Ramaphosa's conference bags R363bn in new investments

More than R363bn in new investments were pledged by the private and public sector during President Cyril Ramaphosa's Investment Conference on Wednesday. 

Ramaphosa described the pledges as a vote of confidence in the economy. In total, the pledged investment amount was 17% more than the figure raised last year during the inaugural investment conference.

"For us to have achieved this success at a time when our economy is struggling is a real achievement," he said, adding that the planned investment signalled that the economy was poised for growth and on its way to recovery. A further R8bn in investment was not announced on Wednesday, as companies were still awaiting board and regulatory approvals, Ramaphosa said.

The pledged investments should add 412 000 jobs over the next five years, in what would go a long way in alleviating the burden of the country's high unemployment rate and sluggish growth.

South Africa's economy is forecast to grow by a paltry 0.5% this year. 

Ramaphosa hosted the first investment conference in October 2018 after he replaced Jacob Zuma as president of South Africa.

One of the investments pledged at last year's conference came from the Rwandan tech company Mara Group, which undertook to invest R1.5bn in setting up a smartphone manufacturing facility in the country.

Last month, Mara opened the doors of its new factory in Durban. The phones will be sold on the local market and exported to countries in the southern African region, said Mara Phones chief executive Ashish Thakkar.

The factory employs 200 people and has a capacity to produce 10 000 smartphones a day.

"We managed to get the company up and running in record time. It took only 11 months to move from an idea to an investment announcement and production. This shows the high level of commitment by the South African government,"  he said.

A group of 10 French companies, including petroleum giant Total, Air Liquid and home improvement retailer Leroy Merlin, which has expanded its footprint in the country, announced a combined investment of R20bn into the South African economy.

A host of local companies, in the mining, technology and telecommunication sector, also contributed significantly to the investment drive, announcing expansion projects which would span over a number of years.

Here are some of the notable investment announcements at this year's investment conference: 

MTN: R50bn 

Africa's largest mobile phone company committed R50bn to invest, primarily, in the roll-out of digital infrastructure development.

Toyota SA: R2.4bn

The company will invest in the production of a passenger car model which will come out by the end of 2021. Its plant located south of Durban currently assemblies the latest Corolla model and Hilux bakkies.

Vehicle manufacturing: R6bn

The National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of South Africa (Naamsa) unveiled a R6bn Automotive Industry Transformation Fund, aimed at supporting black participation in the automotive industry supply chain through upskilling of entrepreneurs in the sector, including a drive to increase the number of black-owned dealerships and authorised repair workshops.

The fund is supported by the seven Original Equipment Manufacturers - BMW, Ford, Isuzu, Nissan, Toyota, Mercedes-Benz, and Volkswagen - which will directly use the services of black-owned businesses to drive transformation.

"The Automotive Transformation Fund is pioneering, and I think is a perfect blueprint for other industries to consider. This is an industry-wide initiative, bringing together suppliers and OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) to collaborate for common good," said BMW SA chief executive and Naamsa vice president, Tim Abbott.

The Agricultural Development Agency

Politician-turned-businessperson Roelf Meyer announced the formation of a R12.9bn venture to support emerging farmers, which is an initiative backed by the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development.

The agency, to be launched in January 2020, is expected to benefit rural communities across the country and unlock jobs estimated at 300 000.

Retail, Clothing, Textile,  Footwear and Leather 'Masterplan'.

Representatives from the retail sector, clothing manufacturers, labour and government signed a "Masterplan" aimed at creating jobs sustainability in the depressed manufacturing sector.

The plan will result in improved sourcing from local companies in a bid to preserve jobs.The plan sets the objective of creating more than 70 000 new manufacturing jobs over the next few years, according to the Southern African Clothing and Textile Workers' Union (SACTWU) .

Under the pact, major retailers are expected to increase procurement from local producers by up to up 65%.

Government has also committed to strengthen the inspections and compliance enforcement capacity of the South African Revenue Services (SARS) to clamp down on illegal imports of goods.

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