October 3, 2018 / 10:18 PM / 20 days ago

Under fire about the economy, South Africa's Ramaphosa eyes jobs plan

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Under pressure over his track record on the economy, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa will convene a gathering of top officials and business leaders on Thursday to find solutions to the country’s long-running unemployment crisis.

FILE PHOTO: South Africa's President Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa addresses the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York, U.S., September 25, 2018. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri/File Photo

More than two decades after the end of white minority rule, South Africa still has one of the highest jobless rates among major global economies, with more than a quarter of its work force unemployed.

Ramaphosa, who took over from scandal-plagued Jacob Zuma in February, has made reviving the economy and boosting job creation a cornerstone of his reform drive.

At a state of the nation address to parliament shortly after becoming president, he said the Jobs Summit would come up with a set of initiatives to drive inclusive growth.

“The summit is about unblocking economic constraints,” said Tanya Cohen, chief executive of Business Unity South Africa, one of the organisers of the two-day summit outside Johannesburg.

“Some of the proposals have the potential to create jobs and boost growth in the short term, others are about changing the long-term structure of our economy so that it is not too concentrated,” Cohen added.

International organizations including the World Bank have been calling for decisive action to address South Africa’s high levels of unemployment and inequality for many years.

In its South Africa Economic Update earlier this year, the World Bank said improving the quality of basic education and improving spatial integration between economic hubs were two interventions that could reduce inequality and support job creation.

Ramaphosa’s efforts to revive growth have been welcomed by investors but were dealt a blow last month when data showed the economy had fallen into recession for the first time in a decade.

Since then Ramaphosa has unveiled a “stimulus and recovery plan” to try to get the economy back on track.

Reporting by Alexander Winning; Editing by Hugh Lawson

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