The Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry welcomes the opportunity to comment on His Excellency, Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa, President of the Republic of South Africa’s 2019 State of the Nation Address.
Economy and Investment Conference
The Durban Chamber wholeheartedly supports the President’s call for all South Africans to take collective ownership of the cause of getting the country’s economy working again. The Durban Chamber believes, just as the President stated, that “this task, of building a better South Africa, is our collective task as a nation, as the people of South Africa.” The Durban Chamber believes that the government needs to work closely with organised business and to foster greater public-private partnerships and cohesion in order to continue deliver on tangible outcomes together. The Durban Chamber has noted the success of the first Investment Conference and looks forward to the second conference that will be held this year. The Durban Chamber commends government on prioritising investment in the ocean economy. This sector has great potential to unlock significant economic prospects for the country. The Durban Chamber is committed to promoting this sector and will soon be hosting an Ocean’s Economy Workshop with the purpose of creating access to opportunities for the youth and people from previously disadvantaged communities in order to create a sustainable and inclusive economy and society.
A Stumbling Block for SA: Corruption
There have been numerous scandals which have exposed high levels of corruption within South Africa and have negatively impacted on our country’s image and profile both internationally and nationally. In the World Corruption Perception Index, South Africa’s rank has declined from 43rd a decade ago to being 73rd on the international stage. This has had a negative impact in terms of foreign investor confidence and has the potential to severely impact the business community’s trust in the Government and their dealings. The Durban Chamber acknowledges the President’s efforts to tackle the issue of corruption and we note that the current commissions of inquiry are producing actionable reports and results. With the Durban Chamber’s influence in the private sector and among the business community, we would like to stress the need for business to continue to be compliant and adhere to the law of the land and remain committed to commit to working with government to introduce tangible measures that actively address and fight corruption in South Africa.
Policy Certainty/ SMMEs
The Durban Chamber applauds the President on the progress made in terms of restoring policy certainty on mining regulation and the visa regime. Furthermore, The Durban Chamber is encouraged by the government’s commitment to address the policy, legal, regulatory and barriers that frustrate investors. Improving the ease of doing business will not only attract large investments but also make it a conducive environment for entrepreneurs and SMMEs to thrive and do business. The Durban Chamber will indeed hold government accountable and partner with government to achieve its “target of being among the top 50 global performers within the next 3 years”.
State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs)
The Durban Chamber applauds the President action plan in addressing SOEs because the constant bail outs and losses incurred by SOEs are placing the fiscus under massive pressure and increasing the entire country’s risk profile. This is a business-critical issue as many private businesses are dependent on SOEs. SOEs represent critical state infrastructure and cannot be left to operate in disarray and fall further into mismanagement. The Durban Chamber believes that the President’s announcement regarding the efforts in reforming, repositioning and revitalising SOE’s, particularly Eskom, is a step in the right direction as it will help ensure that SOEs operate within international standards of best practice and demonstrate good corporate governance. This will create added value to the nation and remove the burden on the fiscus as well as the risk/threat to its business community. The Durban Chamber views the establishment of three separate entities – Generation, Transmission and Distribution – under Eskom holdings as a sign of progress. The Durban Chamber’s Manufacturing members, in particular, are dependent on energy and cannot continue to bear the brunt of poor governance and lack of infrastructure maintenance through load shedding and tariff increases.
The Durban Chamber expects President Ramaphosa to provide further clarity on the land expropriation and land reform as this will allay fears and uncertainty among local and international investors and potential investors.
In the SONA address, President Ramaphosa reaffirmed that that unemployment was one of his top priorities. The Durban Chamber believes that plans such as the removal of the requirement for work experience at entry-level in state institutions are an important initiative and first step and look forward to the introduction of further action plans and initiatives. The Durban Chamber believes that is an area where organised business and government can work together in order to create jobs and access to opportunities.
The Durban Chamber welcomes the President’s announcement regarding universal access to quality healthcare for all South Africans and applauds government’s aim to reduce inequality in access to healthcare. However, the proposed National Health Insurance (NHI) Bill is an important legislative framework that will impact the health care sector and the business practices of health care professionals. The Durban Chamber has engaged members and believes that there needs to be greater certainty and clarity with regards to how government will really administrate and run the NHI.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution
The Durban Chamber applauds the President for emphasising the importance and impact of information and communications technology (ICT) throughout the SONA address. The Durban Chamber is pleased that the President referenced the data cost issue through addressing spectrum allocation as well as the need to address the skills gap within the ICT sector by “expanding the training of both educators and learners to respond to emerging technologies including the Internet of things, robotics and artificial intelligence”. As a future-focused organisation, the Durban Chamber believes that developing skills geared towards the Fourth Industrial Revolution will result in South Africa competing in the digital global economy on a much larger scale.