South Africa: Patel Meets Business

Government remains committed to working with business to achieve national goals, says Trade and Industry Minister Ebrahim Patel.

"As government, we recognise the critical role that business, both big and small, plays in growing the economy of this country and creating job opportunities. The new administration has placed an even stronger emphasis on the partnerships between business and labour, and between government and its social partners," said the Minister.

Speaking at a business interactive session hosted by Business Leadership South Africa (BLSA) in Sandton on Monday, the Minister said more needs to be done to better the relationships between government and business in order to ensure economic growth.

The engagement -- which was also attended by Deputy Ministers of Trade and Industry Nomalungelo Gina and Fikile Majola -- provided an opportunity for dialogue between business and government on opportunities to reinvigorate the economy.

Patel said economic challenges in the country are manifesting themselves in various sectors such as construction and manufacturing, particularly in steel.

"The country's growth levels are well below what is needed to achieve our development goals. These conditions call for coordination between government and business to lift the rate and inclusivity of growth.

"We will use the talents of all South Africans, including the expertise in the private sector to strengthen the implementation capability of the State," he said.

He highlighted six areas of focus that the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition will be prioritising in the next five years.

These are improving the industrial competitiveness and performance, expanding markets for the country's products, increasing levels of investment, promoting greater levels of economic inclusion, initiating equitable spatial and industrial development, and increasing the capabilities of the state.

"The cross cutting theme underscoring these focus areas is how we will work together with various stakeholders like business and labour to achieve our goals."

"Our immediate task at hand is to grow our economy which generates R5 trillion worth of Gross Domestic Product output annually. We need to work together in ensuring that this economy grows at the kind of level that does not only generate taxes that government needs, but also the jobs that are absolutely critical, and ensure that more South Africans are included," he said.

AfCFTA

Turning his attention to the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), the Minister said the trade agreement will fundamentally transform the South African industrial storyline.

"The AfCFTA, which comes into effect in July next year with tariff-free trade in 90% of goods, represents an enormous opportunity for industrial expansion but it also carry big risks too," he said.

"It depends on what we do now as a country to ensure industrial readiness for the free trade area," said the Minister.

Previously Patel said the agreement will change and reshape the South African economy.

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