BLSA outlines positives of two trade conferences

6th November 2023 By: Tasneem Bulbulia - Senior Contributing Editor Online

BLSA outlines positives of two trade conferences

Busi Mavuso

Business organisation Business Leadership South Africa (BLSA) CEO Busi Mavuso has highlighted the past week as “important for South Africa’s trade and investment prospects”, with the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa) Forum held in Johannesburg, and the SA Tomorrow conference held in New York.

Agoa expires next year after ten years of operation and needs to be renewed by the US Congress before 2025, and Mavuso says indications are that it will be.

She also highlights that there was much discussion on how the programme can be improved.

One way to do that was highlighted by President Cyril Ramaphosa in his address at the Agoa forum – extend Agoa for a sufficiently lengthy period so that African businesses can commit to long-term investments on the basis that Agoa supports demand for the long term, Mavuso informs.

She says governments also pushed for longer terms for the review of country eligibility. At the moment, eligibility is reviewed every year, which means, in theory, that countries can lose Agoa preferences, making it difficult for companies on the continent to make long-term investment decisions, she explains.

“The dynamics have also shifted since the last renewal in 2015, in that the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) has come to life. This provides US companies with access to a broader market too.

“A future Agoa can engage ACFTA as a whole. Business has been concerned about the future of Agoa and South Africa’s place in it, but I felt last week that we are on a more positive trajectory than we have been for a while,” Mavuso avers.

SA Tomorrow, an event which is held yearly under the auspices of the JSE, allowed for “mature conversations”, Mavuso says, noting that US investors were keen to test just how serious government’s commitment to reform is.

“In one business leader’s panel, BLSA deputy chairperson and Nedbank CEO Mike Brown was clear about the growth challenge we face with the need to escape the 1% to 2% growth corridor we have been trapped in.

“Yet, even within that there are opportunities, such as the rapid rollout of renewable energy infrastructure. Bidvest CEO Mpumi Madisa told the event how her company is investing in renewables, providing services to consumers and businesses,” Mavuso outlines.

She adds that Capitec CEO Gerrie Fourie talked about how the impact of the partnership between government and business is leading to execution, creating opportunities for business and investors.

Meanwhile, government leaders, including Rudi Dicks who co-heads Operation Vulindlela, gave a credible account of the progress being made in implementing government plans, Mavuso notes.

She adds that leaders from State-owned companies Eskom and Transnet were also in attendance to give investors insight into how the two organisations are working to improve their performance.

Mavuso posits that investors are keen to find opportunities and that risk appetites are improving.

“The South African story was one of positive momentum and a turnaround that is becoming entrenched among the investment community,” she highlights.