President Cyril Ramaphosa has said the second annual investment conference underway in Johannesburg is not a talk shop by highlighting work done since last's year meeting where companies pledged investments of nearly R300bn.
Speaking at the opening of the conference in Sandton, the president said of the 31 project announced in 2018, eight have been completed and 17 are in their construction or implementation phase. This means that 80% of the projects announced last year have either been completed or are being implemented.
“In total this represents R238bn of investments announced last year, ” said Ramaphosa. “It is pleasing to see that investors continue to consider South Africa as a country with much to offer and viable and profitable investment destination,” he said, adding the commitments have translated into new factories and jobs.
Government in October 2018 hosted its maiden conference as part of a drive to up investment and give SA's sluggish economy a boost. Shortly after he was elected president in early 2018, Ramaphosa had set a target of attracting $100bn (R1.48trn at current exchange rates) in investment into the country over the following five years. He also appointed a team of special investment envoys to sell the country abroad.
However, new jobs created from projects tied to last year's conference have done little to dent SA's ballooning rate of unemployement, which expanded to 29% in the second quarter of the year, the highest jobless rate since the start of 2008.
On Wednesday the president said a "masterplan" for the poultry, clothing, textile and footwear industries will be signed during the conference. The plan will see retailers up their procurement spending on local products.
Ramaphosa said government has set itself a target of being in the Top 50 countries ranked by the World Bank in the ease of doing business within three years. This would be done by undoing “bureaucratic and administrative hurdles to investment, providing new entrants with single contact point for licensing and regulatory compliance.”
The president also outlined some of the interventions aimed at stabilising debt-stricken power utility Eskom, which has been without a permanent CEO since the resignation of Phakamani Hadebe in May. Board chair Jabu Mabuza has been acting CEO since July. The announcement of a new CEO will be made “in the next few days”.
“We have set out a clear process, with timelines, for the restructuring of the power utility, Eskom, into three separate entities for transmission, generation and distribution.” He said the key priority is to deal with Eskom's debt, which stands at R450bn. On Tuesday rating agency Moody's announced it had cuts Eskom's unsecured debt further into junk.
Several multi-national companies based in the country, meanwhile, including MTN, BMW and Toyota, on Wednesday pledged to plough money into their operations.