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Five important things to note in the president’s speech

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa will give his national speech to Parliament in Cape Town on Thursday. The address, scheduled to start at 7 pm local time, comes as the country struggles to curb the epidemic of the coronavirus and contain the economic devastation it has caused.

The glitz and rituals that normally accompany annual events are almost absent this year. Under general blockade rules, only 50 people can enter the parliament, and the rest of the legislators and guests participate through the online platform.

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Vehicles are lined up at the drive-through coronavirus testing facility in Pretoria, South Africa.

Here are five important points to note in Ramaphosa’s speech:

1. Deployment of Covid-19 vaccine

The government was scheduled to begin offering healthcare professionals this month a shot developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford. The plan was confused this week when studies showed that the vaccine had little effect on mild infections caused by the first virus variant identified in South Africa. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is used for the first vaccination. Ramaphosa can elaborate on negotiations to secure additional dosages from the company and other suppliers and provide details on how they are funded and distributed.

2. Plan to revive the economy

The central bank estimates that the pandemic and its associated blockade will shrink Africa’s most industrialized economy by 7.1% in 2020. In October last year, Ramaphosa announced a recovery plan focused on job creation and increased infrastructure investment, with an average annual economic growth rate of 3% over the next 10 years. Business groups say governments are slow to implement the reforms promised to make business easier and more confident — complaints that the president is likely to address. He may also respond to trade union calls for national unemployment insurance funds to resume payments to those who have lost their jobs or have had their salaries cut due to a pandemic.

3. Measures against power shortage

South Africa has been plagued by rolling blackouts since 2005 as state-owned utility Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd. was unable to meet the demand for electricity from old, poorly maintained power plants. Many government promises to address this issue have yet to be fulfilled. Ramaphosa could secure additional supply from independent producers, improve Escom’s performance, restructure its business and elaborate on what is being done to address unsustainable debt there is.

4. Road to South African Airways

The state-owned carrier was put into bankruptcy protection in late 2019 and has been dormant for almost a year. Ramaphosa can reveal what is going on to make the SAA fly again, and whether there has been any progress in finding buyers of airline stock. The Treasury has secured $ 10.5 billion ($ 716 million) to support the SAA’s resurgence, but that may not be enough given the low demand for air travel during the pandemic. Hmm.

5. Broadband spectrum auction

The government has promised to release additional broadband spectra for years and is finally available this year. Telecommunications regulators have received six applications in response to an invitation to apply for access to a demanding spectrum and will complete the auction process by the end of next month. MTN, Africa’s largest wireless operator, complained that bids were locked out and asked the High Court to modify or cancel elements of the process, but Ramaphosa said the auction was going well. We may guarantee it.

© 2021 Bloomberg

Five important things to note in the president’s speech

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