Last week’s World Economic Forum (WEF) meetings were a testament to there being no better example of government and business working together effectively than when it engages with the international business community, business organisation Business Leadership South Africa (BLSA) CEO Busi Mavuso writes in her weekly newsletter.
She notes that business leaders, including BLSA board members Nedbank CEO Mike Brown and Standard Bank and BLSA chairperson Nonkululeko Nyembezi-Heita, attended the WEF meeting alongside politicians like International Relations and Cooperation Minister Naledi Pandor and Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana.
Mavuso outlines that they spoke about the long-term potential of South Africa and how the entities are working together to solve the challenges facing the country.
“The case is much stronger when politicians and business make the case together. Business leaders must make investment decisions every day. They are acutely aware of the risks and the cases both for and against.
“Politicians have it in their power to change policy and, therefore, influence the business environment, improving the investment case. By addressing global leaders from the same platform, we demonstrate our commitment to improving the business environment and the business case for investment,” Mavuso avers.
However, she clarifies that this is not to negate or downplay the problems faced by the country, ranging from energy security to crime and corruption, which are serious and a major disincentive to invest.
She emphasises that solving these problems will require investment.
“Indeed, our energy challenges require billions of new investment, money that will need to be supplemented from abroad. If we can demonstrate the case that such investment will improve the business environment and the performance of our economy, the international community is ready to listen.
“They see that there are opportunities in the midst of the challenges. When business and government jointly make that case, investors hear it,” Mavuso highlights.
She posits that another important signal generated at such events is the willingness to work together.
“We demonstrate that through the act of sharing the stage at such events. This, in itself, is a positive indicator for investors, showing that business and government have common cause,” she notes.
“[The WEF meetuings are] an opportunity for our business and government delegations to face up to the global reality and how a country representing just 0.5% of global output must position itself.
“That means there are lessons we need to bring back home. We also need to bring the spirit of cooperation between business and government back home,” she says.
Mavuso acknowledges that there are disagreements between government and business, but that both entities ultimately want a thriving and successful country.
“That has been much more the case recently, and there have been several important achievements from improving the institutions of the criminal justice system to the policies regarding the generation of electricity.
“We have also turned around government’s debt trajectory, fixing the debt spiral that three years ago posed an existential risk to the political economy. The wider economy, while overall still far weaker than it should be, has shown some strengths, particularly an unprecedented current account surplus over the last three years,” she highlights.
Mavuso says disagreements come down to how to achieve success, and the practical problems of implementation.
“Aligning and resolving these problems comes through dialogue. The long-term investment case for South Africa is clear when we show that dialogue is happening. We now need to work hard on achieving that dialogue and delivering change,” she emphasises.
Mavuso says that while business welcomes the government’s new sense of urgency on loadshedding, there is a sense of despair at repetition, as solutions have been tabled time and time again.
“To be frank, until there is political will across government, solutions will be proposed, perhaps some new ones adopted, but effective implementation will remain out of reach,” she notes.
Therefore, she calls for government to operationalise the reforms and deliver better outcomes for South Africans.