South Africa’s government will work with social partners in the coming weeks to finalise an economic recovery programme whose key target will be to protect and create jobs as the economy is buffeted by the Covid-19 pandemic, President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Monday.
In a weekly newsletter, Ramaphosa said the health crisis — which has seen 445,433 people in South Africa infected by the coronavirus to date, the highest national tally in Africa — would cost the country millions of jobs, worsening unemployment already at a historic high of 30.1 percent.
He said the most recent economic indicators showed a drastic decline in economic activity and in confidence and that despite the support measures the government had put in place, businesses were being forced to close and jobs being lost.
“If we are going to recover from the worst effects of the pandemic, we also need well-crafted public employment schemes,” Ramaphosa wrote.
“Creating jobs for people that add value to their communities through maintenance, care work and other services, keeps people engaged in productive activity. It helps them to retain and to develop skills. It gives many young people a chance to climb the first rung in the job market ladder. Such jobs complement employment created by businesses as they start to recover and private investment returns.”
He noted that while South Africa was not short of ideas about how to improve its economy, it needed to do much better on execution.
With the advent of the coronavirus, the country must now pursue new sources of growth within a fundamentally different context, the president added.
“Many of the areas we had identified before remain relevant and urgent, such as a growing small and medium enterprise sector and an agricultural sector that delivers food security,” he said.
“Some sectors have taken on a new significance. We should, for example, use this opportunity to build a greener economy, with our entrepreneurs entering new fields such as hybrid cars, fuel cells, battery storage and waste beneficiation.”