While in the throes of a global pandemic, government had second thoughts of hosting an investment conference this year, but the risk paid off with R109.6 billion in new commitments being pledged, President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Wednesday.
The president made the remarks at the closing of the third annual investment conference - a hybrid event with 175 delegates based at the Sandton Convention Centre and 1700 attending virtually. The conference is part of an investment drive announced two years ago to raise R1.2 trillion or $100 billion.
The total investments pledged now amount to R773.6 billion, or 64% of the five-year target. "This is a whoppingly huge number," Ramaphosa said. Fifty companies mad pledges this year.
"This year's conference stands out for a number of reasons. It takes place in a subdued economic climate. We did not even begin to think it would come to R109 billion. We thought it would be far lower than this," said Ramaphosa.
He recalled how government had deliberated on whether a conference should be held at all. "In the end Cabinet said we should, and the risk paid off as 50 companies have come to say, 'the show must go on.'"
He commented that securing over R100 billion in the current economic climate is a "remarkable achievement." The country's GDP is expected to contract anywhere between 7% and 13% this year due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. Unemployment has breached record high levels as a consequence.
Ramaphosa noted a number of investments were made by companies in the manufacturing sector - which would be supportive of the economic recovery plan's focus on industrialisation. Even businesses in thee struggling tourism sector made pledges. Ramaphosa said the new investments would lead to further employment and the expansion of new markets as well as recovery of some sectors.