South Africa needs to catch up, and play a meaningful role in the digital revolution.
That’s the word from the President Cyril Ramaphosa, delivering his maiden State of the Nation address (SONA) on Friday.

“We will soon establish a Digital Industrial Revolution Commission, which will include the private sector and civil society, to ensure that our country is in a position to seize the opportunities and manage the challenges of rapid advances in information and communication technology.”

“The drive towards the digital industrial revolution will be underpinned by the availability of efficient networks,” Ramaphosa stresses.
“We will finalise our engagements with the telecommunications industry and other stakeholders to ensure that the allocation of spectrum reduces barriers to entry, promotes competition and reduces the cost to consumers.”

This was just one of a range of business-friendly initiatives announced by the president. Others include:

* A Jobs Summit will be convened within the next few months to align the efforts of every sector and every stakeholder behind the imperative of job creation.

* An Investment Conference, to be held within three months, will target both domestic and international investors, to market the compelling investment opportunities to be found in our country.

* Manufacturing will be stimulated through re-industrialisation and a localisation programme that will spend more that R57-billion on locally-produced goods.

* Special economic zones will be used to attract strategic foreign and domestic direct investment, build targeted industrial capabilities and establish new industrial hubs.

* The Youth Employment Service initiative, which will place unemployed youth in paid internships in companies across the economy, will be launched next month, and are expected to create 1-million internships.

* A Youth Working Group, representative of all young South Africans, will ensure that our policies and programmes advance their interests.

* A new team will be appointed to speed up implementation of new projects, particularly water projects, health facilities and road maintenance. Improvements are planned in budget and monitoring systems to foster the integration of projects and build a broad compact on infrastructure with business and organised labour.

* Mining will receive more focus, and the Mining Charter revisited to ensure it is an effective instrument to sustainably transform the sector.

* Small business will get a boost. Government will work with social partners to build a small business support ecosystem; and government undertakes to push at least 30% of public procurement through SMMEs, cooperatives and township and rural enterprises. A start-up fund is being established, and work is underway to reduce regulatory barriers or SMEs.

* South Africa has acceded to the Tripartite Free Trade Area agreement, which brings together SADC, COMESA and the East African Community into a free trade area of 26 countries with a population of nearly 625-million.