PRESIDENT Cyril Ramaphosa leveraged his state visit to the People's Republic of China yesterday to move his investment drive into high gear.
The message he delivered to the 1billion-strong Chinese market was simple and clear: “South Africa is open for business.”
Addressing the Team South Africa business breakfast, Ramaphosa assured investors that South Africa was working on the important issue of policy certainty and consistency.
“In the past few years we lost our shine, but we are getting it back,” Ramaphosa said. “We are recalibrating our country, and taking measures to address the malady of corruption in our state-owned enterprises.”
Ramaphosa was quick to assure his Chinese hosts that South Africa would surprise the world by resolving its land problem.
“The debate around the land issue is raging, but the fear propagated is subsiding and we will ensure that all people enjoy the right to property,” Ramaphosa said.
During his state visit to South Africa in July, President Xi Jinping emphasised that the country needed stability.
In light of the recent inflammatory Twitter remarks of President Donald Trump regarding South Africa’s land issues, Ramaphosa was at pains to reiterate that the government would ensure food security and enhance agricultural production.
Ramaphosa articulated the priority that South Africa needed to capitalise on market access to balance its trade deficit with China.
“We are exporting more commodities to China, while it is exporting more value added goods to South Africa.”
But he also noted that China was welcoming more value-added goods from South Africa to China. Minister of Finance Nhlanhla Nene praised China's agreement to send more buying missions to South Africa.
Ramaphosa laid a wreath at the Monument of the People's Heroes in Tiananmen Square prior to meeting Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.
The highlight of the day-long state visit was the grand welcoming ceremony at Beijing’s Great Hall of the People, where Ramaphosa and Xi inspected a guard of honour.
They were greeted by throngs of flag-waving and colourfully dressed Chinese children. Twelve South African government ministers accompanied Ramaphosa on the state visit.
Xi Jinping began the bilateral meeting by congratulating South Africa on the successful BRICS Summit, saying the state visit would add new momentum to relations between the two countries.
Ramaphosa noted that it was his first visit to China as President, and pledged to deepen trust between the two countries and increase the number of high level exchanges, as well as the contact between the Communist Party of China and the ANC.
The delegations signed a number of agreements at the bilateral meeting, with Minister for Trade and Industry Rob Davies signing an agreement on increased production capacity; Minister for Environmental Affairs Edna Molewa on co-operation on climate change; Minister of Transport Blade Nzimande on transport-related issues; Minister of Water Affairs Gugile Nkwinti on water resources; and Minister for Higher Education Naledi Pandor on implementing a vocational training centre in South Africa.