President Cyril Ramaphosa on Wednesday chaired the first meeting of the Economic Advisory Council he appointed recently.
In his opening remarks at the meeting in Cape Town, Ramaphosa gave a sobering account of South Africa’s economic realities.
“Poverty is rife… It tracks the patterns of our past closely. It is highest in Limpopo and the Eastern Cape, and lowest in the Western Cape and Gauteng. Poverty is overwhelmingly black,” he said.
He added that unemployment remains high while the economy has lost its competitiveness. Business confidence is also at “historic lows,” he said.
Despite these difficulties, Ramaphosa said government has achieved some “key milestones” since he delivered his first State of the Nation Address in February 2018.
These include relaxation of some visa requirements, visa waivers, and a policy directive on the release of spectrum by ICASA.
He said other initiatives under discussion include an Integrated Resource Plan, appointment of an Investment Advisory Council, and development of Industrial Strategy Masterplans.
“All of these initiatives and reforms provide reasons for hope,” the President said.
Ramaphosa announced the 18-member council on 27 September. In a statement, he said the council is “non-statutory and independent” and will be chaired by himself.
Its members will not be paid, but government will cover their travel and other council-related expenses.
They are economic experts drawn from academia, business, labour, civil society, and community.
The council’s mandate is “to ensure greater coherence and consistency in the implementation of economic policy.”
Among its prominent members include Prof Mzukisi Qobo, agricultural economist Wandile Sihlobo, and UNISA’s Prof Vusi Gumede.