In 2018 President Cyril Ramaphosa set an ambitious target to attract R1.2 trillion in foreign and domestic investment over a five-year period. This year, R332 billion worth of investment pledges were made, bringing the total investment pledges in four years to R1.14 trillion. This amount strips out project cancellations and deferred projects. Investments announced specific to the metals and metal fabrication sector alone amounted to R18.9 billion.

This leaves an amount of R60 billion needed to meet the target set by the President. Ramaphosa in closing the conference indicated that not only was he confident that this shortfall would be met, but in all likelihood, it would be exceeded.

SEIFSA was represented at the conference by the President of the Federation, Elias Monage, Chief Executive Officer, Lucio Trentini, and Chief Operating Officer, Tafadzwa Chibanguza. SEIFSA’s attendance at the conference was important as the event brings together almost all of the country’s senior role players in the economy under one roof. This platform provided an important opportunity for SEIFSA officials to meet with and lay the groundwork for two important events that are being planned by the Federation, namely: the meeting between SEIFSA and the Group Chief Executive Officer at Eskom which will be held in April 2022 and the Steel Master Plan Conference scheduled to take place in May 2022.

It also allowed an opportunity to meet and exchange details with a number of Presidential and Ministerial advisers, representatives of other organised business formations and government officials that share or serve the strategic interests of SEIFSA and in turn the affiliated membership.

An interesting theme that came to dominate the conversation at the conference was a comment made by Discovery, CEO, Mr. Adrian Gore. While on a panel he highlighted that in many aspects, there is often a divergent understanding between narrative versus reality. South Africa, he indicated is not sparred this fact, where reality is sometimes not as bad as the negative narrative that is continuously peddled. Gore went on to explain that the narrative is often that South Africa suffers from a poor and disappointingly low growth rate (averaging 1% to 1.5%) over the last decade. The reality, he pointed out, is that growth is stable, particularly when compared to other emerging economies with wild fluctuations in their GDP outcomes. Similarly, the fact that a number of sectors have rebounded to pre-covid levels, indicates some resilience in the economy. That is not to say that all is well with the South African economy, however, the point is that the negative narrative often carries the most attention and by extension adversely influences sentiment. The reverse he emphasised should then also hold, namely, that a lot more should be done by leaders to emphasise the reliance of the SA economy, its people, and businesses. This was a message that taken together with the point that perceptions shape our reality and the power of positive narrative stuck for the rest of the conference.

Some of the key points highlighted by companies that announced investments include:

South Africa has a relatively well developed soft and hard infrastructure base, particularly when compared to other African country economies;

  • A lot of the industrial productive capacity competes well globally;
  • A diverse and good skills pool;
  • A resilient economy; and
  • SA remains a springboard onto the continent.

The need to open avenues for greater private sector investment in the provision of infrastructure was highlighted by business leaders across the board. Businesses made the point, amongst others, that infrastructure bottlenecks in electricity, rail, and water are choking the potential of the economy. Reform in these areas will not only attract investment into the country to resolve the infrastructure challenges, but better infrastructure will help to sell and position the country as a preferred investment destination. This is a point of reform that SEIFSA on behalf of its Associations and affiliated membership will continue to lobby and advocate.