DURBAN - President Cyril Ramaphosa on Wednesday told over 1,000 delegates at the country’s second South Africa Investment Conference that they would be “spoilt for choice” when they saw the opportunities available in the country.
Delivering the opening address at Johannesburg’s Sandton Convention Centre, Ramaphosa joked that the stage was “so big” that he looked forward to companies joining him at the podium to make investment commitments, eliciting chuckles from the capacity audience.
At last year's inaugural investment conference, local and international businesses made over R300 billion worth of investment commitments.
Ramaphosa appointed four special envoys in 2018 to mobilise investment and help kickstart South Africa’s stalled economy and on Monday he announced the establishment of an investment and infrastructure office based at the presidency and headed by Gauteng province's former member of the executive council for economic development Dr Kgosientso Ramokgopa.
The president also announced the appointment of Jeff Radebe, Derek Hanekom and Elizabeth Thabethe as additional envoys, focusing on specialised areas in which they had previously served in government, being energy and tourism.
Ramaphosa said the investment and infrastructure office would monitor the progress of his investment drive by removing bureaucratic “blockages” that businesses reported.
“We are steadily but surely making South Africa a much more attractive investment opportunity. We want to be in the top 50 World Bank Ease of Doing Business Index in the next three years,” he said.
In the 2019 index, released in late October, South Africa was ranked 84th out of 190 economies.
Ramaphosa said the government was committed to removing administrative hurdles.
“This week we launched an online platform for the fast registration of companies, Biz Portal, which will be a game changer in starting a business,” he said.
The pilot phase of Biz Portal was launched on Monday. Managed by the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission, the platform aims to slash the time for registering a company to within 24 hours.
“Applicants can open a business, register for tax, UIF (unemployment insurance fund) and the compensation fund through the portal. All of these things used to take forever, we can now do it in one day, but our aim is [to have the registrations complete] within a few hours,” said Ramaphosa, to applause from the audience.
The government and industry were also working to make permitting processes more efficient, he said. “In the past, it used to take up to three years to obtain a water permit licence, we have decided it [cannot] take more than three months.”
Government had also created “more certainty” in the mining, oil and gas sectors via the revised Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), said Ramaphosa. Released in October, the IRP outlines plans for the country’s energy sector, including the mix used for energy generation.
Data costs would decrease with the initiation of high broadband spectrum, the president said.
“To attract tourism, we have prioritised changes to our visa regime, which was raised as a sore point by business executives,” he added, noting how the requirement for travellers to carry unabridged birth certificates when entering the country with children had been abolished and an e-Visa portal would be piloted later in November, where visa applications were done online. “We are going to be fully modernised,” said Ramaphosa.
Government was also working on a smart system for work permits and scarce skills.
“We want to return South Africa to a sustainable fiscal path; we are reducing public spending, eradicating wasteful spending and focusing on poverty alleviation. Will be stabilising our debt to GDP ratio. Macroeconomic stability and fiscal prudence are essential for investment and economic growth,” Ramaphosa said.