The government has adopted a “South Africa first” approach to economic growth and trade – a move President Cyril Ramaphosa believes will help to fulfil the dreams of many citizens while avoiding the “arrogant” approach of some other countries, such as the US.
The plan, unveiled by Ramaphosa on the first day of the Jobs Summit in Midrand yesterday, will see the creation of at least 275,000 jobs a year.
The new deal was backed by government and business, labour and civil society organisations.
In terms of the framework, the partners agreed the focus must be on creating new jobs and retaining existing ones, avoiding retrenchments as far as possible.
To this end, the participating companies committed to local procurement to boost the economy and create jobs.
Ramaphosa named a number of companies that have joined the scheme and said he expected more to follow suit.
Government and business would establish a rapid response team to assist struggling businesses to avoid retrenchments.
Government would reprioritise expenditure to focus on job creation, education, health, infrastructure development, support for black farmers, revitalising industrial parks in townships and peri-urban areas and establishing a township and rural job fund.
“This is the time to put South Africa first, but it’s not going to be in an arrogant way like elsewhere. We say ‘South Africa first’ in a different way,” Ramaphosa said.
This was seen as differentiating the plan from US President Donald Trump’s protectionist approach, which led to trade wars.
The implementation and progress of the framework would be monitored by a presidential jobs committee and the brains trust comprising social partners.
Businessperson Sipho Pityana said the business community was ready to help.
He said recent data showed the government had no fiscal headroom to catalyse growth without risking SA’s sovereign credit rating and raising borrowing costs for a generation. But business was confident the tide of job losses could be stemmed.