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Meet the woman poised to kickstart SA’s economic growth

Most people in a new job work their fingers to the bone to make a good impression on their employer. For many people, this pressure would be even more overwhelming if their new boss was the president of the country.

But President Cyril Ramaphosa’s newly appointed economic advisor Trudi Makhaya is not over- whelmed by the stature of her boss. Trudi Makhaya is President Cyril Ramaphosa’s

economic advisor.

She said that she has worked for many bosses, all with different leadership styles, but

in her opinion, President Ramaphosa ticks all the boxes when it comes to good leadership qualities.“He is open, gives good feedback and is accessible. So it’s been good,” said Makhaya.

President Ramaphosa has entrusted Makhaya with spearheading an investment drive aimed at attracting $100 billion in new foreign investment to South Africa’s economy. She leads a team con- sisting of former Finance Minister Trevor Manuel; former Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas; the executive chairperson of Afropulse Group, Phumzile Langeni; and former Standard Bank CEO Jacko Maree.

But it is her role as the President’s economic advisor that has put the spotlight firmly on Makhaya, a leading economist, writer and entrepreneur.

She described her relationship with South Africa’s first citizen as one that’s warm and open.

“We have had to hit the ground running in terms of the initiatives we’ve been involved in but it’s been good so far. He’s a good boss,” she told PSM in an interview recently.

With the many challenges facing South Africa, the Hammanskraal-born Makhaya admitted to having her work cut out for her. She will be counting on the President’s open communication and leadership in order to steer the economy in the right direction.

“He’s given very clear directions in terms of his expectations. It’s been great but obviously we’re still settling in. As advisers we want to build a strong team so that we can give each other feedback and build a strong structure.”

Since her appointment, Makhaya has had to dedicate much of her energy to meeting the mandate of securing $100 billion in investment over the next five years. To achieve this, she works closely with the newly appointed investment envoys and those government institutions that are central to the investment mobilisation drive.

These include development financial institutions such as the Industrial Development Corporation and the InvestSA One Stop Shop, an initiative that aims to prioritise and promote investment.

Recently, South Africa signed the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement which offers an opportunity to create larger economies of scale a bigger mar- ket and improve the prospects of the African continent and to attract investment.

Makhaya said it is the task of the President’s investment envoys to ensure that the AfCFTA is linked to their work. The envoys are also firming up relationships with international investors, some of which already have a footprint in the country. One of these investors is German carmaker Mercedes-Benz, which last month unveiled a R10 billion investment in its Eastern Cape plant. The investment will see the company produce the latest range of luxury C-Class cars.

Makhaya is of the view that this is a great investment for South Africa and shows that the country’s auto industry is integrated in terms of industrial development.

Reflecting on the recent World Economic Forum held in Davos, where South Africa held roundtable engagements with several potential investors, she said policy certainty and policy clarity remain big issues for investors.

Telecom concerns regarding spectrum allocation and the future market structure were also raised. However, it was reported earlier this year that South Africa plans to allocate more radio frequency to various players by March 2019. The allocation of the spectrum is key to expanding South Africa’s broad-band facilities as the high cost of telecommunications is seen as a barrier to doing business.

Another concern was the Mining Charter, but Makhaya says this should be finalised towards the end of the year.

“Investors understand the land debate but there’s anxiety on whether it will be managed in line with the law,” she said, adding that it will be made clear that expropriation will not affect new investments. Asked about the recent BRICS Summit held in Johannesburg, Makhaya said the summit was very important gathering for the country and for the work that the envoys have been doing.

China remains one of the biggest investors in the South African economy and South Africa needs to encourage Russian and Indian investment into the country, said Makhaya.

“With Brazil we’ve had misunderstandings about chicken in the past, which need to be resolved. With India, sometimes I feel that maybe we are not doing as much as we should.

Trudi Makhaya is spearheading an investment drive aimed at attracting $100 billion in new foreign investment to South Africa’s economy.

There are good Indian multinationals in SA but we need to encourage them to invest more.”

South Africa, which joined the bloc in 2011, hosted the summit for the second time from 25 to 28 July. In his State of the Nation address in February, President Ramaphosa undertook to convene a jobs summit following calls by trade unions for the government to create a platform on which plans to deal with unemployment and inequality would be discussed.

Makhaya said preparations for the summit are ongoing and that the plan is to ensure that it provides practical ideas on how to deal with the country’s unemployment problem.

Government is also putting together its own technical work- ing teams on various topics to be covered at the summit.

Formidable in her own right

Although some people may not have heard of her before her rise to the top office, Makhaya has made her mark in the business world and has founded her own advisory firm, Makhaya Advisory, which focuses on competition policy and entrepreneurship.

She has held non-executive directorships at Vumelana Advisory Fund and MTN South Africa. She also joined the Competition Commission in 2010 as principal economist, later becoming

the commission’s deputy commissioner.

She holds an MBA and an MSc in Development Economics from Oxford University, as well as an Honours degree in economics and a BCom in law and econom- ics. She is also a regular column- ist for the Business Day newspaper.

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