Keep onside with foreigners, deputy minister says

Staff Writer | Sep 11, 2019
Businesses should ensure they have good relationships with foreigners, said the deputy minister of trade and industry Fikile Majola.

Majola was speaking at a meeting of business people at Mount Frere in the Eastern Cape.

His comments come in the wake of riots, particularly in Gauteng, which evidently targeted foreigners and their business interests. This has been widely noted across Africa. In some instances, South African interests have been attacked in retaliation. There have also been calls for compensation.

The deputy minister said that government was eager to expand trade relations with the continent. The African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement stood to boost trade between African countries by 52% by 2022.

He further urged optimism about the country, despite its difficulties. ‘I know we can despair when we observe what is currently happening in our nation,’ he said, ‘We may feel overcome by some of the difficulties we encounter and the many problems with our economy, but we should not despair. We will overcome our difficulties.’

Businesspeople present said that their operations were undermined by infrastructural breakdown, a shortage of finance, a lack of business skills, inadequate market access and the burden of compliance costs.

There was also a widespread feeling that they were not able to take advantage of procurement opportunities.

In response, the minister remarked: ‘We need to diversify the economy so we do not fight over tenders. As government, we know that in order to achieve this we need to support you with critical forms of support and training. But we should all be working towards the goal of ensuring the maximum growth and success of our businesses.’

South Africa lags behind many other emerging markets in the take-up of entrepreneurship by its working population. In addition, despite a long-standing policy commitment to helping small businesses emerge and grow, there are equally long-standing complaints about outsized compliance costs, administrative inefficiencies and difficulties in finding opportunities in value chains. Government procurement has proved to be an ambiguous boon, since tardy payments can impose crippling costs on businesses.

 

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