EVENTS | 14 JUNE 2021

Taking South Africa to Market


Garth Klinthworth

Head of Global Markets, Absa


As South Africa markets itself to international investors in a post-pandemic world, the country is uniquely positioned as the gateway to our African continent, and the investment opportunities therein.

As vaccine rollouts continue across the world, South Africa is gearing up to reassert itself as the first-choice gateway to Africa and African investment opportunities. For Garth Klintworth, Head of Global Markets at Absa, the message to the world is clear. “South Africa is open for business,” he says. “And within South Africa, Absa provides a safe and responsible platform for conducting business.”

That’s the message Klintworth and the Global Markets team are taking into the virtual South Africa Tomorrow Investor Conference (17-18 June 2021). The conference’s focus is on South Africa’s post-pandemic economic recovery plan, which envisages a new era of public-private partnerships and a greater role for private investment that delivers positive social impact.

Absa’s pitch to investors is simple but powerful. “The message for investors is that we operate at a level of global best practice, and we are a trusted partner that can help new entrants and existing participants navigate South Africa’s regulatory, political and commercial environment,” says Klintworth. “Not only do we have great financial products and ideas, but we also have on-the-ground knowledge and contacts. We have over a century’s experience on the continent and understand its dynamics well.”

That intimate knowledge of the local investment environment, he adds, makes Absa a powerful African proposition within South Africa.

Positive responses to the ‘normal questions’

The South Africa Tomorrow event showcases South African institutions and listed companies to the investor community in the United Kingdom, Dubai, Hong Kong and Singapore, aiming to attract direct investment into South Africa. “In general, South Africa will run current account and/or fiscal deficits, just like the rest of the continent,” says Klintworth. “As a result, governments will depend on external capital for the wellbeing of its citizens and for their ability to deliver against its promises.”

Despite the clouds of the pandemic, Klintworth believes that international investors remain excited, but cautious, about the South African investment environment. “South Africa and Africa offer exciting prospects and frontier growth opportunities, so the mood at conferences like this is no different to normal,” he says. “But the questions asked certainly will be. Investors are asking if there is fiscal space for growth. Has the fiscal space required as the catalyst to make those prospects become relevant and real, and deliver returns timeously for capital, been crowded out by relief aid or by having to deal with credit events, bailouts, etc? Is the health infrastructure required to put us on the path of economic recovery in place?”

Klintworth believes that South Africa has a positive response to those concerns, and to what he calls “the normal questions that pop up”: questions around political stability, regulatory certainty, future regulatory adoption, execution risks, exit risks, and the legal and financial security of investments.

The gateway to Africa

Those conversations also provide Absa with an opportunity to showcase the bank’s products, clients and unique value proposition. “We believe we have a social responsibility to the continent, including South Africa,” says Klintworth. “Despite our regional legal affiliation, Absa is an international bank. As a South African-registered, listed company with multiple legal entities in Africa, we are systemic to the financial system, and systemic to the wellbeing of our clients as well as South African business and South African residents. We are a leadership voice in how South Africa can improve its GDP per capita, and how we can create wealth in the country.”

That makes Absa as a bank, and South Africa as a country, a natural choice for foreign investors who are looking for a springboard into the continent. “There are competing gateways to Africa,” Klintworth says, “but from a developed world perspective, South Africa is the natural point of entry. We understand that there are alternatives, but we would like to explain why South Africa is the best choice.”

World-class events like the South Africa Tomorrow Investor Conference provide the platform for exactly that.

Garth Klinthworth

Head of Global Markets, Absa

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