Maria Ramos backs Cyril Ramaphosa to revive economy
President and the cabinet have delivered on promises, Absa CEO says
Absa Group CEO Maria Ramos is betting that President Cyril Ramaphosa is on the right track with rebuilding the continent’s most-industrialised economy.
Almost a year since taking over from his corruption-tainted predecessor, Jacob Zuma, Ramaphosa started commissions of inquiry to determine how graft became so entrenched and to prevent it in future.
He also set in motion plans to reinvigorate economic growth through an investment conference that raised billions in pledges and a jobs summit that pulled together the government, businesses and labour on ways of creating work.
“The things he committed to, he and his cabinet have delivered on,” Ramos, who was part of drawing up the constitution with Ramaphosa before the end of segregated rule in 1994, said on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos.
“That’s what I expected of him and the way I have come to know him.”
Ramaphosa is seeking to lure $100bn in investments by 2023 to revive an economy struggling to create jobs for the 27% of the workforce that is unemployed. Since announcing the investment drive in April, China, the UK, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Daimler's Mercedes-Benz unit have pledged $35.5bn, with companies promising $20bn more in October.
“We’re starting to see confidence coming back into the economy,” Ramos said.
And while important commitments have been made on job creation, these still need to implemented, said the CEO, who served as director-general of finance under former president Nelson Mandela.
Ramos, 59, said Ramaphosa has an “open invitation” for businesses wanting to engage on economic policy and growth opportunities, such as tourism. The government is also being encouraged to ensure predictability with policymaking, the lack of which has hurt SA in the past, she said.
“The biggest challenge facing SA is to have a strategy and to build confidence around sustainable growth and job creation,” she said.
She said SA is an open economy, so when China and other major nations “sneeze, we are caught in the middle”, with the global economy set “to go through another round of lower growth”.
On Absa’s outlook Ramos said: “We’re confident that the targets we unveiled and the strategy we set out last year is within reach.”
The growth focus remains “on our retail and business bank in SA. It’s the biggest part of our business.”
“We have a corporate and investment bank that has grown strongly and we expect that to continue.
“Then we have great businesses outside SA in 10 African markets. There are great opportunities for growth in each of the countries that we’re in. We have a small presence in Nigeria but an important presence.”