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The State of Nation Speech – Promoting Inclusive Growth and Unity within the Republic of South Africa

President Jacob Zuma presented the State of the Nation (SoNA) address to the South African people on 8th February 2017. The objective of SoNA is to provide a status of the current economic situation in South Africa, with milestones regarding the achievements of the Government during 2016 as well as all forthcoming actions to foster social development and economic growth in the country. It also heralds the theme and objective of the forthcoming budget which is expected by the end of February 2017. 

The Government of South Africa took a positive stance by estimating a more than two-fold increase in economic growth from 0.5% in 2016 to 1.3% in 2017. This positive outcome will be achieved by focusing on key social and economic areas, including industrialisation, mining and beneficiation, agriculture and agro-processing activities, energy, provision of assistance to SMEs, management of workplace conflicts, crime and corruption, attracting investments, growth in the ocean economy, tourism, R&D - Science and Technology, transport infrastructure and the development of the ICT sector.

President Zuma also announced the creation of InvestSA, a new entity falling under the Department of Trade and Industry. InvestSA will have as primary mandate to act as a one-stop shop for providing business facilitation to investors and help fast-tracking the issuance of legal documents and authorizations such as licenses and visas.

With a view to stimulating growth and creating employment, the South African government is opting for economic diversification by developing niche sectors such as ocean economy, healthcare, education and tourism.

The SoNA also addressed the social agenda by laying emphasis on reinforcing the Broad-Based Black Empowerment programme, encouraging women participation in the workforce, and promoting inclusive growth.

Finally, on the international front, South Africa will be chairing the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and, in that capacity, it will drive the SADC Industrial Strategy. The Government will also accelerate the integration agenda through the implementation of the SADC-COMESA-East African Community Free Trade Area.

From a trade perspective, 96% of South African products will enter the EU region without customs duty or trade restrictions. In addition, the South Africa Customs Union Mercosur PTA will also provide preferential access to over one thousand tariff lines. This is an agreement that promotes South-South trade. There has also been increased trade cooperation with BRIC partners, namely India and China.

In the light of the above commitment from the South African Government, a concern that needs to be addressed is whether the expected positive outcome in terms of growth, trade, investment and employment will be sustainable, given constraints like political uncertainty and currency volatility.

13 February 2017