and what you won’t read about SA Inc

2014-01-24 12:47

South Africa has a sizable government, business, civil society and media delegation at the World Economic Forum in Davos. City Press editor Ferial Haffajee distilled the country’s key selling points – and added a few things you won’t read.

1. Look how we’ve grown

The SA economy has grown from an $80 billion economy in 1994 to a $400 billion (R4.3 trillion) beast today. It predicts a projected 3% growth in 2014.

2. Investors like us

Foreign direct investment has grown at a compound rate of 22.4% from 2007 to 2012.

3. We have a plan

The National Development Plan sets out a vision for South Africa in 2030. It is a long-term reform programme across the four big Es – economy, employment, education and entrepreneurship. The plan is set by the national planning commission, a body that draws in business, labour and civil society.

4. We are building stuff – lots of it

South Africa is spending R1 trillion on infrastructure, including road, rail, water and electricity infrastructure. That’s a lot of money and investors are welcome. Come and see our solar parks, wind farms and a growing green economy.

5. We live in an excellent neighbourhood

Africa is the hot region in the world. South Africa is its most developed node and still the preferred destination for investment capital. Geography is our biggest friend as Africa’s economy has trebled since 2002. We are building a continental free trade area.

6. Never mind what you say, the World Economic Forum ranks our competitiveness

South Africa ranks 53 out of 148 in global competitiveness rankings. We do even better at institutional strength, a solid financial sector, property rights and intellectual property protection.

7. Unlike many others, we are honest about our shortcomings

South Africa is very good at letting it all hang out – the National Development Plan, the Goldman Sachs report tracking the gains of freedom and the budget document all carefully lay out the country’s challenges with unemployment, poverty and inequality in microscopic detail.

8. Look who heads our stock exchange

The Johannesburg Stock Exchange is a highly regarded bourse and now, for the first time, South Africa has a woman, Nku Nyembezi-Heita, heading it. Gender parity is a hot-button issue at Davos and South Africa is a trailblazer.

9. Come look at our incentives

Global investors like nothing better than a good incentive. In 2012/2013, the department of trade and industry provided more than R700 million in incentives to call centres, car manufacturers, fisheries and mining.

The Manufacturing Investment Cluster approved 580 projects for a grant amount of R5.1 billion with projected investment of R22.8 billion. That was in one year alone.

10. Madiba

Nelson Mandela continues to be South Africa’s biggest brand. The Long Walk to Freedom movie was the largest cultural event at Davos.

Source: Brand SA

And now for Haffajee’s own list of things you won’t read about SA Inc:

1. Our growth is stalling

Growth came in lower than predicted because of protracted strikes in 2013. This year has started on a militant labour note.

2. Our unions call the shots

South African trade unions hold extraordinary sway in the economy and over public policy. We don’t really know how to manage this while maintaining labour stability.

3. Investors are nervous

Foreign investment targets are moving and difficult to meet and South Africa is being challenged as an African gateway by nations like Nigeria.

4. We’re not really sure who is in charge of economic policy

Our economic policy pulls in different directions, with different interpretations in Cabinet of what the level of state intervention should be and what role the private sector plays.

5. Quantitative easing

Quantitative easing is not easy to understand or plan around. It will affect South Africa, but we are not yet sure how.

6. The National Development Plan

South Africans are extraordinarily good at blowing holes in things and nitpicking. It is what’s charming about us. But we have also spent two years poking holes in the plan instead of embracing it.

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