South African president Cyril Ramaphosa courts funding during the 4th annual Investment Conference

Yeshiel Panchia
Published 10 months ago
Key Speakers at the South Africa Investment Conference
Cyril Ramaphosa, South Africa's president, at the South Africa Investment Conference in Johannesburg, South Africa, on Thursday, March 24, 2022. Photographer: Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The 4th annual South African Investment Conference (SAIC) began in Johannesburg today, presenting dozens of potential investment opportunities to both local and international firms and speculators.

Main roads were closed and hotels booked out in the illustrious heart of Sandton, Johannesburg, as hundreds of potential investors being addressed to possible opportunities in South Africa, in a time where the country is recovering from the dual challenges of the global COVID-19 pandemic and the unrest of last year.

For two years, our world has been battered by a pandemic far worse than any experienced in more than a century. Our economy, like so many around the world, has been severely damaged” said Ramaphosa. “… Businesses have closed and families across our nation have suffered great hardship, but it could have been far worse.”

The President was at pains to point out transformation and development, particularly with regard to infrastructure and the national energy grid, acknowledging both the energy deficit and challenges facing state owned enterprises such as Eskom and Transnet, highlighting the loosening of restrictions on private power generation and third-party access to the freight rail network as key growth in these areas. His words seem to having some of the desired impact, with the African Development Bank having committed almost $3 billion in new funding over the next five years, of which almost 15% for this is allocated to help state power provider Eskom transition toward more renewable energy production.

“The African Development Bank believes in South Africa” said president of the bank Akinwumi Adesina during the conference today. “We know South Africa is bankable.”

The conference has raised some $53 billion since its inception in 2018, with

government optimistic that the state’s economic plan unveiled by President Ramaphosa will bear fruit.

“We are optimistic that the various infrastructure development projects such as construction of bulk water infrastructure, construction of new road networks, energy capacity expansion plans, improvement of our port infrastructure among others, present great opportunities for sustainable as well as inclusive growth” said Minister of Energy Jeff Radebe in an open letter promoting the conference.

However, there are significant challenges for Ramaphosa’s Economic Reconstruction and Recovery plan. With unemployment currently at over 46% (Stats SA), and the country having lost over 10% of its high net worth individuals to emigration over the last year (World Citizenship Report, 2022), highlighting safety and security as well as lack of financial freedom as key to driving emigration. This is also reflected in data published by the National Treasury last year.

With results of the conference and deals brokered yet to be announced, but the importance of the conference is unlikely to be underestimated by anyone as South Africa seeks to turn a new page.

“We invite you to be part of a young, dynamic, resilient nation positioning itself at the forefront of progress and change” said Ramaphosa. “We are determined to leave no one behind.”