Newly appointed Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene – the country’s first black finance minster – has his sights fixed on growing the South African economy.
Speaking to journalists after being sworn into office in Pretoria on Monday, Nene said the National Development Plan (NDP) laid out ways of improving unemployment and tackling underdevelopment in the country.
“The work has begun on growing the economy; we would like to look at investing in infrastructure. We have a solid team working within the Treasury, and we will continue to work as a collective.”
On Tuesday, Statistics SA reported that South Africa’s gross domestic product (GDP) had contracted 0.6 percent quarter-on-quarter in the first three months of the year – its first contraction since the second quarter of 2009, when the world’s economy dipped as a result of a global recession.
Nene said that Africa was the next big frontier for growth internationally, adding that South Africa would be working with the rest of the continent in driving economic growth.
He said he was happy that his appointment had been met with positively. “The reason why there is that positivity is because it signals continuity and stability, especially that the appointment is from within the department.”
The South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Sacci) welcomed Nene’s appointment. Sacci CEO Neren Rau said on Monday that the National Treasury would be “in the hands of a skilled and experienced leader in Minister Nene. Sacci anticipates a strong partnership with the ministry, as was experienced under Minister Gordhan”.
Rau added that former Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan’s move to the portfolio of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs gave him an opportunity to make a difference in the local government sphere, especially in addressing service delivery and local economic development.
Nene was a Member of Parliament from 1999 through 2008, serving as co-chairperson of Parliament’s budget committee from 2002 to 2005. He was appointed deputy finance minister in 2008, and served as a member of the local organising committee for the 2010 Fifa World Cup, as well as chairperson of the Public Investment Corporation.