Roberto CoelhoBy Roberto Coelho|March 25, 2022|6 Minutes|In Opinion


Execution not words!

South Africa is bankable!

As the South African government-backed investment conference enters its second day in Johannesburg – a host of entrepreneurs, business leaders and thinkers will give their views on the way forward for the country’s battered economy. Billionaire Tomorrow’s  Roberto Coelho spent the first day at the conference gauging the mood among some of the country’s biggest names in business.

South Africa is known as a beautiful country facing a pack of ugly challenges; the ugliest ?  A stagnating economy. To stimulate the economy President Cyril Ramaphosa initiated the South African Investment Conference. The day started off with an unusual but imperative message; South Africa is considered to be the birthplace of humanity. The audience was reminded of this by Minister Ebrahim  Patel, the Minister of trade and industry. Patel contrasts the beginning of human life with the most advanced technology on the continent.

“South Africa is home to the cradle of humankind, and Africa’s most advanced tech” He continued to outline the purpose of the conference: “Getting South Africa back to work!”. The first investment conference was held in 2018 where the president announced an investment goal of R1.2 trillion over five years Prior to this conference, South Africa was two-thirds of the way to reaching this goal; currently, South Africa has received 95% of the investment target. It is easy to forget the previous two years the world experienced the worse global pandemic in a century, which hit the economy in the wake of  10 difficult years of low growth.

The commitment to investment in this environment shows confidence in the future of the economy. Confidence in the future may come as a surprise because of themes President Ramaphosa discussed in his opening remarks – the slow recovery from COVID, low growth of the economy, high unemployment, and an uneasy business environment. “Our economy, like so many around the world, has been severely damaged.” In a steadfast manner, the president did not attempt to pull the wool over the eyes of the 1000 delegates and the thousands more online from around the world.

“These challenges are real, and I’m not here to say they are not real.” The challenges are well known, an aging and unpredictable power grid, unprofitable State-owned enterprises, a slow growth economy and high unemployment.

The great beauty of all challenges is the opportunity the solution presents. The president ‘shares his inspiring vision; however, business drives economic growth, not government, thus business leaders lend themselves into the conversation. The CEO of Discovery, Adrian Gore, draws from the growth of the company he founded. “Around the extent of reforms there doesn’t seem too much disagreement between private and government. We need to move quickly. We don’t not need more debate, we must execute.” Gore’s opinion is established on a firm base of almost 30 years of creating and driving Discovery’s growth. As the conversation moves towards investments Gore explains how the principle behind Discovery’s growth mindset can be scaled across the country.

“Our business model started from solving specific problems, it turns out it [solving solutions] applies to many of the nation’s services.” The South African developed solutions were successfully implemented worldwide as Discovery operates in 30 countries “We are an entirely South African built global company.” But global growth has not distracted Gore from local opportunities. “The majority of our capital investment is in South Africa. Capital investment in South Africa leads to a high return.” Discovery is a pure example of what South African entrepreneurship can achieve. This is a sentiment echoed by the CEO of media group Naspers South Africa, Phuti Mahanyele. “South Africa has very capable entrepreneurs who are capable of growing global businesses.”

Because of this belief Naspers has invested R1.3 billion in innovated South African technology start-ups.

The final CEO reinforcing the challenges facing South Africa are real, but simultaneously the opportunities are great, is the retiring CEO of the world’s biggest miner Anglo-American, Mark Cutifani. “We are here for the long term, and we are here for the future,” he says. These are world class businesses who believe in South Africa’s investment potential. South Africa faces many challenges, but the investment is present, and the opportunities are huge.

The President of the African Development Bank, Akinwumi A. Adesina, summarized it in four words. “South Africa is bankable!”

The nation hopes so.