Ramaphosa tells Japanese investors SA 'hard at work' simplifying visa regime

South Africa is "hard at work" reviewing its visa regime to smooth access for foreign investors and businesspeople, President Cyril Ramaphosa has told Japanese investors.

Ramaphosa was addressing a South Africa-Japan business forum in Yokohama on Wednesday morning. The president is in Japan to participate in the seventh Tokyo International Conference on African Development.

Onerous visa regulations have been cited as an impediment to increasing investment in South Africa, which Ramaphosa hopes to leverage to boost South Africa's struggling growth rate.

Visa regulations were also ncited as a hindrance to growth in new policy paper released on Tuesday by National Treasury. 

"The tightening of visa regulations is out of step with a global move towards an easing in visa requirements," said treasury in the 77-page document.  "Countries are typically making it easier for tourists to travel, and South Africa risks falling behind.

Free trade

As he did at the G-7 meeting in France earlier in the week, Ramaphosa said the adoption by 55 countries of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area Agreement was for an opportunity for investors. 

"The African Continental Free Trade Area will require world class infrastructure, and the continent is investing significantly in large, cross-border infrastructure projects," he said. 

These includes projects as diverse as liquid natural gas fields in Mozambique, new ports and rail lines across Southern Africa, and pan-African iron and steel initiatives."

The president pitched South Africa as a natural entry point for Japanese firms in Africa. 

"South African firms have decades of experience working on the continent, and are ideally positioned to assist new and established investors in Africa. As the most diversified economy on the continent, South Africa has the skills, resources and manufacturing capability to help drive the development of productive infrastructure in Africa, and enable the participation of global partners like Japan."

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