This was the opening address by H.E. Pinky Kekana, Deputy Minister in the Presidency, at Brand SA’s Nation Brand Forum 2021

Honourable Minister Mondli Gungubele in absentia – we send our prayers and condolences to the Gungubele family on the loss of their son

Ms. Thandi Tobias, Chairperson of Brand South Africa

Mr. Strive Masiyiwa, Special Envoy for the AU

Secretary General of the AfCFTA, H.E. Wamkele Mene

Professor Bonang Mohale, (new) President of BUSA

CEO’s and Executives from the Private Sector who have taken the time to be with us today 

Members of the media fraternity

Fellow South Africans, in this highly anticipated Brand SA’s Nation Brand Forum 2021.

You have availed yourselves to engage with us under the theme “Believe in South Africa: Reflect, Rebuild, and Reassure” – we are truly honoured that you have made time to join us today.

While it is clear our challenges are many, we call on you today, to not only continue believing in South Africa, but assisting us to get South Africans to believe in our great nation again, for those who may have lost hope.

COVID-19 has revealed and exacerbated the inequality in our nation, and in the delay towards activating the economic recovery plan, the gap between the rich and poor is widening, alarmingly so.

We are more determined than ever to focus on urgent pursuits, reignite the South African-ness in a proud nation, and accelerate efforts towards economic recovery.

We are not distracted and we are not consumed by anything else – only this.

One of South Africa’s platforms to drive economic growth is the South African Investment Conference (SAIC or SA Invest as it is commonly known), which was born in 2018. Through this platform, the country has raised over R770 billion worth of investment commitments. Considered no.3 on the African continent as an investment destination, we are seriously focussed on ensuring that South Africa clearly and intentionally defines itself as the no.1investor destination, and we have kickstarted this, in increasing engagement with global investors, such as the U.S.-Africa Business Center at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce committed to doubling American commercial investment into South Africa, and by 2025, the plan is to have more than 1,000 U.S. companies operating and investing in South Africa.

We have H.E Wamkele Mene, the SG of the AfCFTA Secretariat, joining us in person today. Firstly, welcome home! We are extremely proud of the work you are doing and your leadership on the continent is South Africa’s leadership in Africa. I have always given you my support, and that will continue, because the AfCFTA – as Africa’s greatest economic empowerment tool, has to succeed, for the benefit of our continent and our country. YOU, Wamkele, as the first SG of the AfCFTA, have to succeed, if we are to realise the self-sustainability engendered in Agenda 2063, and uniting the continent towards economic autonomy.

The AfCFTA unlocks opportunities for job creation, entrepreneurship and intra-Africa trade, especially so for youth and women, who make up the largest part of the informal sector across the continent. Wamkele joins us today to give us insight into the opportunities and benefits that the AfCFTA brings, but as South Africa, we have to ensure that we democratise and domesticate the AfCFTA for the people of South Africa, the masses of self-employed people found in the informal sector, from hawkers to street vendors, to freelancers and side hustlers.

The AfCFTA implementation is not going to be easy, but it has to be done and we have to work hard at ensuring that South Africa leads, not just for the country as a whole, but for every South African.

Investor confidence in South Africa Inc. is critical, as it allows us to economically recover not just from the effects of Covid, but also the riots and violence that saw regression of our country’s infrastructure, which effectively created doubt in the minds of investors. We have to close that gap, and get back to the investor confidence we once proudly held.

Nothing will do that better than a country that is vaccinated and has reached herd immunity. A vaccinated nation is the key that unlocks economic recovery, economic development, economic growth through investment. We understand the fundamentals that vaccination hesitancy may have nothing to do with actual hesitancy, but more to do with cost, poverty, lack of access, etc. For this reason, the Ministry of Health is deploying mobile vaccination clinics that is bringing the vaccinations to those who need it, want it, but who may not be able to access it.

Last week Brand SA’s ACEO Sithembile Ntombela, Business for SA’s Dr Stavros Nicolaou, and I were on a panel hosted by the advocacy organisation ‘I AM South African’ calling for South Africans to refocus the lens and start to include ‘economic freedom in our lifetime’ into the context of heritage, as we need to create a culture of economic autonomy that will lead to the economic freedom in our lifetime, and the next generation’s heritage. This is the South Africa we should be reflecting on, and not just rebuilding, but building SA, back better.

The ideals of economic freedom are strongly associated with healthier societies, cleaner environments, greater per capita wealth, human development, democracy, and poverty elimination.

This description is sadly the antithesis of our current reality.

Let us use our challenges as opportunities. Let us decide today that we are going to focus on South Africa, all of us here – government, private sector, civil society and every single South African. Let us normalise a culture of economic freedom within the context of conversations, practises and investment by South African businesses, and South African citizens/

In this era of Build SA back, better – closing the inequality gap is our biggest priority, because equality denied is justice denied.

I wish you a day of deliberation and deliverance of defining and setting the tone for the economic recovery plan through the power of our nation brand.

I thank you


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