We have to do the hard talk – Motsepe

Patrice Motsepe. Pic: Johann Hattingh.

Patrice Motsepe. Pic: Johann Hattingh.

Business people attending the 25th World Economic Forum (WEF) on Africa should not be afraid of asking some hard-hitting questions on matters affecting investment on the continent, including xenophobia, African leaders holding onto power beyond their terms, and corruption, meeting co-chair and South African mining magnate Patrice Motsepe said on Thursday.

“We have to do the hard talk,” Motsepe said while addressing a media briefing with his fellow co-chairs – Antony Jenkins, group chief executive of Barclay in the UK, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, executive director of UN Women, Paul Polman, chief executive of Unilever in the UK, and Michael Rake, chairman of the BT group in the UK – at the Cape Town International Convention Centre.

“Sometimes we see good things and we assume the good things will continue almost like we have a right to expect the African economy will continue to do well. Clearly that’s not correct.”

Motsepe said while Africa and the world was facing a challenging period as a result of low commodity prices, it was important for the continent to remain globally competitive to attract investment.

For this to happen, businessmen and women had to be honest about what hindered investment, and not leave the talking to politicians.

“Perceptions of corruption in Africa is increasing in certain areas. There should be zero tolerance as far as corruption is concerned,” Motsepe said.

The recent spate of xenophobic attacks, which drew attention globally, and its effect on South Africa’s attractiveness to investors needed to be tackled.

“Xenophobia in South Africa in particular – our future is inextricably intertwined with the future of the continent,” said Motsepe.

“The best economies in the world have grown on the back of creating an environment that is tolerant and also accommodating.”

Motsepe also didn’t hold back his views on Pierre Nkurunziza seeking a third term as President of Burundi.

“It doesn’t send a good message that you want to change the constitution to to extend your term of office. It’s not good,” he said.

“It is important that we recognise the confidence we have in the people, in democracy on the continent.”

Motsepe and his co-chairs said issues such financial inclusion, promoting trade, increasing Africa’s competitiveness, and climate change should also feature high up on the meeting agenda as interest in the continent grew.

“My customers and clients in the developed world are extremely interested in doing business here in Africa. We need to continue to facilitate and promote trade as a spur for economic growth,” said Jenkins.

Mlambo-Ngcuka said her job at the conference was to ensure that governments and the private sector pledged more support to the growth of women on the continent.

“My expectation and interest in this year’s World Economic Forum is to encourage the 700 and more business leaders to use the power of one to make change happen for women,” she said.

According to Mlambo-Ngcuka, women on the continent earned 30 percent less than their males counterparts, and many of their jobs were unprotected as it fell in the informal sector.

Polman said while growth in Africa exceeded many other countries in the world, it needed to boost that growth even more if it was to lift its people out of poverty.

The biggest risk to growth, according to Polman, was climate change – an issue African leaders needed to tackle with vigour.

“The cost of not acting has been higher than the cost of acting,” he said.




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