SA Launched Investor Conference with a Red Flag and Red Faces

Investors beware

By John Fraser

It was a classic ‘Send in the Clowns’ scenario when the SA government hosted a series of sessions for investors this Tuesday.

Coming at the start of Cyril Ramaphosa’s two-day (actually two-half-days) Investment Conference, the afternoon panel discussion sessions, each headed by a relevant minister, were meant to inform and entice potential investors.

However it was more red flag than red carpet.

The Energy session, the first one I planned to follow, was due to kick-off at 2pm and I logged in. The discussions were all online due to COVID concerns.

I was told I was the only participant. So I tried again, and again……..

Eventually, with my blood pressure at boiling point, I received an e-mail telling me there were problems, giving me links from which I could access the discussions.

Now, had I been a mildly interested investor, I would have run a mile. As it was, the discussion was polluted by technological glitches – for instance the Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe had trouble hearing what was going on. And he mumbled as usual, making him hard to follow.

It was a mess. No sale.

But it didn’t improve much.

I next listened-in to the Infrastructure session.

The link was opened-up prematurely and for several minutes I – and anyone else who was tuned in – could follow a lengthy load of twaddle as they prepared to go live. Not realising they were already live.

Ouch!

Finally, it was the turn of Trade, Industry and Competition Minister Ebrahim Patel to chair a session on Manufacturing in Africa.

Due to the initial mess-up, this started very late.

Unlike the lady chairman of the earlier infrastructure session, he did not send everyone to sleep by laboriously reading out the CVs of participants. If you only have an hour, you should forgo some of the foreplay. He knew that. She didn’t.

Once again, this session was beset by technical difficulties. It, too, went live prematurely.

Initially, Patel could not be seen as his signal was weak.

The chairman of the IDC – arguably an important panelist – never showed. Technology is clearly not her strong-point.

If I understood him properly, Patel justified the technical carnage by saying it is always useful to give some local bunch a chance to shine. Sadly, this lot shone like a black hole.

Content wise, this was an excellent, informative, impressive session.

It is just a shame that by failing to meet the technology challenge, they reached for the stars.

And shot themselves in the foot.

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