Africa is the new growth hub - Zuma

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Sun City - President Jacob Zuma has likened Africa's growth pace to that of Asia, saying the continent is fast making good progress economically and is on its way to achieving economic growth and improving the quality of life of Africans.

"As you can appreciate, we are standing in an incredibly privileged position today, where we can witness Africa's epic comeback," Zuma said at the opening of the 4th International Trade and Investment Conference hosted by the Department of Trade and Industry in the North West on Wednesday.

"We are all aware of Africa's history. Many of us have even been closely intertwined with Africa's struggles, pain and suffering. But today we can stand here and proudly watch Africa finally rising," he said.

Zuma said there was no doubt that these were only the first rays of light and that "glorious Africa" was yet to reveal itself.

South Africa is set to participate in a panel discussion during the conference, where it will be represented by Economic Development Minister Ibrahim Patel, Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies and Pravin Gordhan, the Minister of Finance.

The conference comes just days before government convenes an infrastructure summit that is expected to map the way forward for the country's infrastructure plan. Government hopes to create thousands of jobs driven by a mega infrastructure renewal and built programme over the next few years.

Patel told BuaNews earlier that the South African government intends to use the debates to further promote South Africa and the continent as the new growing investment destination for the world.

"Our key message here will be that South Africa is open for doing business. Our infrastructure programme is a platform to attract both foreign and domestic investment into infrastructure itself but also into supporting economic activities in the mining sector, green economy, manufacturing and very important for us - in agro-processing," Patel said.

Government's focus in the next decade will be on job creation and foreign investment is expected to play a crucial role in achieving the target of five million new jobs by 2020, he said.

Patel added that Africa's mineral wealth, coupled with its substantial agricultural land and youthful people, made it the place in which to invest.

"This is a place to invest in and this is a place that everybody will see aggressive economic activity in the next decade or so. Our time has arrived, we are taking charge of our destiny so the pessimists must watch this space."

In his address to the conference delegates, Zuma also denounced the Afro- pessimism that the continent has endured over many years.

"Despite all the good news, companies have been slow to enter Africa. Some executives are still missing the signals. Others question whether Africa's surge is just the result of a once-off lift by the global commodities boom, or whether it is really a sustained economic take-off. Will Africa continue to rise, they wonder, as The Economist asked last year," he said.

But what Africa needs, said Zuma, is to have her own people to believe this, and to spread this powerful positive message using all the tools and information at their disposal.

Africans need to stop being pessimistic about their continent, and to be the leading spokespersons and ambassadors.

"If we do not believe what we see and experience, the rise of our beloved motherland, why should the rest of the world? I challenge all Africans today to accept the fact that their continent is changing. They must release themselves from the shackles of self-doubt and celebrate these new developments,"