The Presidency has remained mum about the absence of President Cyril Ramaphosa at the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos this year for the second time running as the shindig officially kicked off yesterday.
For the second year in a row, Ramaphosa skipped the annual meeting of world leaders, governments, business, and civil society groups after he cancelled his trip to Davos at the height of intensified power cuts in South Africa.
TeamSA is comprised of six Cabinet ministers and business executives, led by Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana, carrying a message that “South Africa is open for business”.
The delegation is expected to add the country’s voice to discussions about global issues, with the overall aim to position South Africa as a competitive business and investment destination and a partner in global governance.
The Presidency yesterday did not respond to questions as to why Ramaphosa did not make the trip this year.
However, there is speculation that Ramaphosa cannot afford to leave the country as he faces an election year amid declining popularity and his image was damaged by the Phala Phala scandal.
This is as the country’s economy continues to underperform, with growth forecasts showing that gross domestic product (GDP) will likely come out below 1% in 2023, mainly due to the crippling energy crisis and challenges in the logistics sector.
Ramaphosa has successfully led an ambitious investment drive to raise at least R1.2 trillion over five years, but equity and bond markets have come under pressure as investors have sold their holdings.
Efficient Group chief economist Dawie Roodt said yesterday that Ramaphosa had nothing constructive to offer at the WEF discussions this year because he needed to secure his political future first.
“The simple reason Ramaphosa did not go to WEF is that he’s got nothing to say. He told (investors) in 2018 that it was a New Dawn, but five years later nothing has happened. In fact, it’s another five wasted years,” Roodt said.
“Last year, investors sold R100 billion of South Africa’s financial assets. Investors are voting with their feet. Plus there is an election around the corner. So there is nothing for the president to say at Davos because nobody is going to listen to him. Investors are not even certain he will come back after the election.”
Asked whether the TeamSA delegation would be able to woo investors with the recently released draft energy plan, Roodt said he doubted that would be the case, because investors were looking more towards a renewable energy future.
“The draft Integrated Resource Plan 2023 is not going to help them. Personally, there are a couple of things that I liked, and a couple of things I did not like with the plan.”
Meanwhile, Godongwana yesterday in Davos reaffirmed South Africa’s commitment to engaging in structural reforms that will foster an environment fertile to economic growth and competitiveness.
Structural reforms in South Africa are targeted at – among other things – electricity, infrastructure, water and logistics, and are driven by Operation Vulindlela.
“There are a number of things we are doing to deal with structural reforms. One of the perennial problems we’ve had has been on the energy front. Massive structural reforms… are dealing with that question,” Godongwana said.
“A new challenge has been the logistics sector, where we are investing a lot in it. We have been trying to change the skills composition to the extent that we don’t have and we have provided an environment where we can import skills with ease.
“So there are a lot of structural reforms that we have engaged in in order to make sure that we can grow the economy and be competitive.”