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Keynote Address by President Cyril Ramaphosa at the Sustainable Infrastructure Development Symposium of South Africa 2021, Sandton Convention Centre, Johannesburg

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Programme Director,
Minister of Public Works and Infrastructure, Ms Patricia De Lille,
Minister and Deputy Ministers,
Head of Infrastructure and Investment in the Presidency, Dr Kgosientsho Ramokgopa,
Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good morning,

It gives me great pleasure to welcome you all to the second Sustainable Infrastructure Development Symposium of South Africa, known as SIDSSA.

This Symposium is an affirmation of the value of partnership; of working together as government, as business, as financial institutions, as development agencies and as communities towards the common goal of building South Africa.

Investment in infrastructure is an investment in people. It is also an investment in the future of our country.

It is about improving lives, providing access to clean water, affordable electricity and decent homes. 

It is about expanding economic opportunities, creating jobs, improving the competitiveness of businesses, and unleashing our people’s potential.

Infrastructure is transformational.

It is about the far-reaching social change that can be achieved through broadband in classrooms or about integrated housing projects close to economic centres.

It is about small scale farmers able to access markets and large manufacturers able to easily, efficiently and competitively reach new export markets.

Our inaugural Symposium in June last year had a dual mandate: to produce a credible infrastructure pipeline and find the financing to support the delivery of the pipeline. 

This year, SIDSSA 21 is themed: Implementing quality infrastructure for development, recovery and inclusive growth.

We have chosen these three focus areas because they capture our approach to infrastructure.

We are implementing quality infrastructure for development, because it needs to contribute to the development of our society and make a sustainable difference in people’s lives.

We are implementing quality infrastructure for recovery because a massive infrastructure programme is vital to the recovery of our economy in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

We are implementing quality infrastructure for inclusive growth so that we redress the economic imbalances between urban and rural areas, we develop townships into viable economic centres, and we reduce the cost of living of the poor. 

Every South African must experience the benefits of infrastructure investment and improved gross fixed capital formation. 

At SIDSSA 21, we are focused, firstly, on an innovative approach to projects with future revenue streams and, secondly, on new ways to finance crucial social infrastructure. 

One of the new frontiers of infrastructure development is green energy, which has the potential not only to drive industrialisation, but to establish a whole new industrial reality.

The Green Hydrogen Export special economic zone to be developed at Boegoebaai, with Sasol as an anchor investor, is a major step towards realising our potential to be a global leader in green hydrogen. 

It points to a future where tens of gigawatts of renewable energy feed electrolysers at massive scale, producing the hydrogen powerfuels of the future. 

We stand ready to be a major exporter in this market, to use hydrogen to rapidly decarbonise our existing industries, and attract industrial investment from across the globe seeking to meet new standards of green power in the production process. 

The Boegoebaai SEZ will host such mass-scale production, but will also source green hydrogen volumes from emerging players such as Mahlako, which is a women-led company that’s going places, led by the women of our country.  It was a joy to listing to Mahlako, Sasol and Anglo-American describing how they are going to play in the space. This shows that we are getting more and more ahead of the curve. 

This complements the Hydrogen Valley project being spearheaded by Anglo Platinum and Sasol’s partnership with the Gauteng Provincial Government to create decarbonised industrial power grids and supply lines for hydrogen-based green aviation fuel. 

Last month, I visited the Msikaba Bridge near Lusikisiki in the Eastern Cape, which forms part of the N2 Wild Coast Road project.

This project will stimulate significant new investment in the Eastern Cape, connect rural communities to urban centres and promote inclusive development. 

The N2 Wild Coast road network is one of government’s Strategic Integrated Projects, which aim to catalyse economic growth. 

Another critical area is the development and management of the country’s water infrastructure.

Water is our most valuable natural resource. 

It is necessary to sustain life, to grow food, to maintain human health, and to enable the growth of our economy.

We are therefore establish a National Water Programme Management Office, jointly owned by the Departments of Water and Sanitation and Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs.

We are strengthening the preparation and planning of municipal water infrastructure so it can access blended finance solutions positioned under the Infrastructure Fund.

We are fast tracking the establishment of the National Water Resource Infrastructure Agency and the review of the Raw Water Pricing Strategy to ensure effective pricing and cost reflective tariffs. 

Another key thematic focus area of SIDSSA 21 is to bridge urban-rural divide through infrastructure.

With a rural population of around 18 million, it is vital that we increase fixed capital investment in rural areas.

Through this, we aim to improve rural accessibility and establish linkages to formal economic opportunities in urbanised areas. 

The National Development Plan says that the ratio of gross fixed capital formation to GDP should be at least 30 per cent. 

Following the recent recalculation of our GDP, this ratio is currently just below 14 per cent. 

Underspending on public infrastructure budgets compounds this problem. 

That is why Infrastructure South Africa has drafted a National Infrastructure Plan 2050 that sets the vision for what needs to be achieved in public infrastructure and the policy stances required to get there. 

The focus is on capital investment in the large network sectors of energy, water, transport and digital. 

At least a third of the capital required for this infrastructure should come from the private sector. 

We recognise that the current policy and legal framework for public infrastructure is fragmented, with many overlapping institutional roles and poor accountability. 

In the coming year, Infrastructure SA will be proposing amendments to the Infrastructure Development Act, including new regulations, and amendments to other legislation, including the existing public-private partnership regulations. 

The regulatory framework intends to clarify roles and responsibilities among all relevant organs of state in the preparation, approval, procurement and delivery of large infrastructure projects and programmes, whether they are designed as public-private partnerships or for direct fiscal expenditure. 

Over a year ago the Infrastructure Fund became operational and is already engaged with a project pipeline in areas such as student housing, water and sanitation, social housing and digital projects. 

We are also making progress with the establishment of the Social Infrastructure Fund, which will initially prioritise education infrastructure. 

We are blending the skills and experience of seasoned and retired professionals with Infrastructure South Africa staff to develop the next generation of capable public servants tasked with delivering the ambitious Infrastructure Investment Plan.

Infrastructure development at a massive and innovative scale is critical for the economic development our country. 

Inclusive growth and shared prosperity depends on it.

Let me thank the sponsors and all participants – including the multilateral development banks, the development finance institutions, the commercial banks, organised business and infrastructure-oriented organised bodies – for contributing their time and other resources to the success of SIDSSA 21. 

We look forward to an enduring relationship that will propel our economic recovery, drive inclusive growth and build a better life for all the people of our beloved country. 

Some of you may recall the pledge that was made by our forebears in 1955, when they drafted the Freedom Charter. 

They said in that pledge “we need all of those who love their country to commit themselves”, and they said, “We shall fight for the freedoms that they had identified in the Freedom Charter. 

They said, “We shall fight for these freedoms side by side, throughout our lives until we attain our liberty. 

As infrastructure plays such a critical role in any country especially our country’s life.   I’d like to say that we should all say that we are all determined to develop South Africa.

And we all should say we love South Africa and we will build it brick by brick, road by road, highway by highway, bridge by bridge, dam by dam, school by school, clinic by clinic, building by building, smart city by smart city, broadband network by broadband network, project by project.

All this we should say we shall do side by side, as we turn South Africa into a building site and develop our beautiful country into a thriving country and a growing economy.

I thank you.