OPINION: Active role by business in BRICS will promote investment

President Cyril Ramaphosa addresses professionals in Sandton, Johannesburg. PHOTO: Getrude Makhafola/ANA

President Cyril Ramaphosa addresses professionals in Sandton, Johannesburg. PHOTO: Getrude Makhafola/ANA

Published Jun 1, 2018


JOHANNESBURG - President Cyril Ramaphosa has appointed four special envoys to woo international investors to South Africa. 

The president also intends to hold an investment conference in October. The success of these envoys depends on the support and participation of South African business at the most senior level in the working groups of the BRICS Business Council and B20 task forces of the Group of twenty (G20).

The BRICS Business Council has nine working groups in infrastructure, manufacturing, financial services, energy and green economy, skills development, agribusiness, digital economy and deregulation.

The main objective of these working groups is to facilitate interaction and co-operation among the business people in BRICS countries, with a view to better understand existing market opportunities, build synergies and promote intra-BRICS direct investments to ensure industrial development and job creation.

But South African business deprives itself from interacting with their counterparts in BRICS through their lack of participation in the working groups.

Participants from other BRICS countries include Captain Xu Lirong, the chairperson of the China Ocean Shipping Company; Kirill Dmitriev, chief executive of Russia’s sovereign wealth fund with reserved capital of $10billion (R125.82bn) under management, (the Russian Direct Investment Fund); Tata Steel’s managing director, TV Narendran from India; and Brazil’s Murilo Ferreira, the chief executive of Vale, which boasts of being No1 in global production of iron ore, pellets and nickel, to name but a few.

On the other hand, B20 task forces include Digital Economy & Industry 4.0, employment and education, energy, resource efficiency and sustainability, sustainable food system, trade and investment, integrity and compliance, SMEs development and financing growth and infrastructure.


One of the topics we dealt with in the recent B20 meeting of the Trade and Investment Task Force in Paris how do we “accelerate a multilateral framework initiative on investment facilitation”.

The brief of the special envoys on investments is to meet with potential investors, to inform them of the advantages of investing in South Africa and alert them to the many diverse opportunities that exist here.

In one of his speeches, Ramaphosa said South Africa was concentrating on the types of investment that would not only create employment, but add value to the natural resources that the country had in abundance, and “will create shared value, producing sustainable financial gains for investors and broader benefits for their employees, suppliers, communities and other stakeholders”.

As the special envoys on investments scour the globe they will join the unco-ordinated glut comprising National Treasury officials in Davos, diplomats from the Department of International Relations and Co-operation (Dirco) in most world capitals, Department of Trade and Industry (the dti) investor roadshow professionals, provincial and municipal officials visiting “sister cities” and IMC’s Brand South Africa.

Are our ministers and bureaucrats equal to the task as outlined in the State of the Nation address? Have they changed in their programmes and ways of working and actions to match the vibrant and call for action of “Thuma Mina?”

The “glut” is better illustrated in the 2016/2017 annual report of the National Treasury, Dirco and the dti.

According to the report, the World Economic Forum (WEF) affords South Africa an opportunity to position the country as an attractive investment destination to international investors.

Public-private engagements between the government, business and civil society enable South Africa to set the narrative on policy deliberations related to economic and social issues.

The South African delegation to WEF meetings is led by either the president or deputy president, with the Treasury as the co-ordinating department. The Presidency mandated the Treasury in August 2016 to lead with the logistical co-ordination through the inter-ministerial committee (IMC) then chaired by the finance minister. Apparently, the IMC is now chaired by the minister for Dirco.

The Treasury also states in its annual report that it ensures effective representation of South Africa’s position in discussions and negotiations during meetings of G20 finance ministers and central bank governors (also called "the finance track") of the G20; and continued to work in close co-operation with the SA Reserve Bank and other relevant stakeholders, particularly the Presidency and Dirco.

According to the 2016/17 Dirco Annual Report, Dirco continues to accelerate economic diplomacy through diligent work done at South Africa's missions abroad, contributing to the growing of the country’s regional, continental and global trade and investment, resulting in the total potential foreign direct investment (FDI) of R50232bn, particularly in the energy and chemicals sectors among other achievements.

