President Cyril Ramaphosa and his cabinet’s recent meeting with business leaders was “very successful”. The parties strategised plans to address the country’s three most pressing challenges: energy, transport and logistics, and crime and corruption.
This is according to Martin Kingston, leader of the economic intervention work group at Business for South Africa (B4SA).
B4SA was established during the Covid-19 pandemic as an “alliance of South African business leaders working with the government and other social partners to step up, lead and help create and deliver sustainable solutions for South Africa”.
This most recent meeting on Wednesday was held in light of growing concerns over the country’s energy crisis, logistic constraints and close ties with Russia.
These factors have seen investor confidence – both foreign and local – in South Africa plummet, sending the rand to a new low against the US dollar and triggering the rapid sell-off of local bonds.
“Government, business and indeed other parties have recognised that if we don’t do something about it […] then the situation is going to deteriorate rather than improve,” said Kingston to 702’s The Money Show.
According to the Presidency, Ramaphosa met with business leaders “to discuss ongoing interventions and collaboration between the government and the business sector to achieve inclusive growth, inspire confidence in the economy and create jobs”.
The meeting ended with businesses agreeing to collaborate with the government to tackle problems undermining the economy and its growth potential.
Three of the country’s major problems were identified as top priorities: energy, transport and logistics, and crime and corruption.
“There are others, of course, but, at the moment, we need to focus our resources and energy on these three, and then we’ll change the priorities or increase the scope as required in terms of emergency measures,” said Kingston.
“Workstreams” were set up for each of the three issues, and around four or five interventions were identified for each.
“At the end of the day, these areas are ultimately the state’s responsibility, but we can indeed partner with them if we bring you the best capabilities to bear from across the business community,” said Kingston.
The energy workstream is primarily focused on ending load-shedding.
Kingston said the partnership it has established between government and business should make it possible to end load-shedding by the end of 2024, but he does not think it would be possible before then.
However, he said it is important to acknowledge a capacity constraint within the government, which business is looking to assist with.
For example, the Energy Action Plan led to a National Energy Crisis Committee (NECOM), which has reached out to the business sector to mobilise resources.
In response, the Resource Mobilization Fund was put in place and has since raised R100 million “to put technical resources at the disposal of the NECOM workstreams”.
Transport and logistics
In the case of the transport and logistics workstream, the primary focus will be the country’s ports and rails and addressing the operational inefficiencies at both.
Crime and corruption
Kingston said prosecution is the crime and corruption workstream’s top priority.
This involves “prosecuting – at pace – offenders both in the public and the private sector and to the extent that it’s appropriate”, he said
It also involves, amongst other interventions, better capacitating the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).
While not an official workstream, Kingston said fostering better communication between the government and business is a top priority.
“We’re increasingly aligned between government and businesses to how we articulate the challenges that we’ve got in these areas, how we’re dealing with them, what steps are being taken and actually that we meet the commitments that we’re giving, including in terms of time,” he said.
Time will tell
Kingston acknowledged that South Africans have – rightly – lost confidence and trust in the government’s ability to address the country’s problems.
However, “I think where it is different here is that every single CEO of businesses, large and small, formal and informal, is feeling the crisis that we’re in as being one that is threatening their livelihoods, their work”.
“Indeed, the sector is concerned, and they’ve rallied around in a way we haven’t seen before.”
He said the parties are committed to being completely transparent, reporting regularly and comprehensively on all their work, and measuring their efforts against what they have done.
He warned that the results of their efforts would not be forthcoming and would take time to manifest but said progress should be seen in a few months.
In six weeks, another meeting will be held between the president, cabinet and business leaders.