"The investment strike by business is over!"
Thunderous applause greeted this announcement by President Cyril Ramaphosa as he finally got lift-off for his administration with the commitment of R290bn into the South African economy, most of it over the next five to 10 years.
In addition, he revealed that South Africa has pledges of R400bn more from countries he and his investment envoys have visited over the past six months.
This brings to R690bn the total of committed and pledged investments to fuel Ramaphosa’s New Dawn, the theme of his presidency to rebuild the South African economy which is in technical recession. Growth in 2018 is projected at 0.7% while unemployment is among the highest in the world.
"Today is a milestone in making South Africa a destination of choice," said Ramaphosa.
The investment commitment is "the type of flood to lift many boats in South Africa. The most important boat is the employment of our people," said Ramaphosa, who added that his government would listen to the concerns of the local business community and international investors. He said South Africa would arrest impediments to investment and reflect upon these.
He added that the summit "marks an important milestone" along the journey of making South Africa a "destination of choice for investment".
The investment envoys had brought back tough and frank feedback which had not always been easy to hear," said Ramaphosa.
A significant portion of the R290bn has been announced before, most of it in the course of 2018, but some announcements date back further.
This is not surprising. Investment horizons are long as new plants must be built; mines can take decades to develop; networks take years to be laid.
The mining investments by Anglo-American, Vedanta and IvanPlats (owned by Ivanhoe), among others, are a repackaging of previous announcements; and some of the investment is sustaining capex, which they would have had to stake to keep the mines going.
Investments totaling R40bn by the motor manufacturing industry have previously been announced between May 2016 and this year.
BMW, Nissan, Ford, VW, Toyota, Mercedes Benz and Isuzu will ramp up production for 149 export markets. The South African government will provide a new suite of investment incentives.
South Africa’s four so-called investment lions have combed the globe to get pledges and sell the story of a revitalised South Africa after a decade of low growth and high unemployment.
The four are former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas, former finance minister Trevor Manuel, businesswoman Phumzile Langeni and former Standard Bank CEO and Liberty Holdings chairperson Jacko Maree.
Ramaphosa’s economics adviser Trudi Makhaya will now ensure that the pledges are turned to action and that the investment pipeline is kept on track.
Ramaphosa said he hoped the investment summit on Friday would unleash energy in South Africa to spur innovation: he noted that short messages (sms’s) and the please-call-me innovation had been created in South Africa.
"We have witnessed the beginning of a new narrative. The case studies presented here affirm that South Africa presents great opportunities across all the sectors of our economy," said Ramaphosa.
* Sign up to Fin24's top news in your inbox: SUBSCRIBE TO FIN24 NEWSLETTER