The 2016/17 annual report of the dti lists South Africa’s sub-programmes:

Investment Promotion facilitates the increase in the quality and quantity of FDI, domestic and outward investment by providing investment attraction, targeted lead generation and recruitment support.

Investment and Interdepartmental Clearing House promotes and facilitates investment, and provides support services to Investment Promotion and Interdepartmental Clearing House South Africa. This sub-programme also provides a specialist advisory service, and fast-tracks, unblocks and reduces red tape for investors.

Investment support and after-care provides specialist advisory services through research, information marketing, after-care and policy advocacy to facilitate investment, and retain and expand existing investment.

I believe that in preparation for the investment conference, the four investments envoys must go beyond consulting with various foreign chambers of commerce like the American Chamber of Commerce, who are likely not to have the personal contacts at the level where decisions are taken or with relevant to investors like Pretoria-born Elon Musk and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg.

South African business must take advantage of the upcoming July BRICS meetings in Durban and Johannesburg, including the October 2018 B20 meetings in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

South African Business is missing opportunities to rub shoulders with their counterparts in BRICS.

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, vice-president and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai, writes in his book, My Vision that, “With each day in Africa, a gazelle wakes up knowing he must outrun the fastest lion or starve. It is no different for the human race. Whether you consider yourself a gazelle or a lion, you simply have to run faster than others to survive.” The investment envoys have to run faster than others to survive in the global race for investments.

Private sector

The South African government through the Treasury, dti, Dirco and the Presidency spends a fortune of taxpayers’ money on the G20 efforts, but the participation of the private sector is minimal, unlike the private sector of other G20 countries, which take advantage of opportunities offered by BRICS and the B20.

The task of luring investments to South Africa does not lie on the shoulders of Ramaphosa alone, but on all South Africans.

Ramaphosa has indicated that he wants to “encourage corporates not only to expand their operations, but also to persuade their counterparts across the world to invest in the South African economy”, he also want to “cultivate a huge cohort of investment envoys that understand the economy, that can see the opportunities and that can direct potential investors to where they can find assistance”.

If we do not co-ordinate all these efforts, South Africa also runs the risk of giving mixed messages that may lead to investor no-confidence.

Remember, we are competing with other countries in our efforts to woo investors.

The task to convince investors to believe in South Africa and bring the much-needed jobs to our country that may lead to increased trade with the world is not the job of the investment envoys alone, but equally of ministers of state and the civil servants that work for our government.

Participation of business in BRICS and the B20 has increased over the years, save for South Africa, which had minimal participation. There were +300 business people in the B20 in Australia in 2014 and this was doubled at B20 Turkey in 2015, while B20 China only had +500 in 2016 and B20 Germany increased the number of business representatives to +800 in 2017. B20 Argentina boasts that by the time the summit takes place in Buenos Aires in October this year, it will have +1200 members, including +1000 companies that employ more than 35million people.

Is this not a fertile ground for the presidential investment envoys to mine those opportunities?

The participation of business in BRICS and the B20 will be bolstered by the Investment Envoys as they interact with investors face to face and promote Ramaphosa’s initiative to raise R1trillion in new investments over five years.

Most importantly, all parties who promote investments must read from the same script and say the same thing in communicating the need to reverse the economic meltdown in South Africa.

Unless all of us embrace and practically adjust our way of doing things we will end up with what Sheik Maktoum said: “We in the Arab world cannot realise our ambitions, complete huge projects and generate millions of job opportunities if individuals and communities are subdued this way. When this happens, the community will simply not co-operate and will not be creative. This is the end of a leadership based on fear, and its side-effects go even deeper and further.”

Sello Mashao Rasethaba is a council member of the South African BRICS Business Council, chairperson of the African Entrepreneurs Council and the Black Business Council. Rasethaba also serves in the B20 Trade and Investment Task Force and is a member of the B20 High Level International Business Advocacy Caucus.

The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.


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