His Majesty the King,
The Premier of KwaZulu-Natal,
The Executive Mayor of the Durban Unicity
The representatives of the United Nations Development Programme,
Members of the Diplomatic Corp,
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen,

I have great pleasure in welcoming you all to the Second Africa-Asia Business Forum. Allow me to extend a special welcome, particularly to delegates from other parts of the continent and Asia. I hope that you will enjoy your stay in our beautiful country.

Chairperson, South Africa is indeed honoured to be hosting this Forum, as we know that its objectives impact far beyond the mandate of building strong business links between our two continents. In addition to contributing to efforts of strengthening economic relations between Africa and Asia, the Forum provides another avenue for further deepening South-South ties.

The importance of this Forum also lies in the fact that it produces results, judging by the achievements of the inaugural meeting, which took place in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in 1999. It brought together two hundred and thirty African and Asian business executives to negotiate deals. Preliminary results indicate that from the twenty-seven memoranda of understanding (MOUs) that were disclosed, four of them totaled 24.5 million US dollars. It is estimated that the total value of the MOUs will exceed one hundred million US dollars.

At the same time, the benefits of the first Forum also went beyond the number of agreements entered into, as the very fact that it took place was in itself an achievement. It was able to bring together business executives from the two regions and introduced a formal structure at which they can engage each other and boost economic activity between the two continents.

Chairperson, we believe that it is important to use every available avenue to boost South-South linkages and promote stronger relationships among developing countries. Our view is that countries in the South need to work together to be able to take advantage of the opportunities that globalisation offers, while minimizing the risks.

Globalisation has brought about a need for the changing of the rules and the manner of doing business, as the world and economic arena has changed drastically. Nation states throughout the world are seeking innovative ways and means of dealing with the pressures of the new borderless economic order.

Globalisation has led to increasing integration of national economies due to the information technology and telecommunication revolution, the deregulation of financial markets and the liberalization of trade. The IT revolution has boosted electronic commerce, making it possible for capital to move beyond borders at the touch of a button.

It is encouraging to hear of the amazing success stories within the South, where some countries, such as India, have been able to leapfrog and become key players in the world information economy. Such developments provide opportunities for South-South co-operation in the information communication technology arena. It also indicates that there is a lot we can learn from each other through sharing experiences, and through forming sound business partnerships. This collaboration is crucial given that the South is poised for growth during this century. The abundance of strategic minerals within the developing world, coupled with the information technology development successes and the size of the combined markets can only make the South a hub of economic activity if we do things right and take full advantage of the opportunities.

A Forum such as this one is therefore important to ensure that we do not lose out on economic opportunities, particularly given the fact that at a political level, leaders in the African continent have taken resolutions to correct social, economic and political imbalances and also participate fully in information technology development.

The co-operation between political leaders and the private sector will be of assistance in the struggle to create a better life for the people of the South, through utilizing technology for social and economic development.

As we are all aware, our two continents are faced by serious developmental challenges, such as the need to eradicate poverty. According to statistics from the World Trade Organisation, 304 million Africans survive on only one US dollar per day, while nine out of 10 Africans in rural areas on the continent live in abject poverty.

While we are aware that technology is not the solution to all problems, we see value in utilizing it to achieve developmental goals, for example rural development.

The use of technology can improve lives through, for example, accelerating community access to water, to widen the reach of electricity distribution, improve literacy through tele-education or save lives through telemedicine. These developments are bound to have spillover effects and would no doubt create a thriving rural economy and market.

Th potential of technologies to generate wealth also needs to be strongly focused on. Budding entrepreneurs have to be nurtured through exposing them to means of financial and information access.

I am stressing this point as we regard the Africa-Asia Business Forum, as an important vehicle for discussing ways and means in which the two continents can co-operate on exploiting technological advantages for the benefit of all our peoples and also boost economic partnerships. This could also help enhance political efforts that are being undertaken.

Chairperson, we feel confident to focus on discussing partnerships for development, as the African continent is going through its best period ever. Granted, there are still problems in some parts of Africa relating to lack of peace and stability. However, there is a reason for optimism given that there is currently a new generation of leaders who are keen to turn the situation around and make the 21st century an African century.

As we speak, the Organization of African Unity is meeting in Lusaka, Zambia and the gathering is expected to take decisions that will take this continent a step forward in its journey towards unity and recovery.

Also in this meeting, the new programme for the recovery of the African continent will be tabled for discussion and adoption. The programme is based on the determination of Africans to extricate the continent from exclusion by the developed world in this era of globalisation.

Some of the key elements of the Programme are: -

Peace, security and good governance.
Working towards sustainable economic development through attracting investment, and reducing risks, real or perceived, and improve access to markets of developed countries.
Developing information and communication technologies.
Addressing of the debt question as a necessary condition for Africa to end poverty and underdevelopment.
Facing the challenge of developing and improving the financial systems of all our countries.
Urgently addressing the problem of communicable diseases in the continent, including tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS.
It is indeed a bold plan, and one that should succeed because Africans themselves are driving it. We believe the time has come for the developed world to treat Africa and the rest of the developing world as equal business partners rather than recipients of development aid and charity.

The proof of the commitment of the African leadership can also be seen in the stance taken by the OAU not to recognize leaders who come into power through military and unconstitutional means, which had become the scourge of this continent for decades since decolonisation. As Africans we should also be concerned about how much we respect the constitution as the basic law of any land and not be quick to change it to suit our own interests.

The African continent is clearly on a path of revival, Chairperson, and we would like to invite members of this Forum to become our partners in this journey, as we seek to make our continent a strong and viable region to conduct business in.

We invite you as businesspeople to be frank and honest, and point out shortcomings that you may notice in the manner in which we govern, and as leaders, we need to be open to that kind of approach for you may see mistakes that we are not aware of. Distinguished delegates, once again, let me stress that the

South African Government is indeed honoured and privileged to be associated with this Forum, and to be hosting you this week. We sincerely hope that this meeting will indeed deepen co-operation.

I wish you well in your deliberations and business negotiations.

I also hope that our visitors will make time to explore our beautiful country to discover the abundant business opportunities, the breath-taking scenery, golden beaches and our world famous game parks.

I thank you.

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