OPINION: SA’s investor confidence conundrum
There are a whole lot of issues occupying Davos participants' minds at present and ensuring that South Africa's investment appeal and 'open for business' message evokes more than just passing interest is a tough ask. China, the migrant crisis, geopolitical tensions in the Middle East, the growing gap between the rich and the poor are just some of the issues bombarding participants at Davos 2016. The South African delegation cannot afford any missteps in terms of the message and the way it is presented.
The message as evidenced by finance minister Pravin Gordhan's communications to date has been as follows. They are there to listen, they are there to convince global investors that the South African government appreciates the scope of the challenges and, above all, they are there to convey the message that South Africa is open for business.
The desire to promote public private partnerships and increase interaction and consultation with the private sector has been mentioned. Some positives have also been highlighted, such as recent significant foreign investment into the automotive sector in particular.
Minister of trade and industry Rob Davies has indicated that there had already been a number of bilateral meetings with investors at Davos. The feedback is that there is a definitive expression of interest in possible investment into South Africa, especially now that the rand is so cheap.
Unfortunately, there have also been some negative perceptions generated as well. The apparently very late withdrawal of President Zuma from a public session and the focus on the passing into law of the controversial Promotion and Protection of Investment Bill does South Africa's image no favours. The bill replaces existing bilateral investment treaties and does not treat foreigners as favourably as these bilateral treaties did.
There is never a dull moment when dealing with South African issues it seems. Overall, however while it seems to be a question of two steps forward and one step back, there is a sense that South Africa will find a way to muddle through.
Mark Appleton is SA head of multi asset and strategy at Ashburton Investments.
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