President Cyril Ramaphosa will today open the third South Africa Investment Conference (SAIC) in Sandton to showcase the country as an investment destination – but the question must be asked: what exactly does the country have to offer?

The two-day talk shop between business leaders and government will dwell on what’s needed to fix the country – but what’s really needed will be overlooked.

South Africa is in a dire state on all fronts. In a document on the South African Investment Conference (SAIC) website, the government provides ten reasons why it thinks South Africa is a good investment bet. It claims, for instance, that South Africa is a ‘vibrant emerging market’ with a ‘growing middle class, affluent consumer base, excellent returns on investment’.

Yet, as South Africans well know, the middle class is not growing but shrinking, as is evident in the Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS) released by Stats SA last week. South Africa’s unemployment rate is now at 30.8%, or 43.1% on the expanded definition, the highest it has been since 2008.

According to the South African Reserve Bank (SARB), real gross fixed capital formation, South Africa’s net investment, reached a record low of -59.9% in Q2 of 2020, which means we are getting poorer as a nation.

The Johannesburg Stock Exchange delivered average returns of 12% in 2019. Compare this with the 31.9% achieved on the New York Stock Exchange last year and it becomes clear that the returns in South Africa are modest at best.

Misleading

These are just a few examples of just how misleading the SAIC document is.

What the government fails to understand is that South Africa is not an island, it finds itself in an international market where countries are competing with one another to attract investors.

This failure is evident in finance minister Tito Mboweni’s statement in an interview with Fin24 last week that ‘any international organisation that thinks they can provide us with funds but dictate policy are wasting their time’. Could there be a more tone-deaf statement? Here we are, putting out our begging bowl, but refusing to accept that nothing is free and there will be strings attached to any money we receive.

Hosting summits, which likely cost the taxpayer a pretty penny, is not what attracts investment.

The government is buckling under the weight of its own contradictions, with the finance minister encountering opposition every time he wishes to be prudent with our money.

And while the president is in Sandton turning on the charm, his own party is in parliament, attempting to destroy property rights in its drive to implement expropriation without compensation, and increasing unease with its continuing talk of taking away the independence of the Reserve Bank.

Fundamentals

Perhaps we ought to stop tampering with the fundamentals of a functioning economy before we ask people for money.

While the SAIC may be a great dog-and-pony show, the hard truth is that South Africa has neither dogs nor ponies to show.

[Picture: Chronis Yan on Upsplash]

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9 COMMENTS

  1. All Ramaphosa’s done as president has been to mouth platitudes, political games and commit fraud (wearing military uniform is illegal for a civilian and punishable by up to 5 years in jail) while South Africa got closer to social and economic collapse.

  2. Mbowenis’s comments remind me of SA going to a financial institution and applying for a loan. Except, the borrower lays down the conditions?
    Excellent article Mr Esau.

  3. Maybe Magashule is more aware of the ANC’s policy than Ramaphosa is willing to admit: so perhaps he can repeat the words of his SG at his investment conference today that there is no point in being a liberation movement if you are not taking peoples land and nationalizing the mines, just in case anyone missed it.

    • I wonder if there would be anyone brave enough to raise the SG’s statement at question time and ask Ramaposer to elucidate? Nah, don’t think so.

  4. Dwayne as a 23yr old shows more understanding of the economic situation SA finds itself in as well the key obstacles than the entire SA cabinet and NEC put together. How can one so young be so wise and all our old codgers in government have no clue what they are doing.
    Why are we wasting money on an investor conference, when we have a bunch of commie ideologues that believe the state is the answer to everything. Surely the state can invest some of that magical money from that magical money tree they seem to believe in so fervently.

  5. Hit the nail on the head there, well done. Nobody is taking Ramaphobia seriously for as long as nationalisation oops I mean expropriation without compensation is even mentioned. If our mister president is serious about investments, wether foreign or domestic, his actions would reflect his intentions.

  6. “The government is buckling under the weight of its own contradictions, with the finance minister encountering opposition every time he wishes to be prudent with OUR money”.
    The author correctly references government funds as “our money”. It is either citizens taxes, our their future debt obligations.
    So few in main stream media, non in public employ (I refuse to call it public service as they render none) and tragically even more in society (~20m beneficiaries of social grants think the ANC government “gives” them this money?) don’t understand this simple truth.

    I was always told “beggars can’t be choosers”….

  7. Excellent piece! Excellent ending. “While the SAIC may be a great dog-and-pony show, the hard truth is that South Africa has neither dogs nor ponies to show.”
    -Just a great, big lot of rats and snakes!

  8. Duwayne excelled with this summation. At 23 years of age, he shows that his “econmic-IQ” is in excess of the combined “economic-IQ” of all the members of the ANC and EFF combined.
    Well done and keep on commenting on all the stupidity in action by the government that just throws good money after bad money.
    The speed with which they waste money is astronomical and astounding, but alas very sad for all the citizens of the RSA.
    ‘Nuff said.

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