The co-chairman of the Consumer Goods Council of South Africa (CGCSA), Gareth Ackerman, says that the private sector can no longer wait for the government to solve the country’s worsening infrastructure crisis because the state is failing to deliver.
He urged the government to allow private companies to manage critical infrastructure, as a strike hobbles the nation’s state-owned ports and freight-rail operator, reported Bloomberg.
Ackerman also reiterated calls made by businesses during riots last year – in which more than 350 people died – for the vital Mooi River Toll Plaza to be moved.
The facility, located on a national highway connecting the main port of Durban to the economic hub of Gauteng, has become a point of conflict during protests that prevent goods from being ferried by trucks.
Addressing the annual summit of the CGCSA in Sandton, Ackerman said businesses will have to provide solutions rather than wait for the government to step in.
The chairman of South African retail chain Pick n Pay Stores questioned why the government is not dealing with alleged corruption at Eskom, where there have been allegations of the utility being supplied with low-quality coal for its power stations.
“We need to ask ourselves what is going on, why Eskom is paying for good coal, and yet poor grade coal is delivered, and people are stealing and causing sabotage. People are doing it for greed, and there are unprecedented levels of corruption at Eskom, and there are too many vested interests.
“The question is why can’t the government stop this, and we, as businesses need to ask this more and more because it is affecting our companies, the way we do business and growth,” Ackerman said.
Another concern Ackerman raises is the inefficiency at the ports, which he said is affecting many companies’ supply chains.
“We need a resilient supply chain, and South Africa’s ports are now sitting at the bottom of the barrel in terms of efficiency. Companies will have to look at using alternative ports than wait and waste time with goods sitting at harbours.
“Our roads need much maintenance because the railway is not working efficiently, and as business, we will increasingly have to find our own solutions or else we will not fill our supply chain,” Ackerman said.
He said the regulatory environment needs to improve, citing the inordinate delays multinationals have faced when applying for work visas for expatriate staff. He cited the example of the CEO of one of the largest employers in the country, who had to wait for more than six months before his work visa was renewed.
“We are short of skilled labour, yet we have had problems getting work visas. These are short-sighted policies we need to solve because we need skills to grow the economy,” Ackerman said.
He also said South African companies have no choice but to invest in sustainability because it was good for business, customers and increasingly investors were focusing on ESG factors before making investment decisions.
He said South African companies lagged behind their global peers when it comes to responding to concerns about ESG. He said companies should make ESG a priority or risk being forced through regulations.
Read: Bleak outlook for diesel prices in South Africa in November
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