South Africa’s message to the world from Davos

The World Economic Forum (WEF) Annual Meeting is around the corner, starting on 17 January. We take a look at South Africa’s message from Davos to the world.

Team SA at Davos
Team South Africa is briefed during the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos on 21 January 2016. (Image: The Presidency, via Flickr)

Brand South Africa reporter

Two elements are at the heart of South Africa’s global message from the World Economic Forum (WEF) Annual Meeting: the country has a stable economy and is an attractive investment destination.

This year’s overall theme for the meeting, taking place as always in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, is “Responsive and Responsible Leadership”. It runs from 17 to 20 January.

Speaking to the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan said the WEF theme was important to ensure societies became more inclusive. Team South Africa, he said, would show that the country was a desirable investment destination.

“Responsive and responsible leadership is fascinating both for us, the globe, whichever sector you come from and what is responsible leadership as they see it; it is about integrity and about understanding the environment in a holistic way so that you become part of a co-ordinated effort that they refer to,” Gordhan said.

A progressive and transforming economy

Amid challenging global economic conditions, there had been significant progress in the country, the Economic Development Department said in a 2016 assessment called The Future of the South Africa Economy from the Mirror of 2016: A review of economic development in 2016.

“The economy avoided going into a recession in part through the collective action of business, labour and communities working with government, though growth remained very modest,” the report reads.

Although 2016 was a tough year around the world, South Africa’s economy showed resilience. It has more than doubled in size since 1994 and the tax base has increased substantially.

The Global Markets Publication said the country had the “best sovereign debt management operations and issuer” in sub-Saharan Africa, the finance minister noted in his medium term budget in October 2016. The World Bank also commended the country’s debt management, describing South Africa as “better positioned to absorb fiscal shocks going forward”.

By limiting spending in government, creating dialogue across the nation and following international best practices of improving healthcare, education and social security, South Africa is gradually transforming its economy to be more inclusive.

“Economic transformation was a key theme in 2016 and we made significant strides in opening the economy to new black-owned companies and expanding levels of youth entrepreneurship,” said the Economic Development Department.

Investment and infrastructure

“Investment is about confidence,” joint co-ordinator of the CEO’s Initiative, Jabu Mabuza, told the SABC. “That is why we have been working with government and labour in building confidence. We don’t get money from keeping the money in the bank; we are working with government to invest more.”

Mabuza said business had been working with different stakeholders to boost business confidence, which was critical when companies decided where they wanted to invest.

Tapping into the country’s oceans economy, R17-billion had been invested and 5,000 jobs created, Gordhan said in his October mini budget. “Licences for oil and gas exploration have been issued as part of the sector growth strategy.”

State-owned entities would also be integral to continued growth of the economy and to drive development.

Further investment – an estimated R987-billion over three years – would be made into the National Infrastructure Plan, said the department.

The CEO Initiative is a group of about 90 chief executives and business leaders working with the government and labour to build confidence in the economy and reignite sustainable economic growth.

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