Beijing – President Cyril Ramaphosa has likened the South African delegation at the Forum for Africa-China Cooperation (Focac) summit in Beijing to “lions” going on a hunt, saying the main mission was to fly the South African flag and declare that the country was open for investment.
Ramaphosa met for breakfast with South Africa’s industry captains from various sectors including media, mining, technology and agro-processing “to check notes and have our storyline well synchronised”.
“We are many voices but we have a single message and that is: South Africa is open for business. We are open on a number of fronts because we are reviving our country in many ways, sharpening our message to enhance investments to come our way,” he said.
“We want to leave with lots of dollars going home and some agreements are to be signed and this will be both ways,” he said. South Africa had recently set itself a target to win R100bn of investments, half of it locally and the other from offshore contributions, Ramaphosa added.
Leaders of Africa’s 53 states would spend the next few days in Beijing to enhance and deepen relations with China, which had identified Africa as a strategic market for the potential growth of Chinese products and services.
Ramaphosa said part of the world, including China, had already made commitment to invest in South Africa and Focac presented “an opportunity to consolidate that to ensure that those promises become a reality”.
He said the government intended to position South Africa to be attractive on a number of economic fronts, details of which would be made available in the upcoming investment conference next month.
The country was going through economic challenges like any of its peers, he said, but “we weaving our way through and trying to find better landing positions on a number of issues, including policy certainty”.
“We are working through that and each issue is receiving attention. For us it is not only about certainty but also consistency,” Ramaphosa said.
South Africa had “slipped and lost our shine” in the recent years but the government was working hard to regain it.
“We are moving ahead to root out corruption from SA life at a number of levels including private and public sector. Government has ensured that steps are taken to address this malady,” he said.
According to Ramaphosa, state-owned enterprises played a key role in the economic life of South Africa and previously a number of them had “taken wrong paths in terms of governance, financial viability, and blatant corruption”.
That was being corrected, he said.
The country’s regulatory framework was also being reviewed to unlock the many bottlenecks blocking investments, he said, citing as an example challenges with visa regulations.
“We are here to garner investment and addressing policy and regulations will make us more attractive.”
He said the South African book of investment projects would soon be available, detailing economic sectors and areas like Limpopo that had been identified as attractive for the investors.
“Limpopo has been positioned as an attractive destination for investment and it has already started attracting Chinese investors in the northern parts of the province. Our goal is to attract as many investments as possible and as we talk to potential investors we are asked on the areas and sectors that government is focusing on, so Limpopo is one of those areas.”
Limpopo Premier Stan Mathabatha was part of the South African delegation, including 10 ministers, as well as former president Kgalema Motlanthe.
Ramaphosa said a part of South Africa’s broad objectives was to advance relations with China “who sees us as an important partner in Africa”.
He said the fact that he would be co-charing Focac with Chinese head of state Xi Jingping meant that there was “a greater recognition and acceptance” of the strategic relationship between the two countries, which positioned South Africa well.
A second goal was to enhance business to business relations to open opportunities for more South African enterprises to enter the Chinese market.
He said “people to people relations were also important to encourage tourism into South Africa. “China is a market of people who would like to tour the world and China wants us to open our doors and welcome many of their citizens to SA,” he said.