President Jacob Zuma is considering launching a “one-stop investment shop” to help foreign investors do business in South Africa.

Zuma said this on his 100th day in office, while addressing members of the Italian, Portuguese and Greek communities in Germiston.

He said regulatory and administrative processes need to be streamlined to “assist foreign nationals in setting up business” and avoid “undue delays”.

He admitted that foreign firms find it difficult to initiate business in the country because of perceived trade barriers, tight exchange controls and a perceived lack of will by government.

He said the cost of doing business in South Africa should be reduced. To this end, government is “undertaking a massive investment in economic infrastructure” and is working to increase efficiency.

“We will continue our policy to encourage foreign investment… by building the required human capital base and investments in physical infrastructure.”

South Africa is undergoing a R400-billion infrastructure programme that involves building roads and other transport systems, enhancing ports and airports, and enhancing energy capacity, among other things.

Transnet is in the second year of its R80-billion capital expenditure programme, while Eskom will spend R300-billion increasing its capacity.

“International experience demonstrates that foreign direct investment follows large-scale domestic investment, rather than the other way around,” Zuma said.

However, he warned that as much as the government tried to expand access to foreign markets, it needed to safeguard domestic markets from unfair trade practices through tighter anti-competitive laws.

“We must tighten our laws to prevent anti- competitive conduct. We support a mixed economy but provide an element of state intervention and ownership and regulation.”

He said his five-year goal is to ensure an “appropriate balance… to achieve the desired objectives of social and economic development”.

Zuma admitted bureaucratic inefficiencies and said government had been reorganised under his stewardship.

“The reconfiguration of government is aimed to ensure better co-ordination and integration and an end to a silo approach to conducting government business.”

This is why, he said, ministries such as the national planning commission were introduced and others renamed to ensure “greater focus”.

He said job creation was at the centre of the government’s economic policies, adding that access to capital for small and emerging business by state-funding institutions needs to be reviewed. “In order to broaden access… (these institutions) will be mandated to support business initiatives.”

AUTHOR: Buddy Naidu
DATED: 15th August 2009