South Africa Misses Chance to Report on Progress: WEF Update

(Bloomberg) -- Business and political leaders began meeting at the African edition of the World Economic Forum in Cape Town.

The conference is taking place against the backdrop of a wave of xenophobic attacks that have undermined South African President Cyril Ramaphosa’s assurances the continent’s most-industrialized economy is open for business.

Here are the latest developments at the conference, updated throughout the day. (Time-stamps are local time in Cape Town)

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Opportunity Missed (3:20 p.m.)

South African government officials missed an opportunity to report back on the performance of Ramaphosa’s administration since it won elections in May.

“We invited them and asked for some officials to join us, but due to scheduling we were told that unfortunately they can’t join us,” WEF spokesman Oliver Cann said at the briefing. “To be fair, we put this panel on at quite short notice. Our friends in government did not have a lot of time to respond to the invitation.”

‘Less Talk’ (2:20 p.m.)

Among the sentiments being expressed at the forum are conference fatigue, with Standard Chartered Bank southern Africa CEO Kweku Bedu-Addo highlighting the fact that this year’s theme of inclusive economic growth echoes one discussed in 2017.

“I think there needs to be less talk and more action because two years ago we were in Durban with the same themes around inclusive growth and all the usual buzzwords,” Bedu-Addo said in an interview. “I don’t see more concerted action after these engagements, which are good, but all I would like to see are the action plans, and those action plans put into specific deeds that would lift people out of the hopelessness that they find themselves in.”

Botswana Luring Investors (1:50 p.m.)

Botswana, which in part built its economy on diamond wealth, is intent on reducing its reliance on mining and luring investment with low tax rates, an absence of exchange controls and no restrictions on foreign ownership, Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi said.

The southern African nation is also developing new power plants, roads, railways, a fiber optic network, and has established eight special economic zones to encourage the development of industries such as financial services and coal processing, Masisi said. With the ruling party having split and the country due to hold elections next month, the reforms may help boost a slumping economy.

Gender-Violence Protest (11:38 a.m.)

Hundreds of protesting students attempted to gain entrance to the Cape Town International Convention Centre, where the WEF event is set to begin at midday. The students, bearing placards condemning recent attacks on women, were blocked by a large police presence, including riot vehicles.

The demonstration was sparked by the murder of a University of Cape Town student Uyinene Mrwetyana at the end of August. A woman is murdered every three hours in South Africa, according to statistics from the South African Police Service.

CEOs Optimistic (11 a.m.)

PwC’s Annual Global CEO Survey, released at the forum on Wednesday, shows that 93% of chief executive officers on the continent are confident about their organization’s prospects for revenue growth over the next three years. That’s higher than the global average of 85%.

Where will the growth come from? “Largely from internal forces. CEOs in Africa identify operational efficiencies, organic growth and the launch of a new products and services as their primary drivers of revenue growth.”

Ramaphosa Reassurance (7:26 a.m.)

Ramaphosa sought to drive home the message that South Africa is open for business. He said the government has made demonstrable progress in making it easier to do business by reducing red tape, easing visa requirements and reducing port and rail tariffs, he said.

New laws are also being drafted to facilitate the development of the oil and gas industry, while a long-awaited energy masterplan will be finalized soon, Ramaphosa told business leaders at a breakfast in Cape Town. He’s due to address the WEF gathering later on Wednesday.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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