JOHANNESBURG, October 9 – The United Kingdom’s trade commissioner for Africa, Emma Wade-Smith, said on Tuesday that the UK had full confidence in South Africa’s “stimulus package” and was more likely to continue to invest in South Africa despite the country’s troubled economy going through a technical recession.
President Cyril Ramaphosa last month announced wide-ranging economic recovery measures, including the creation of a R400 billion infrastructure fund, in a bid to attract investment from the private sector and create much-needed jobs.
Speaking on the sidelines of the Infrastructure Africa Business Investment Forum, Wade-Smith said that the recent state visit to South Africa by UK Prime Minister Theresa May demonstrated that economic ties between the UK and South Africa had endured for a long time because the country was moving in the “right direction”.
“I have very strong faith in this and I think what we are seeing is that the fundamentals of the South Africa’s economy are broadly strong and we have huge amounts of UK’s investment here in South Africa. We are the largest foreign investor here and have been for many years. That is because we do have strong faith and belief in South Africa. It’s an extraordinary economy, diverse, mature, and has so much going for it,” Wade Smith said.
“Governments have a really crucial role to play in creating a right environment to enable business to happen. I think this stimulus package and the strong messages we are hearing from the president and his ministers is a confidence boost for the international business community.
“And because we’ve already got such a strong business and personal relationship between the UK and South Africa, I am confident that we will see continued investment here. South Africa, and many other economies in the continent, are moving in the right direction and are absolutely the place for our companies to do business and invest.”
The UK is currently the second largest investor in Africa with at around £45 billion a year while the value of the trading relationship between the UK and Africa stood at more than £31 billion.
Wade-Smith said that the UK wanted to renew its trade and investment partnership with Africa to be built around shared prosperity and shared security.
Asked about negative or positive perceptions to UK investors created by South Africa’s proposed land reform policy to expropriate land without compensation, Wade-Smith reiterated May’s position that the UK supports land reform in the country and has had good and open conversation between government and business about some of the challenges that companies find.
“We have long said as the UK government that we support land reform in South Africa and we think it is the right thing to do in a way that is open, that is clear and that is transparent. UK businesses support an open and inclusive economy, and economic growth. We want to be part of South Africa’s future economic growth,” Wade-Smith said. (ANA)