Enthralled as we are about the balmy weather ahead, there are signs that show we must approach with cautious optimism.


Our enthusiasm is tapered because we are emerging from the third and most vicious wave of the coronavirus pandemic. Vaccination roll-out is gaining momentum and businesses have started to recover despite the setback caused by the violence and civil unrest that played out in parts of the country.

Given these conditions, the JSE’s recent efforts in playing a catalytic role in promoting SA as an attractive investment destination were opportune. We’re doing this because we believe that to grow our economy, government, the business sector, labour unions and civil society must collaborate.

Undoubtedly, SA’s resilience has been tested – politically economically and socially. The signals of optimism and confidence in the progress made by both the private and public sectors to improve the state of play came full circle at the SA Tomorrow Investor conference. The virtual event was attended by delegates from SA, the UK, Middle East and Southeast Asia, with President Cyril Ramaphosa delivering the opening address, and ministers in Finance and Public Enterprises as well as the governor of the Reserve Bank in attendance too.

Discussions focused on a broad range of social and economic topics, including macroeconomic policy, the political landscape, agriculture, transport, energy generation, renewables and gender equality. Key issues were addressed with clear direction from the public and  private sectors on SA’s economic recovery and potential. We presented a unified and positive front, ripe with opportunities for investment. Given recent events, when we host the US leg of the conference in November, the message will be the same: SA is open for business.

Ramaphosa’s message confirmed the measures the government has taken to improve the investment environment. The government is strengthening state-owned enterprises and working towards enabling cheaper and better digital access and improved infrastructure. Reserve Bank governor Lesetja Kganyago noted that SA was no longer deemed vulnerable by investors, compared to a year ago. The current account surplus and the budget balance of payments recovered faster than expected and should help Treasury manage SA’s debt. As the economy undergoes a recovery, supported by an increase in commodity prices, policymakers are prudently using this phase to stabilise public finances.

The timing could not have been better, with two crucial announcements preceding the conference. The first was from Ramaphosa, announcing the widely welcomed change in energy-generation capacity by the private sector from 1 MW to 100 MW, and the second from Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan, announcing that SAA will for the first time become partially privately owned. Progress in the government’s initiatives to address state capture are starting to reflect progress. The resultant violence that gripped parts of KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng will undoubtedly impact on investor sentiment, but for every image in the media of destruction, there is one of citizens coming together to support those in need and rebuild what is lost. We have overcome periods of unrest many times before, and we will overcome it once again.

There are many examples of those who see great value in SA and early indications are that the appetite for new listings is gaining ground. Most importantly, the quality of these potential listings is what stands out. This signals an increase in confidence in the local market providing investors with a wider choice of companies to invest in and spanning increased jurisdictions and sectors.

For the first six months, we recorded 11 listings, which include ETFs and sustainability bonds along with issuers from the US, Germany and Australia. We have more to look forward to in the next quarter, when a leading UAE educational company, Athena Education, will make its entrance on the JSE.

Our SME accelerator programme, JSE IGNITE – aimed at fostering the next generation of corporate SA – is under way, with 15 companies participating in the pilot. We look forward to carrying over insights and learnings from the pilot to the first cohort, which launches in August. The JSE team has also been working hard to bring to market our private-placements offering, which will provide a digital marketplace for issuers and investors, in Q4 2021.

We’re also collaborating with small-cap companies through the Small Cap Forum, taking place in August, to engage on their challenges and requirements in being listed on the JSE.

I am re-energised by the thaw in global sentiment and a revival of confidence in SA as an emerging market worthy of attracting inward investment. I attribute this to our strong fundamental pillars, our relentless commitment to good governance and regulation, the pursuit of a just democratic society, and the political will to shift the trajectory of our economy through action. Just like spring, the signals are becoming more evident with each step we take. It’s up to us to continue to maintain this momentum for the benefit of all the citizens of our resilient country.

Leila Fourie
Group Chief Executive Officer
July 2021