President Cyril Ramaphosa addresses inaugural SA investment conference, October 26, 2018. PHOTO:Government Communication and Information System (GCIS)
JOHANNESBURG - President   Cyril Ramaphosa's investment drive took off on a boost as domestic and international business pledged hundreds of billions in investments over the next few years, with mining and metals group Anglo American putting in R71.5  billion to sustain its local operations.

Mercedes Benz pledged to invest R10 billion, while Naspers said it will put R6 billion into the local economy and drug maker Aspen Pharmacare said it would invest an additional R3.4 billion  at its Port Elizabeth plant. The investment will be used to manufacture sterile anaesthetics.

Paper and timber companies Sappi and Mondi announced multi-billion rand investments into South Africa to support goverment efforts at reigniting economic growth.

Sappi chief executive Stephen Binnie said the world's largest producer of dissolving pulp would plough R7.7 billion into its Durban mill.

"This investment is going to give us an opportunity to grow our capacity for dissolving pulp," Binnie said. "We have a world-class operation in South Africa, and we are able to make a competitive, value-added product."

The pledges came as Ramaphosa hosted more than 1 300 local and international business leaders as part of his drive to raise more than $100bn in investments in the next five years.

Ramaphosa said the government was determined to unlocking the country's potential and improve the business climate.

“We are here to declare that we are determined to build a country that is driven by enterprise and innovation, to develop an economy that is diverse and resilient and prosperous, and to create companies that achieve sustained returns not only for their shareholders, but also for the workers that drive them and the communities that support them,” he told the delegates.

Ramaphosa has intensified his investment drive as the country continued to a confidence crisis after nine years of rampant corruption and the state capture project. The country's policy uncertainty has also rattled investors.

On Friday, Ramaphosa reiterated that the country’s land reform programme would be done within the law and that the government would respect property rights.

Anglo American said its investment would include the conversion of the Venetia underground diamond mine into an open pit mine.

Diversified miner Vedanta Resources pledged R21.4 billion towards a zinc smelter in the Northern Cape, while the international packaging Mondi pledged R8 billion while its competitor Sappi pledged to invest R7.7 billion.   

 Rwanda-based technology company Mara Corporation said it would investing $100 million in South Africa to make affordable, high tech smartphones.

On Thursday Ramaphosa opened the  R1 billion Gibela passenger train manufacturing factory Gauteng,  a collaboration between Alstom from France and a local consortium made up of black businesses and the community.

Ramaphosa has put his weight behind the drive to revive the economy that has slipped into a technical recession this year after two quarters of negative growth.

The summit  comes weeks after the presidential where government, labour and business pledged to create 275 000 jobs through various agreements in a bid to address the country's 27 percent unemployment rate.

Speaking on the sidelines of the summit, Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies said the pledges signalled firm commitments and were a significant enlargement of the country's investment pipeline.

He also said that some of the pledges included projects that were already opened, and some were at feasibility study level.

Around $35 billion in pledges were made in the run up to the summit, he said.

"Most of the pledges were from the Gulf countries and the Middle East. China pledged to invest during President Xi Ping's state including loans. There were also commitments from companies in India and Japan," he said adding that the loans mostly were from parastatals.

BLOOMBERG