Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana is determined to sell South Africa as the most important investment destination on the continent and reckons the state’s attempts to bring Israel to book at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) should have no bearing on investor sentiment at the World Economic Forum next week.
The minister spoke at Thursday’s pre-World Economic Forum (WEF) breakfast in Sandton. The breakfast comes on the same day South Africa presents its case against Israel at the ICJ in the Hague and ahead of the annual WEF meeting set to take place from 15-19 January in Davos, Switzerland.
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Godongwana noted that he expects no hostility from investors and world leaders who will assemble at the event next week, chief of whom is the US – which remains one of South Africa’s key trade partners and Israel’s strongest ally.
“Since the dawn of democracy, the single most important area of disagreement between us and the Americans in the United Nations (UN) is the Israel-Palestine question. We’ve always been on the opposite ends when it comes to voting on that question. It’s historical. I don’t think [we’re] likely to find common ground on this issue with the Americans in particular. Let’s respect the different viewpoints amongst ourselves.”
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“So, as far as the court case is concerned, I do not know why people would have an attitude toward a country that uses multi-lateral institutions to settle disputes. Because the United Nations has set up those multi-lateral institutions for dispute settlement. Why then would it be seen to utilise that dispute settlement mechanism – in this case, the court case South Africa has chosen, I don’t see anybody likely to make this an issue in Davos,’ Godongwana said.
For Godongwana, his delegation’s ultimate mission this year is to secure investment for the country’s economy to drive growth and boost its revenue. In 2023, the state missed its revenue targets by a whopping R57 billion as the country’s economy failed to meet expectations.
At the briefing, the finance minister was flanked by FirstRand Group CEO Mary Vilakazi, CEO of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) Leila Fourie, Minister of Electricity Kgosientsho Ramokgopa, Health Minister Joe Phaahla, Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande and Communications and Digital Technologies Minister Mondli Gungubele.
Yet, Godongwana recognised that addressing the nation’s structural deficiencies is the key challenge he needs to address when reassuring investors.
At the top of his list are Eskom’s generation challenges and Transnet’s logistics bottlenecks, which continue to cost the economy billions due to lost or disrupted productivity. Gogongwana’s team is also prepared to address the country’s crime and corruption challenges to secure investment interests.
“We do have challenges, there’s no doubt about that …. Together with business, we’ve been grappling with these questions; we’ve been working together. So it’s not going to be difficult for us to partner and say our message because we have developed strategies and road maps to deal with these issues.
“We think we’ve got the capability and capacity to resolve them and to continue to make this country a better place for all,” he added.
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