From the CEO

From the CEO

The first half of the year has shown SA no favours. Net foreign equities disinvestment reached nearly R30 billion by the end of June. Some of this follows a global risk-off position relative to emerging markets, and the inclusion of China and Saudi Arabia in key emerging market indices resulted in SA’s weighting in those indices declining. But, as important a contributor is our failure as a country to present the most compelling business case possible to local and foreign investors.

The irony is that there is much that has been positive in the past 18 months: a strongly independent judiciary and SARB; new and respected leadership at SARS and the NPA; strong ministers in key portfolios; and a president who understands the need for multi-stakeholder partnerships to achieve growth.

But stubbornly low-growth figures, regulatory and policy uncertainty, and the increasingly extreme rhetoric around the time of our national elections made navigating the business environment in H1 extremely tricky. Noise around corporate accountability and the long time that it is taking to hold both public and private sector wrong-doers accountable have also not helped confidence.

There is, however, much we can do to change this tide.

First, we need to get growth on track. If SA is to succeed in creating the sustainable and inclusive growth necessary to adequately address the systemic socio-economic challenges we face, we need to prioritise a clear focus on execution over more plans. In choosing to move forward rapidly with things such as the spectrum auction, and key public infrastructure projects such as schools, hospitals or the Gautrain extension, government would not only create jobs and deliver services to the economically marginalised but also help build competence in the 4IR skills we will need to compete in the future as a country. Surely this is a future we can support.

We need to clarify the policy road map for BEE. The transformation of our economy is a work in progress and it is debatable whether the current codes sufficiently enable the achievement of truly broad-based empowerment, which would allow growth inclusive of the most marginalised South Africans to be achieved as we move forward. Public-sector agencies therefore should aim to align with industry on how to comply with the codes and the NDP.

And finally, we need to take care of our national narrative. Sentiment affects how we feel about being in this country. It also affects how willing we are to work constructively together to build an SA in which all its people can thrive. Yet sentiment is fragile. So as we talk about the country around our dining room tables, in our taxis, to our colleagues or to investors, let’s not just lament the stresses. Let’s remember what we have achieved and let’s ask ourselves what we can do to make a positive contribution.

Our destiny as a country is not written in the stars: it is set by our actions.

Nicky Newton-King
Chief Executive Officer
Image: Haleema Rawoot