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Address by Deputy President Shipokosa Paulus Mashatile on the occasion of the African United Business Confederation, Bryanston Country Club, Sandton, Gauteng Province

Programme Director, Ms Katlego Msomi;
Mr George Sebula, AUBC President;
AUBC Global Director and NAAMSA CEO, Mr Mike Mabasa;
Director General of the Department of Planning, Monitoring, and Evaluation in The Presidency, Dr Robert Nkuna;
Representative of the National School of Government, DDG Dr Maja;
President of the South African Indo-Afro Business Association (SAIBA), Dr Kinesh Pather;
Business leaders and representatives;
Representatives from The Presidency;
Distinguished guests;
Ladies and gentlemen;

I had eagerly anticipated interacting with you, particularly because of the theme of this engagement, "the role of leadership in economic growth." Undoubtedly, effective leadership significantly affects the economic landscape of nations and societies.

We are convinced that to build our economy, leaders from all sectors, including business, politics, Government, and civil society, must work together. We must collaborate, with each playing a distinctive part, to generate employment and boost trade investment between our nation, the continent and the world. Our roles are all important, and if one lags behind, it will affect the growth of our economy.

It is our duty as political leaders in Government to formulate policies that promote an environment conducive to economic growth. This is because effective economic policies can stimulate innovation, promote entrepreneurship, and drive innovation.

Moreover, as you may have observed, since the advent of democracy, we have created political stability by promoting free and fair elections, which will continue to be the case in the upcoming election on 29 May 2024. A stable political environment is critical for investor confidence and economic growth.

Your responsibility as a leader in the private sector is to foster entrepreneurship and innovation, both of which are vital to economic expansion and job creation. Furthermore, the private sector is key to enhancing the competitiveness of the South African economy. Together, as leaders, we possess the foresight to identify opportunities, mitigate risks, and make strategic decisions that drive sustainable economic development.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Our journey to freedom and democracy illustrates the results of leaders who collaborated for the greater good. We were able to achieve our freedom because of selfless leaders like former President Nelson Mandela, Oliver Tambo, Chris Hani, Helen Joseph, Albertina Sisulu, Winnie Mandela, Ahmed Kathrada and many others who gave up their lives to achieve the political freedom we enjoy today.

Despite attaining political freedom and substantial advancements since 1994, South Africa is yet to realise economic freedom and an economy that adequately provides for the majority of its populace. As present-day leaders across various sectors of our society, we must set aside our differences and concentrate on fully rousing the potential of South Africa’s economy.

We must proactively address socio-economic challenges such as high unemployment, poverty, inequality, and corruption. In this regard, I agree with what Prof. Somadoda Fikeni once said; “Corruption is the biggest threat to SA's democracy.” To reach the goal of ending poverty and boosting economic growth set out in the National Development Plan (NDP), we must all work together to fight corruption and support accountability, openness, and good government.

Indeed, this fight against corruption should be multifaceted, involving both the public and private sectors. We have to strengthen anti-corruption partnerships, intensify efforts, and promote a zero-tolerance approach to corruption led by capable leaders, who are resilient, highly adaptable and are willing to implement bold reforms to surmount our challenges and transform the economy.

Cognisant of the legacy of exclusion from participating in the economy because of race, and gender specifically, it is critical that leaders across sectors become intentional in their inclusion of women, youth and other marginalised groups in economic reform efforts. The participation of women specifically is essential in addressing some of the socio-economic challenges that potentially hinder economic growth, considering the significant role they generally play in society generally. Investment in women and female-led businesses to achieve economic development and gender equality must as such remain a priority in the agenda for transformation.

Ladies and gentlemen,

An ANC Government will continue with the expansion of industries for an inclusive economy, revitalising the economy, and investing in people and micro businesses, particularly those owned by previously marginalised groups. We aim to make South Africa a nation that fosters investment by creating an environment that is conducive for investment to everyone.

In this regard, under the leadership of President Cyril Ramaphosa, we have introduced the Red Tape Reduction Team to improve the ease of doing business in the country and further stimulate business development. The team focuses on reducing red tape in priority areas such as mining rights, tourism operator licenses, travel visas, work permits, and the informal sector, aiming to create a competitive and vibrant economy. The intention is to speed up the discipline of execution and ensure faster results.

