Address to the South Africa-Netherlands Chamber of Commerce Luncheon
22 September 2003

The President of SANEC,
Members of the business community,
Members of the Diplomatic Corp,
Esteemed guests,

I am very grateful for the opportunity of meeting with you today, especially given the warm nature of the historic relations between South Africa and the Netherlands.

We have fond memories of the powerful solidarity and active support from the people of the Netherlands for our struggle against oppression. For that we sincerely thank you.

We are also encouraged by the continued support for Africa in this country, as mentioned in the Throne speech of Her Majesty the Queen last week.

Dear friends, consolidating the trade and investment ties between our two countries is extremely important to us, and I would like to thank the South Africa Netherlands Chamber of Commerce for the sterling work you are doing to achieve these objectives.

Almost 10 years ago, South Africa began a new era as we ushered in democracy. We began to build a new nation, based on a Constitution that guaranteed a common nationhood, respect for human rights and equality for all.

Most of all we chose to move away from our painful past to build a new caring society and a better life for all.

Next year on April 27, we will be celebrating the 10th anniversary of freedom. This will be a special day for all South Africans and for our friends throughout the world. Our transition in 1994 astonished the world, and is still referred to as a miracle, as we went beyond international expectations.

We have made tremendous progress in building a new nation since then.

When we came to power in 1994, we were faced with countless problems inherited from the past, including massive structural imbalances and gross economic inequalities. The economy was in decline and in its fourth year of recession, with the GDP having contracted in 1993 by 2.1%.

Government spending on the other hand was beyond our means, with a budget deficit of more than 9% of GDP. Since then, we have been able to contain it, increase revenue through more efficient tax collection, maintain economic growth, and redirect government spending to achieve real social delivery.

Our budget deficit has stabilized at less than 2.5% of GDP. Similarly, our growth remains steady, year after year, above 2% of GDP. In spite of global economic slowdowns, South Africa's economy continued to grow, proving its durable strength.

Our Government's achievements have been breathtaking. We could spend the whole day here if I were to go through all of them. Housing is one example.

Since 1994, we have provided homes to more 1,4 million families and about 22 000 emerging contractors the majority of whom are owned and directed by people who had historically been prevented in participating in the apartheid's economy due to racial discrimination have benefited from the housing projects.

Government has also transferred more than 400 000 previously rented homes to families that were occupying them. In essence, in the first eight years of democracy, South Africa has succeeded in housing 20% of the population.

Never in history has a country of our size been able to realize a social project on this scale in such relatively short space of time.

Across the board, in every sector, we have transformed South Africa.

Whether in providing primary health care to all, supplying potable water or ensuring access to education - the changes have been impressive and visible.

Yes, we still have many challenges, but we have a clear vision and programme of how to tackle them.

One of these challenges is HIV and AIDS. The advantage is that the HIV/AIDS issue is a national question in which all sectors are involved.

Through the South African National Aids Council, which I chair, we are able to co-ordinate the response of each sector - business, labour, youth, women, traditional leaders and others. We are proud of this Partnership Against AIDS as through it, we are able to expand our response to the epidemic.

Our prevention campaigns are reaching the entire population and research puts awareness levels at over 90%. We are working harder to translate the awareness into a change in behaviour, to be able to prevent new infections.

Our government has also been at the forefront of efforts to make generic antiretroviral drugs available, to ensure wider access at lower cost.

This is done within the context of our five year HIV and AIDS comprehensive strategic plan, which guides our national elaborate work on HIV and AIDS.

We are also mindful of the fact that our success cannot be totally divorced from that of the continent. In this vein, we are actively involved in the efforts for the regeneration of the African continent.

We humbly request your support in these efforts, especially for African Union programmes such as the New Partnership for Africa's Development, (Nepad), the blueprint for the socio-economic development of the continent.

South Africa also plays a key role in conflict resolution and peacekeeping in the continent, especially in countries such as Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo and others. These are all efforts for which we seek your support.

THE NEXT DECADE

In the next decade of our freedom, we will continue our battle to eradicate poverty and to improve access to a better life for all our people.

We will also continue efforts to deracialise the economy, which was distorted during the apartheid era, designed to leave control and ownership in the hands of the minority of the population.

One of the key corrective strategies we are engaged in is Black Economic Empowerment. Our government intends to set aside R10 billion over the next five years to support the funding of new ventures and business expansions that meet agreed black empowerment criteria with an aim of deepening participation in the ownership and management of the private sector by all South Africans.

Black Economic Empowerment opens many new opportunities for foreign investors who wish to go into partnership with emerging businesses.

I must reiterate that the economic linkages between our two countries are very encouraging and there are practical successes. We are delighted that the sale of South African wines in the Netherlands has increased by 18.2%, firmly placing South Africa in the number two position in this country.

Let me use this opportunity to sincerely urge you to consider South Africa as an investment destination. Our country is becoming one of the top emerging markets from an investment perspective, and is a logical choice for foreign direct investment.

Our Government has taken strong action over the last nine years to make South Africa investor friendly, for example in relaxing currency exchange regulations and in introducing a range of special incentives.

You would also be aware of our infrastructure advantages, including the fact that our services such as the banking sectors are world class, backed by other services such as an efficient water and electricity supply and transport network.

The country also boasts a large and highly developed telecommunications network, including the latest in fixed-line, wireless, satellite and cellular technology.

The growth of the cellular industry has been phenomenal. About 9.5 million people form the current cellular subscriber base. It is estimated that the figure will grow to 18 million users by 2005, which is remarkable for a developing country of about 40 million people.

The South Africa-EU Free Trade Agreement as well as the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act gives us many advantages with regard to the EU and the United States markets. This should also make South Africa attractive from an investment perspective.

Ladies and gentlemen, in the next decade of our freedom, we will continue to consolidate the gains we have already made, and proceed with our mission to make South Africa a better place for all its citizens to live and prosper in.

Coupled with this, is our intention to take the renewal of the continent further, in order the break the endless cycles of poverty, war and misery that have plagued our continent for so long.

We know that we can rely on you as partners in this noble journey.

I thank you for your support thus far.

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2003 Department of Foreign Affairs, Republic of South Africa