Jabu Mabuza, the chair of Eskom and Business Leadership South Africa (BLSA), said on Monday that local businesses needed to affirm their confidence in the country’s economy for international investment to take hold.
“Foreign direct investment will only come about at the back of local investment,” he said. “It is important that as we deal with this perception that business has got an investment strike, we actually have to speak to why we are not investing.”
Mabuza was speaking at the Oyster Box in uMhlanga at a stakeholders’ meeting before Phumzile Langeni took to the podium. Langeni is part of the Presidential Special Envoy for Investment announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa in April. She, together with Mcebisi Jonas, Trevor Manuel and Jacko Maree have been tasked with attracting $100 billion in new investments over the next five years in order to boost South Africa’s economy.
Mabuza said that “naysayers” were plenty and challenged that the country could entice the billions anticipated by the president. They also contended there were more attractive investment destinations than South Africa.
“People will tell you that we will continue to shoot ourselves in the foot, that it won’t be long until we are back at the edge of the precipice looking down, and maybe this time jumping down,” he said.
“But it is precisely because of this bold and ambitious target that the president has set the country that we, as BLSA, asked ourselves what we as business can do and what role can we play in this.”
Mabuza said the shared view was that the president’s target was not just a challenge for the presidential envoys, but for South Africa. Business had to show its confidence in the economy by investing in it, he said.
“Once we lead from the front, I am confident that we won’t be talking about $100 billion. We will be able to tell the foreign investors that they should meet us rand for rand, if you like, dollar for dollar,” he said. This formed the context with which to actively engage BLSA members.
Mabuza said it was important to highlight the reasons why local businesses were not investing in the economy. “Let’s be frank. Let’s be honest. Let’s be less tactful about this conversation,” he said.
When it comes to “the issue of the land”, he said, businesses must be honest with investment companies by telling them why it was “kind of so relaxed about it”.
“They should be told why we are not so concerned, if we are not concerned and what we are doing about it if we are concerned,” he said.