In this case, we are making progress in reducing regulatory impediments for SMMEs and cooperatives, as well as making it easier for entrepreneurs to start businesses. Specifically we have reduced regulatory hurdles for SMMEs and cooperatives, reduced VAT refund processing time from 15 weeks to 4 to 5 weeks and reduced the Corporate Income Tax audit process from 32 weeks to 17 weeks.

Additionally, the Minister of Small Business and Enterprise has proposed an SMME and Cooperative Funding Policy, mandating Business Development Service Providers to provide pre-funding support to these enterprises.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Regarding the energy supply, we commend the Minister of Electricity's leadership for tirelessly striving to find solutions to power cuts and increasing energy availability. It is commendable that we have had four conservative weeks without power interruptions. We equally commend the Eskom team as led by Mr Dan Morakane in this regard.

While some think that this is an electioneering strategy, I want to reassure you that this reality is just evidence of improvements in the entities operations. Our strategy has been the implementation of a concerted and deliberate Energy Action Plan (EAP), which has improved Eskom's performance.

As Government, we remain committed to implementing the EAP’s key interventions, which include fixing Eskom and improving the availability of existing supplies; enabling and accelerating private investment in generation capacity; and unleashing businesses and households to invest in rooftop solar energy.

Furthermore, we are ensuring that all power stations have the right leaders who will drive the appropriate discipline within those operations. As the government, we welcome the changes made over the past 18 months in Eskom’s leadership and believe that with the right skills, talent, and experience we can sooner achieve an energy secure future.

We are similarly committed to implementing all necessary steps to maintain the security of our infrastructure, as it is crucial to attaining long-term economic and social goals. As you may recall, in May 2020, the Cabinet adopted the Infrastructure Investment Plan to demonstrate our commitment to infrastructure development and moved swiftly to implement it.

The plan includes projects from the Government, State-owned enterprises, and the private sector in six sectors, namely; energy, water and sanitation, transport, digital infrastructure, human settlements, as well as agriculture and agro-processing. We are certain that these ambitious projects will boost the economy and reduce unemployment.

Recently Cabinet has taken a decision to establish a water task team which I lead working with the Ministers of Water, Human Settlements, Police, Electricity, Finance and COGTA. The task team seeks to implement a coordinated intervention to avert the water supply shortage in the country. Together with these Ministers, we are visiting water infrastructure facilities across the country, engaging with water boards and visiting the Lesotho Highlands Water Project as part of our effort to meet the water needs in the country.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I would also like to urge the Confederation and its members to take advantage of the Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement. This trade revolution will shape the continent's future by stimulating innovation and value-chain growth, industrialisation and job creation across the continent.

Given Africa's present population of 1.2 billion and its predicted increase to 2.5 billion by 2050, the AfCFTA will be the biggest free-trade area since the World Trade Organisation's inception. It will boost African trade, enhance the capacity of African companies to cater to global markets, and foster African economic and commercial diplomacy.

To achieve these we must champion policies that empower marginalised communities and create opportunities for all individuals to participate in, and contribute to the economy.

We must continue to address skills shortages and mismatches primarily because a shortage of trained professionals stifles innovation, reduces productivity, and inhibits foreign direct investment. Furthermore, it perpetuates the cycle of unemployment and inequality, preventing individuals from securing gainful employment and contributing to the nation's overall economic prosperity.

As chair of the Human Resource Development Council (HRDC), I am pleased that we have signed Social Compacts to demonstrate government and social partner dedication to addressing skills shortages in critical economic sectors.

These compacts prioritise digital skills for the 21st century, aligning with the global demands of the Fourth and Fifth Industrial Revolutions. We need to realise that technology has the potential to level the economic playing field, facilitating more and better access to markets. Therefore, as leaders, we must equip the younger generation with skills relevant to the digital economy and necessary for them to succeed in the workplace.

On that note, as we celebrate International Workers Day tomorrow, it is crucial to recognise the vital role of the workforce in the economy. Human labour produces goods and services, and the market relies on individual skills and competencies. We, as social leaders, can improve these abilities through education and training, making the labour force a dynamic talent pool for businesses.

In conclusion, let me re-emphasise that we have a collective role to play in paving a way for future generations of leaders to contribute to the transformation of our economy. Through strategic leadership, we unlock the countries' potential, drive innovation, and creates a better future.

Thank you and I look forward to having a meaningful discussion with you.

 Union Building