Natasha Marrian Deputy editor: Financial Mail
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa speaks during the election manifesto launch of the African National Congress in Durban, South Africa, January 12, 2019. REUTERS/ROGAN WARD
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa speaks during the election manifesto launch of the African National Congress in Durban, South Africa, January 12, 2019. REUTERS/ROGAN WARD

The ANC plans to reform sectors with the greatest potential for growth and job creation, as it vows to double the annual rate of employment by creating 257,000 jobs per year.

President Cyril Ramaphosa on Saturday said the ANC led government would take measures to lower the cost of doing business in South Africa, increase productivity and improve competitiveness.

He also said that an infrastructure fund will be created to build roads, hospitals and other public infrastructure in order to reignite the economy.

Ramaphosa was launching the manifesto ahead of the ANC's toughest election campaign yet as it hopes to turn the tide of electoral decline which began in 2019 and culminated in an all time low of 56% in the 2016 local government election.

Employment was at the centre of the ANCs election manifesto unveiled before a near-packed Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban.

Ramaphosa said over 9-million South Africans are unemployed.

"This is a tragedy of vast proportions, a direct challenge to the promise of our democratic Constitution and the cause of great hardship and despair," 

 "The most pressing task for our country at this moment in our history is therefore to set the economy on a higher path of shared growth and to transform the structure of our economy to provide opportunities for millions of South Africans," Ramaphosa said.

He said this required a massive injection of new investment and reiterated his administration's plan to raise R1.2 trillion in new investment over the next five years.

He also said for several years investment by both government and business had stagnated.

"Working with all social partners, we will intensify our efforts to restore investor, business and consumer confidence and ensure policy consistency and certainty," Ramaphosa said.

"We will implement the agreements reached at the Presidential Jobs Summit last year by boosting local demand for goods, investing more in sectors like mining, manufacturing and agriculture, and expanding export markets.

"It is estimated that this could contribute around 275,000 additional jobs each year, nearly doubling the annual rate of employment creation."

The new infrastructure fund will pool government's infrastructure budget to use it to raise funds from both public and private sources to build roads, rail lines, broadband networks, hospitals, schools, dams and other infrastructure vital for a growing the economy.

Ramaphosa said the ANC's manifesto was for an "inclusive economy".

"For centuries, the majority of South Africans have been deliberately excluded from economic activity, dispossessed of land, deprived of skills and forcibly settled far from economic opportunities." 

Women, rural people and the youth suffered the greatest exclusion. He vowed that the ANC would build an economy in which all South Africans could benefit from.

This exclusion is greatest among women, rural people and youth.

"We will enable workers to own stakes in the companies they work for and to share in the profits. We will open up markets for new, emerging companies by ending monopolies and behaviour that stifles competition," he said.

Government's massive procurement spend will be used to support transformation and job creation by committing to allocate at least 30% of its procurement to small businesses and cooperatives.

Ramaphosa said the ANC manifesto focused specifically on township economies.

"To this day, townships and villages remain dormitories for most of our people, far from economic opportunities and often without adequate social amenities. We will encourage the growth of enterprises in these areas through a dedicated fund that supports the development of industrial parks, business centres and incubation centre's," he said.

The ANC also planned to prevent the displacement of local enterprises by big retail stores and is set to ensure that small producers have a place in their retail value chains.

Throughout Ramaphosa’s address, ANC members sat attentive while applauding to election promises which they approved of. There was a stark contrast however between his reception and that of his predecessor Jacob Zuma.

While Zuma received the screams and applause of a showman, Ramaphosa received the waves and applause reserved for a statesman.

Zuma remains popular in KwaZulu-Natal, despite his popularity in the ANC and the rest of the country waning toward the end of his second term.

The launch of the manifesto on Saturday officially opened the party's 2019 election campaign, expected to take place in May, although the date has not yet been proclaimed.

marriann@businesslive.co.za