Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa has challenged the private sector to raise its business concerns with government.
“The door is open. Business people should raise issues on a continuous basis,” he told an audience mainly made up of business people at the Ernst & Young Strategy Growth Forum Africa in Sandton on Monday evening.
Ramaphosa’s comments come after government last month made a U-turn on the contentious visa regulations which, according to critics, threatened the travel and tourism industries.
Ramaphosa, a former businessman who headed some of the country’s multinationals, said regulators listen when people speak up. Regulations should not be a burden to businesses, he said. “There may be policy positions that irk business… the door is open. Let us engage with each other to find solutions,” he said.
He said government, business, labour and non-governmental organisations should collaborate to solve the country’s problems. Government does not have a monopoly on wisdom and he urged business not to claim such a monopoly. “I do not subject to the view of labelling people,” he said.
Ramaphosa also appealed to the private sector to play a bigger role in the South African economy – especially in infrastructure investment – saying it should be bold and innovative.
He cited the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme as an example of private sector contribution to infrastructure investment. “The field is wide open for the private sector to play a key role,” Ramaphosa said. He invited the private sector to even make unsolicited proposals. “Government will be open to it,” he said.
He said government also supports South African firms’ forays into new markets. “We actively support our companies. When I was in the private sector I saw that happen a lot,” he said. Between 2002 and 2013 Ramaphosa was chairperson of mobile operator MTN.
He also made an impassioned plea for South African companies to embrace transformation, saying this is necessary for growth.
Following a comment by Investec CEO Stephen Koseff, who was in the audience, that companies should simultaneously pursue growth and transformation, Ramaphosa said: “My approach to transformation is slightly different to yours.”
In the past companies prioritised growth at the expense of transformation, he said. “That was a flawed approach. With my experience and failed business life, I strongly believe that transformation should be the order of the day. It is when you have transformed that you grow,” he said.
Ramaphosa said the South African economy would have grown faster in the past had it been inclusive.