State of the Nation Address
Exactly one year ago, President Cyril Ramaphosa ushered in a new dawn for South Africa. Shortly after coming into office, the President delivered an impressive State of the Nation Address (SONA) that instilled hope, excitement and confidence in the millions of people watching around the country.
There was an intense feeling of excitement surrounding the 2018 (SONA). It is fitting that this address was delivered in the Nelson Mandela Centenary Year: not since the dawn of democracy had a South African president felt such a weight of expectation placed upon his shoulders. But President Ramaphosa’s address ticked all the boxes for the South African public. It touched on the most pressing issues facing the country; proposed some intelligent solutions; and demonstrated a true commitment towards building a better South Africa.
Focus areas of SONA 2018
Similar to many of the SONAs that came before, the issues of job creation, economic growth, poverty alleviation, education, healthcare, land reform, gender equality and fighting crime and corruption featured highly on the agenda of the 2018 SONA.
President Ramaphosa said that this period, however, was one of complete rebirth for South Africa. One which would require a new level of resolve.
“We have been given the responsibility to build a new nation, to confront the injustices of the past and the inequalities of the present. We are called upon to do so under difficult conditions.”
Central to alleviating poverty, job creation was one of the first issues raised by Ramaphosa in his address.
“At the centre of our national agenda in 2018 is the creation of jobs, especially for the youth,” said Ramaphosa.
With unemployment on the rise in South Africa, the President stressed the urgent need to create jobs through a number of measures. The announcement of the Presidential Jobs Summit, which would involve discussions between the public sector, business and civil society, was warmly welcomed.
Taking place at the beginning of October, the Summit proved to be valuable in creating a blueprint for the creation of jobs. The framework agreement signed at the summit outlined more than 70 focused interventions that will, among other things, boost domestic demand, increase and broaden exports, create pathways for young people into work and develop sectors such as agriculture, manufacturing, mining and the waste economy.
With the youth particularly affected by unemployment, President Ramaphosa immediately prioritised programmes that would benefit them. The Youth Employment Service (YES) was launched within two months of SONA 2018, offering an innovative way for businesses to employ youth through paid internships. By the end of 2018, a total of 266 companies had signed up for the YES programme, and 5 500 youth had been placed.
Boosting the economy
South Africa’s economy had been experiencing sluggish growth and entered into a recession in early 2018. Investor confidence was at an all-time low, and high-potential sectors were simply not receiving the support they needed to contribute to the economy.
In line with his new dawn slogan, President Ramaphosa immediately embarked on an investment drive. He appointed four special envoys to join him in a bid to attract R1.2 trillion of investment by 2023. President Ramaphosa also travelled around the world to restore foreign countries’ confidence in investing in South Africa.
The drive culminated in the South African Investment Conference in October, where the President announced that R290 billion worth of investments had been committed to, adding to the R400 billion pledged by countries visited during the investment drive. It has been predicted that these investments will add R330 billion to South Africa’s GDP by 2024, and create up to 275 000 jobs per year.
President Ramaphosa’s economic stimulus and recovery plan was identified as another key intervention in overcoming the obstacles to improving South Africa’s economy. Announced in September, the package promises accelerated infrastructure spending, reform in the telecoms and mining sectors, joint public and private execution of projects and a simplified visa regime which will make it easier for international companies to do business in South Africa.
Rooting out corruption and strengthening governance
The President has demonstrated a strong commitment towards rooting out corruption within government and state-owned enterprises. The commission of inquiry into state capture commenced shortly after he took office, as did the commissions of inquiry into Eskom and SARS.
The changing of leadership structures in state-owned enterprises was another indication of the President’s determination to fight corruption and strengthen governance.