CAPE TOWN - President Cyril Ramaphosa on Wednesday urged investors to get behind his government's efforts to salvage the South African economy, saying local investment served as a catalyst for much needed foreign direct investment.
Ramaphosa said his government would therefore work hard to remove policy uncertainty and other obstacles to investment.
"We recognise the urgency with which we need to reform our investment promotion architecture to remove policy, regulatory and other impediments," he told a breakfast seminar ahead of the start of the World Economic Forum in Africa in Cape Town.
The president noted that South Africa was currently at number 82 out of 190 in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index and said his administration had set itself the ambitious goal of progressing to the top 50.
Ramaphosa said while quarterly growth figures announced on Tuesday were encouraging "the reality is that our economy is barely growing to address the challenges our country is currently facing".
It was also not creating jobs fast enough in a country with unemployment at 29 percent.
He stressed that the country wanted to achieve economic growth together with its developmental aims and said therefore investing in South Africa was not purely about financial returns.
"It is also about staking a claim in the future of a great nation that has the means and the drive to become one of the world’s most vibrant economies," he said.
"I call on all investors present here today, particularly local investors, to be part of this new momentum. We want and need foreign direct investment, and scaled up domestic investment is the necessary catalyst."
Statistician-General Risenga Maluleke revealed on Tuesday that South Africa’s gross domestic product (GDP) increased by 3.1 percent in the second quarter of 2019, from a revised 3.1 percent contraction in the first quarter.
The upswing means that the country avoided a technical recession but the latest quarterly GDP number, while offering a tiny spark of light, is probably still not enough to help South Africa avert a sovereign credit rating downgrade from Moody's in November, as its debt metrics remain weak.
Ramaphosa said the government was now dealing with present challenges, whilst still trying to undo the damage of the past - a reference to the rent-seeking scandals that characterised the previous administration under his predecessor Jacob Zuma and robbed the state of billions of rands.
"In the past year we have taken measures to root out corruption in the public sector and to restore stability in key state institutions. New boards and management are in place at a number of our state-owned enterprises, and they are busy with turnaround plans to restore their operational and financial position," he said.
Similarly the government had moved to remove uncertainty in the mining and telecommunications sectors, and a presidential committee he had convened would meet monthly to further address constraints to growth and investment, Ramaphosa added.