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Ramaphosa: SA government very keen to work with private sector

President Cyril Ramaphosa.
President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Image: Alaister Russell/The Sunday Times

President Cyril Ramaphosa has assured investors that the ANC-led government is not allergic to working with the private sector.

Speaking at an investor conference at the Four Seasons Hotel in Westcliffe, Ramaphosa dismissed suggestions that there's unwillingness from government to rope in the private sector to help boost the economy, among other issues.

"The ruling party has embraced the notion of the value of the inviting the private sector to be our partner. Our conference in 2017 was very clear that we should build a social compact with the private sector labour and communities.

"I want partnerships and because they are what will help resolve our problems. It is no longer a swear word, it is an angelic type of word so we see great value in working with the private sector," said Ramaphosa.

He was responding to a question posed by Goldman Sach's Sub-Saharan Africa's chief operations officer Colin Coleman, on whether or not the private sector a "swear word" in the governing party.

The president was speaking at a conference hosted by Goldman Sachs Group in Johannesburg on Wednesday.

Ramaphosa told the full to capacity conference room that bringing the private sector on board was a current discussion in government to do what they do best.

"There are quite a number of enterprises that the private sector can take equity positions. There's great deal of value that can be extracted when there is a partnership and collaboration between the private sector and the public sector," Ramaphosa said.

He said the debate about the involvement of the private sector has always been about the repercussions which are job losses.

Ramaphosa said partnering with the private sector now needed to be done in a "smart way" to address developmental needs in order to ensure that the cost of living for those who live in a dire state can be

In August last year, Ramaphosa was criticised at an international retirement seminar hosted by Sovereign Trust SA where one of the speakers said they had not seen much evidence of Ramaphosa trying to rope in the private sector for much-needed efforts to bridge the gap between rich and poor.

During a Jobs Summit last year, the president announced the vision to reduce unemployment to 6% by 2030.

On Wednesday, he reiterated that government was committed to addressing youth unemployment which is a "great headache".

"We face a huge challenge because 60% of our youth are unemployed in our country and we need to address that. That is why we are calling on South Africa companies to invest and focus on young people to bring them job opportunities," he said.

Ramaphosa's admission and plea comes a day after Statistics South Africa announcing that the number of employed persons decreased by 237 000 to 16,3 million in the first three months of this year, taking the unemployment rate to 27.6% from 27.1% in the last quarter of last year.

The stats agency said employment decreased in all four of the sectors in the first quarter of the year.

South Africa’s high unemployment rate will be one Ramaphosa’s immediate task following his victory in last week’s national elections where the governing party remained in power by 57.74% of the votes.

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