By Calvin Augustine
South Africa is on a path towards economic recovery and there are overwhelming signs of positive change. Our upward trajectory is directed by the various measures government has initiated to set the economy on a new path of growth, employment and transformation.
At the heart of our efforts is Operation Vulindlela which sets out to accelerate structural reforms to uplift our economic growth and drive job creation. Operation Vulindlela was established in October 2020 as a government‐wide approach to remove structural impediments that have long hindered our economy.
The intervention is a joint initiative of the Presidency and National Treasury, linked together by a dedicated Operation Vulindlela Unit that monitors progress, addresses challenges and actively supports implementation.
The initiative is fast-tracking high-impact reforms that addresses obstacles in the execution of our policy commitments. Through the work of Operation Vulindlela, we aim to reduce input costs, lower barriers to entry, increase competition and create new opportunities for investment.
A key thrust of our intervention is modernising and transforming network industries such as electricity, water, transport and digital communications. These industries are the bedrock of economic growth, and are essential to creating a globally competitive economy. In addition, reforms to the country’s visa regime are also being prioritised to attract skills and promote growth in tourism.
A total of 19 priority reforms have been identified in these focus areas, which together represent a bold and ambitious reform agenda to fundamentally change South Africa’s economic trajectory.
The resolute actions under Operation Vulindlela is a clear statement of intent to create an environment for greater development and faster economic growth. It also reaffirms that our country is open for business and stands ready to offer investors an array of lucrative investment opportunities.
In the three years since Operation Vulindlela was established, government has made significant progress in implementing wide-reaching reforms across key network industries.
For example, in the energy sector, regulatory changes have resulted in a massive increase in private investment in electricity generation, with a pipeline of more than 12 000 MW of confirmed projects in development. These projects will result in over R220 billion of new investment once implemented.
There has been significant progress in uplifting the local logistics sector through the Freight Logistics Roadmap for greater competition and efficiency. We have also seen the introduction of private sector participation in container terminals and in the implementation of open access to the freight rail network.
Our interventions in the telecommunications sector have ended a more than ten-year delay in the auction of high-demand spectrum and completed the switch-off of analogue signal for frequencies above 694 Megahertz.
Through the work of Operation Vulindlela we have cleared the backlog of water use licences. Our re-engineered water license application system ensure over 70 per cent of licence are now processed within 90 days versus 300 days previously.
The new online Water Use Licence Application and Authorisation System, a tool to facilitate the authorisation of water use, is expected to unlock R43 billion to GDP per year for the next 5 years.
We have added 20 more countries to the eVisa system bringing the total number of countries to 34. The eVisa platform includes additional adjudicators to expedite the application process. South Africa is in negotiations with 12 other countries to extend its visa waiver programme which currently waives visas for visitors from 135 countries.
While the economy continues to face complex challenges government is confident that the economic reforms underway through Operation Vulindlela will help ease constraints and place us on a clear path to higher levels of growth in 2024.
Calvin Augustine is Deputy Director: Communication Resource Centre