Sharpening investments to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in South Africa was the focus of the SDG Investor Map Seminar organized for the private sector in Japan.

Convened by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) on 31 March 2021, over 220 participants, mainly from the Japanese private sector, obtained insights into potential impact areas for investments identified through the South Africa SDG Investor Map 2020. The Investor Map launched in September 2020 was developed under the UNDP’s global initiative “SDG Impact”.

The seminar showcased opportunities for investment in South Africa’s education, healthcare, agriculture and infrastructure sectors. Local trailblazers highlighted creative business model solutions that address some of the country’s greatest development challenges - inequality, unemployment and poverty.

The exchange also served as a platform to facilitate networking and intelligence sharing. The seminar was organized also as part of the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) follow-up activities towards the Japanese business communities and key stakeholders

Addressing participants, H.E. Mr. Maruyama Norio, Ambassador of Japan to the Republic of South Africa, expressed his confidence in the initiative’s strategic vision.

“I trust that the Investor Map will be an instrumental tool for Japanese companies. As a backbone of promoting trade and business, the Government of Japan works closely with UNDP in South Africa to contribute to the achievement of the SDGs through human resource development in the automobile industry as well as in an integrated response to COVID-19. I hope our partnership grows, as we promote further business exchanges between Japan and Africa.”

Ms. Phumzile Langeni, an Investment Envoy appointed in the office of South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa, recalled that the Investor Map was launched at a time when the world was grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic. This, she said, was a stark reminder of the need to accelerate the alignment of investment opportunities in the country.

“I’m once again reminded of the urgent need for investment in South Africa, given the devastation of the pandemic on the South African economy and South Africans at large,” she said. Langeni noted that investment was not only about financial returns but to replenish the pool of jobs lost whilst giving youth the skills to emerge as innovators and leaders.

A report published by the National Income Dynamics Coronavirus Rapid Mobile Survey on 17th February 2021 revealed that an estimated three million South Africans lost their jobs because of the pandemic. This represents an 18 per cent decline in employment from 17 million people employed in February 2020, to 14 million people employed in April 2020.

Langeni highlighted that over the last three years South Africa had made meaningful strides in unleashing local and foreign investments in the country, especially in infrastructure and agriculture – two of the country’s four priority target sectors. “We need to do more to advocate for greater investment in education and health care sectors.”

In response to the need for greater investment in health and education, representatives from both sectors were given the opportunity to present to investors.

Ms. Lynda Toussaint, Chief Executive Officer of Unjani Clinics, said that ensuring affordable, quality primary healthcare services is a primary focus. “The Unjani initiative, which currently has 84 clinics operating nationally in low-income areas and records around 55,000 consults monthly, directly aligns with SDGs 3, 5, 8 and 17,” she noted.

These goals respectively advance good health and well-being, gender equality, decent work, economic growth and partnerships.

Mr. Tomas Sales, the UNDP Special Advisor on Private Sector and SDG Finance, pointed out that there are great opportunities for investment in the country’s healthcare sector. “This is especially in light of the pandemic. There is increased private sector interest and there are several listings on the stock market, which proves the potential and dynamism for even greater private sector investment.”

Sales highlighted the following areas of interest for investors:

·       Mid-fee healthcare facilities

·       Modular medical facilities

·       Digital healthcare platforms, and

·       Healthcare professional training centres

With private healthcare unaffordable for the majority of South Africans, Sales said, “Eighty-four per cent of the population rely on public healthcare, which is beyond its capacity. There is growing market value with an estimated US$37 billion by 2022 and US$47.1 billion by 2027.”

Presenting on behalf of Grow Educare Centres for early childhood development, CEO and co-founder, Trace Chambers, said their primary focus is to ensure that every child has accessible and affordable quality education. “Currently, South Africa’s education system is not properly serving its children and more than 50 per cent of children do not complete their schooling.”

Ms. Trudi Makhaya, Special Economic Advisor to President Cyril Ramaphosa, said the government of South Africa has stressed the importance of sustainable investment in the country’s growth and development, and is working with multilateral and private sector investors to enhance the investment environment. 

She noted the continued excellent working relationship with many Japanese companies based in South Africa. “We do believe that our engagement in the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD7) two years back, further cemented these critical business relationships.”

In leading the development of the South African SDG Investor Map, including identifying some 30 sustainable investment opportunities, UNDP has made an important contribution towards solving this problem. “A robust and credible sustainable investment framework allows investors to better assess opportunities and measure risk, reward and impact,” said Mkhaya.

Dr. Ayodele Odusola, UNDP Resident Representative in South Africa, assured participants that as co-organiser of TICAD, UNDP will continue to work toward greater and innovative partnerships with the private sector in South Africa and Japan. This, he noted, can strengthen socio-economic inclusivity and sustainable development in South Africa.

“As such, we call upon Japanese business partners to take a proactive role and show leadership, including the design and delivery of business models for greater access and affordability of basic services, especially in the areas of health, education and infrastructure,” Odusola said.

Participants to the seminar were interested in further dialogues and networking in specific impact areas, particularly infrastructure, agriculture, education, and healthcare. UNDP will facilitate follow-up discussions and networking among public and private entities to accelerate quality investments towards sustainable growth in South Africa. 

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