SA's economic recovery depends on sustainable infrastructure investment

20 Oct 2020

Fani Titi

Investec CEO

Investec CEO Fani Titi calls for an urgent and coherent plan for sustainable infrastructure development to bring South Africa out of its economic funk. Speaking at the launch of the United Nations Development Programme’s SDG Investor Map for South Africa, Titi said such investment could create jobs, enhance service delivery, and stimulate economic growth both nationally and regionally. 

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South Africa urgently needs a coherent and pragmatic plan for sustainable infrastructure development. Our economy, already rattled by several rating downgrades, has been ravaged by the impact of Covid-19 and consequent lockdown restrictions. As we now seek a path to recovery, the need for both local and foreign investment has arguably never been greater. 
 
Investment in large-scale, sustainable infrastructure has the potential to enhance service delivery to millions of people, create jobs, and stimulate inclusive economic growth. Furthermore, given South Africa’s strategic role as a regional economic hub, such investment holds out the promise of economic upliftment for the continent as a whole. But an essential precursor to a workable infrastructure build programme, and one which has been sorely lacking to date, is a slate of well-planned sustainable infrastructure projects.  
BB-
(S&P) lowered South Africa’s sovereign credit rating further into non-investment grade

The UNDP’s SDG Investor Map 2020 for South Africa

At the heart of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) lies a promise to ‘leave no one behind’. The idea that every individual has a right to basic services – clean water and sanitation, clean energy, access to housing, basic healthcare, and a decent education, amongst others – compels us to rethink our approach to addressing socio-economic issues.
 
It is not enough that basic services are affordable; they also have to be provided reliably and consistently. This, in turn, requires infrastructure development, and a concerted effort by both the private and public sectors to finance viable social impact projects. 

Government needs support to make plan a reality

Dr. Kgosientso Ramokgopa, Head of Infrastructure and Investment in the Office of the President, has repeatedly emphasised the integral role of infrastructure in the country’s economic recovery plan. The infrastructure development plan laid out by Dr. Ramokgopa is as ambitious as the goals underpinning it.
 
Its effective implementation will require support from the local and international private sector to reduce the burden on an already strained government fiscus.

Role of the finance sector

The financial sector has a decisive role to play, both in providing finance and expertise and in channeling available investment to areas of greatest need. Innovative and creative financing mechanisms, incorporating social and environmental value alongside financial return, will be required to strengthen the investment rationale. We must therefore transcend short-term thinking and embrace a deliberate shift towards the longer-term perspective required to assess the total returns on infrastructure investment: not just to investors, but also to humanity and the planet we all inhabit. 
Fani Titi CEO Investec

We must transcend short-term thinking and embrace a shift towards the longer-term perspective required to assess the total returns on infrastructure investment: not just to investors, but also to humanity and the planet we all inhabit. 

Fani Titi Investec CEO

Collaboration crucial to recovery plan success

We will encounter challenges along the way, but we must not let this hinder or delay our progress. Rather, we must work together to ensure the many investment opportunities identified in the SDG Investor Maps are implemented and realised. Sensible and sustainable infrastructure investment will depend on a combination of national, regional, and global thinking.  
 
We clearly have much work to do. But I am encouraged by the genuine collaboration and goodwill from the various parties participating in the launch of the SDG Investor Map 2020 for South Africa. Together, we have an immense opportunity to attract the required investment and ensure a sustainable recovery that is inclusive, climate conscious and sensitive to the emerging market context that we live in.

Watch video: Raise SDG Ambition to Recover Stronger 


In order to reset, rebuild and create the world we want, we must start by aligning business ambition with the SDG challenges and opportunities ahead. In this video from the June meeting of the UN Global Compact, Fani Titi is joined by Accenture’s Peter Lacy, Olam International’s Sunny Verghese, H&M CEO Helena Helmersson, Schneider Electric’s CEO Jean-Pascal Tricoire and the President of Botswana Dr. Mokgweetsi Masisi.

Watch video: Raise SDG Ambition to Recover Stronger 


In order to reset, rebuild and create the world we want, we must start by aligning business ambition with the SDG challenges and opportunities ahead. In this video from the June meeting of the UN Global Compact, Fani Titi is joined by Accenture’s Peter Lacy, Olam International’s Sunny Verghese, H&M CEO Helena Helmersson, Schneider Electric’s CEO Jean-Pascal Tricoire and the President of Botswana Dr. Mokgweetsi Masisi.

This is an edited transcript of Fani Titi's speech delivered at the launch of the UNDP SDG Investor Map 2020 for South Africa on the 29th of September.

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