Growing competitiveness, tackling poverty


    5 November 2013

    To compete successfully in the global marketplace, South Africa must cultivate an investor-friendly environment while continuing to roll out socio-economic infrastructure, Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe said on Tuesday.

    Motlanthe was addressing over 200 high-level representatives of government, business, labour, civil society and academia at the inaugural South African Competitiveness Forum in Midrand, north of Johannesburg on Tuesday.

    “Beyond the competiveness of our products, we need to prove our worth on a number of socio-economic indicators such as political stability, cultivating an investment-friendly environment, greening the economy, transparency, predictability as well as having good macro-economic policies,” Motlanthe said.

    ‘Platform for identifying risks’

    The Deputy President congratulated Brand South Africa for initiating and hosting the forum.

    “As a first of its kind in South Africa, this forum will give leaders from all spheres a platform for debating our country’s competitiveness, as well as arriving at a common understanding of how to improve the competitiveness of our economy.

    “By acting in concert, this forum may prove to be an invaluable tool in the identification, management and minimisation of risks in governance, delivery systems, institutional arrangements and other existing procedures.”

    Motlanthe said South Africans had over the years made good strides in positioning the country as a stable democracy with the necessary institutions and mechanisms for attracting investment. This had resulted in significant investments in South Africa’s automotive, manufacturing, mining, petrochemical and other industries.

    Challenges of poverty, unemployment

    However, he said, “we have also fallen short of the development trajectory necessary to place us on par with many of our competitors. These glaring challenges show themselves through high rates of inequality, poverty and unemployment, especially amongst young people, who constitute the majority of our population.

    “Confronted by the challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment, we are acutely aware that improvement in the competitiveness of our nation is proportional to strides in these critical areas that define the character of our nation today.”

    Motlanthe said the government had gone a long way towards improve the social wage through a raft of measures including social grants and investments in education, health care and human settlements.

    The government’s interventions were aimed at drastically improving training and skills sets, widening access to productive resources, lessening the burden of disease, and generally trying to improve the standards of living for all.

    Progress ‘predicated on innovation’

    Motlanthe said that societal progress in the 21st century was predicated on innovation, adding that South Africa had to maintain its innovative edge in all key sectors of society, particularly the economy.

    “In turn, innovation assumes that our research and development capacity as a country is of international standards. Research and Development creates conditions in which innovation can keep thriving at every stage.

    “Logically, this then suggests that our education system be sound and solid, especially in the key areas of science, mathematics and ICT, all of which are the prime drivers of national development.”

    At the same time, Motlanthe said, education alone would not in the short-term reduce inequalities and unemployment. “We must therefore, in the short to medium term, implement measures that will lead to more rapid growth and creation of jobs.

    “Using state levers, we need to support growth and development through sound macro-economic policy, strong industrial policy plans and cultivating an investment-friendly environment.”

    Motlanthe said the South African Competitiveness Forum was an ideal platform for engaging on the challenge of achieving sustainable competitiveness, noting: “Economic growth activities that occur under fair market conditions and that enhance and restore the health of natural and social systems are the essence of sustainable competitiveness.

    “This forum is in a good position to contribute to a South Africa that continues to become a better place than it was before 1994.”