Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: GCIS
Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: GCIS

President Cyril Ramaphosa is in Japan to sell SA as an investment-friendly destination and is expected to meet with vehicle maker Nissan bosses as part of his working visit.

He is attending the seventh Tokyo International Conference on African Development (Ticard), and will participate in the Japan-SA Business Forum at the Nissan Global Headquarters in Yokohama, Japan, on Wednesday.

Ramaphosa’s spokesperson Khusela Diko said the president will use the business engagement to invite global partners to experience SA as an investment destination and trade partner. She said Ramaphosa wants them to participate in SA’s efforts to “secure faster, sustainable and inclusive economic growth and reduce unemployment”.

The economy shrank 3.2%, or declined by R56bn, in the first quarter of 2019, while the unemployment rate jumped from 27.6% to 29% in the second quarter.

The SA Reserve Bank forecasts GDP growth of 0.6% in 2019. In 2018, Ramaphosa appointed investment envoys in his quest to raise $100bn in new investments over the next five years. He also tabled his economic stimulus and recovery plan consisting of a range of measures, both financial and non-financial, aimed at igniting economic activity, restore investor confidence, prevent  further job losses and create new jobs, among other things.

Ramaphosa’s visit to Japan is strategic as the country has more than R900bn worth of investment in SA through its more than 140 companies operating in the local economy. Diko said Japan’s government and the country’s corporate sector view SA as a “strategic partner on the African continent, within the context of the programmes and activities of Ticard”.

Automotive sector wage talks

Ramaphosa’s Wednesday meeting with Nissan comes as the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) is locked in protracted wage talks with automotive sector employers under the Automobile Manufacturers Employers Organisation (AMEO).

AMEO represents seven international car manufacturers with factories in SA, including BMW, Nissan, Volkswagen (VW), Mercedes-Benz, and Toyota.

Numsa wants to squeeze out a 20% wage increase across the board from employers, who have offered the union a 4.5% increase, in line with the country’s inflation rate, although economists expect the rate to moderate to 4.4%.

Analysts have said that the employers’ 4.5% offer underlines the weak finances and sales in the sector, which is grappling with lower consumer spending on big items. Data released by the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of SA (Naamsa) in July showed that the new passenger car market had registered a decline of 2,617 cars, or a fall of 8.2% to 29,477 units, compared with the 32,094 new cars sold in July 2018.

Naamsa said that out of the total reported industry sales of 46,077 vehicles, an estimated 36,974 units, or 80.2%, represented dealer sales; an estimated 14% sales were to the vehicle rental industry; 3.6% went to industry corporate fleets; and 2.2% went to the government. The automotive sector contributes more than 7% to the ailing economy, which grew by 0.8% last year.

Numsa’s automotive and tyre sector co-ordinator Vusumzi Mkhungo said the negotiations were ongoing and that another round of talks was scheduled for Wednesday until Friday this week.

AMEO spokesperson Andile Dlamini confirmed the talks but noted: “For now, there is not much to say.”