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Ramaphosa: Thank unions, business for SA’s junk status escape

Jun 15 2016 18:14
Carin Smith

Cape Town – South Africa has to thank its extremely militant labour unions as well as big business for the country not having been downgraded to junk by the three ratings agencies recently, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Wednesday.

When the three ratings agencies recently threatened to  downgrade South Africa to junk, government, big business and three very militant unions decided more confidence was needed to be infused in the country, Ramaphosa emphasised at the Global Summit of the Consumer Goods Forum taking place in the Cape Town International Convention Centre until Friday.

“Business leaders like Christo Wiese travelled with Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan to London and elsewhere to talk to these ratings agencies,” said Ramaphosa.

“The ratings agencies said there were still challenges in SA, but they did not downgrade SA to junk.  We were able to convince them SA was stable, because it has good democratic institutions and independent institutions. Our economy is based on strong pillars like the financial sector and the business sector.”

He thanked Pick n Pay chair Gareth Ackerman for “insisting” that he comes to talk at the summit and added that he would also have liked to convey his gratitude to Wiese who had to leave the summit before Ramaphosa’s turn to speak.

“We are beginning to bear witness to the African continent as a great consumer market. We must rethink the choices consumers make. Informed consumers are the best. Right now we are facing an election and realise voters make choices so I hope they look at my pretty face and say ‘I want to support this guy’,” Ramaphosa joked during his speech.

“There are lots of disruptions in SA, which speaks of the future. The National Development Plan (NDP), however, has given us a plan and a vision up to 2030.”

Ramaphosa emphasised that consumer focused businesses must be responsive to the financial pressures under which consumers find themselves.

“Times like these also produce new opportunities from new ethical choices by policy makers and better educated consumers for sustainability,” said Ramaphosa.

He thanked international companies like Coca-Cola and Nestle for their long term investments and presence in SA and helping to develop SA and its people.

“I have served on the advisory boards of Coca-Cola and Unilever. I have gained better understanding of the role international companies can play in countries that want to advance economies and their people,” said Ramaphosa.

“The most welcome disruption is one that advances the interest of all. As we evolve as a new nation the concept of shared value and how it can be created to benefit all stakeholders  - workers, shareholders, communities and government – must be the focus.”

In Ramaphosa’s view, SA is the ideal gateway to the rest of Africa.

“It is not just about Africa rising, but about Africa consuming,” said Ramaphosa.

“SA is attractive for investment, but also good for foreign direct investment.”

He would like to see the manufacturing industry in the country being developed more so that the country is less reliant on the export of resources.

“Now we must look at growth nodes in SA to create jobs. All three ratings agencies, as well as the unions, business and government want to see economic growth so that is what we are now going to continue driving SA towards,” he said.

“SA faces enormous challenges. SA is a young democracy - only 21 years old - but we are moving forward with Nelson Mandela’s legacy of reconciliation, freedom and justice, which spur all of us on - black and white, business and government, community based organisations and labour.”

Ackerman said at the summit that food security is what the retail industry must focus on. Environmental factors are, however, important to keep in mind in doing so in a sustainable way.

Forced labour is another important issue which poses a challenge for the industry.

“Africa is the place to be for the future. It has the lowest per capita income, but arguably has the greatest potential for growth if we can get it right,” said Ackerman.

“It is good that Deputy President Ramaphosa understands our industry and we look forward to seeing that reflected in policies in the future.”

Pick n Pay plans to open branches in Nigeria and Ghana in the next few years and Ackerman said the company sees a huge potential in Africa.

“As Pick n Pay we are sticking with Africa,” he said.

cyril ramaphosa  |  cape town  |  economy
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