SOUTH AFRICA – South Africa will develop initiatives to grow its financial service industry for the good of all Africa, President Jacob Zuma said in his State of the Nation Address in Parliament on Thursday.

“We are proud of our top 10 ranking of financial services in the 2016 World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report,” he said.

Overall, South Africa slipped three places to 49, but was ranked the best country in the world in terms of its strength of auditing and reporting standards, as well as financing through the local equity market.

It was ranked 12th for its financial market development. Business sophistication sits at 33, while innovation scored 38.

“Maintaining and improving our ranking is important to competitiveness as a country,” he said. “Fundamental is our ambition to be the financial centre for Africa.”

He said government and banks would join forces to launch a centre of excellence for finance and leadership.

“This will ensure the country can attract, nurture and retain the best skills in financial services,” said Zuma.

“This will, over time, ensure we can expand our pool of financial skills and provide job opportunities for many young people.”

He said banks felt that there was a positive outcome from government’s engagement with business. “Together, we can move South Africa forward.”

This week, Zuma said Business Unity SA and the National Treasury would create a task team to focus on economic growth and job creation.

This followed Zuma’s meeting with over 140 business leaders and Cabinet ministers in Cape Town, where they looked at ways of growing the economy and averting a credit rating downgrade to junk status.

“We are going to have a small group that is going to sit and work out the things we agreed on… that we can do concretely to ensure that we grow the economy and deal with the issue of unemployment,” Zuma announced after the meeting, according to the SA Government News Agency.

The task team will actively explore and develop proposals identified at the session and will present their report at a follow-up meeting, Zuma said.

“Once the group has dealt with those issues… we will [call a] meeting to listen to that report,” he said.

February 12, 2016;