President Cyril Ramaphosa told Parliament that his investment envoys are on top of their game in notifying investors about potential policy changes, as they go on their charm offensive to attract $100bn in investment.
Replying to questions from MPs in the National Assembly, Ramaphosa said his investment dream team will spread the message that SA is not only open for business but that it will prioritise inclusive growth and transforming the economy.
In April President Ramaphosa appointed special envoys on investment, including former minister of finance Trevor Manuel, former deputy minister of finance Mcebisi Jonas, former Standard Bank CEO Jacques Marie and former Afropulse executive chair Phumzile Langeni with economist Trudi Makhaya as his special economic advisor.
Ramaphosa said this would serve as part of an ambitious investment drive also in preparation for a conference that will take place later this year. He said the economy is being well managed the Rand was strengthening as South African bonds are the best performing amongst developing economies.
"We were a bit more ambitious when I addressed this house seeking to hold the conference in three months. We found that we had short changed processes and that this conference will have to take place a little later in the year," said Ramaphosa.
He said investors are still attracted to SA because of improving investor sentiment. Initiatives to improve South Africa's readiness to grow include a social compact between business and labour and a jobs summit on faster job creation.
Economic Freedom Fighters chief whip Floyd Shivambu challenged Ramaphosa's reassurances, saying that holding conferences is not the same as developing a solid plan and implementing it. He asked the president if he would support the EFF's efforts at developing amendments to the Banks Act of 1991 to allow for a "state owned vehicle" aimed at drawing investment.
"You are not clear on the direction we should take. We asked you to set up a state owned vehicle to draw investment but you have appointed envoys. We have gazetted a process to amend the banks act to allow for this vehicle. Do you support this?" Shivambu asked.
Ramaphosa said his investment envoys would not work outside of the parameters existing laws. They will work with departments and appoint people with the right networks to assist in attracting investment, he said.
"The state bank is a governing party resolution. That resolution may very well result in the amendment to the banks act, and that would be something we support. But there also need to be more banks to support the economic development in our country," he said.
Ramaphosa told Shivambu that there was a need for more diverse financial service institutions "like a stokvel bank... an agricultural support bank... a funeral cover benefit fund banking and township banks".
"We need to move away from the monopoly of just for banks and create more banks so that there is more access to funding," said the president.
Many countries have various categories of banks to make financial services more accessible to all sectors of the economy and society. Banking must be transformed as the sector in SA is already world class and well regulated.
Inkatha Freedom Party MP Jan Esterhuizen asked Ramaphosa how the land debate affected policy certainty, to which Ramaphosa said: "The envoys will tell the investment world that SA is open for business and that policy coherence and stability is becoming more entrenched in SA. Investors receive this message very well. They see it unfolding and happening."