Address by Deputy President Jacob Zuma to the Benin Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Cotonou, Republic of Benin, 12 August 2004

Distinguished Members of the Benin
Chamber of Commerce and Industry,
His Excellency Chief Gwadiso, the South African Ambassador
To Benin and Cote d'Ivoire,
Esteemed guests,

Thank you for the opportunity to interact with eminent members of this Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

It is important to us that we obtained this opportunity to meet with you, during our visit to this beautiful and hospitable sister country.

We feel at home in Benin, and correctly so, given the warm nature of relations between our two countries. We trust that our visit will serve to further concretise these relations at all levels.

Brother and sisters, our country has reached an important milestone this year, with the celebration of 10 years of freedom and democracy. Allow me this opportunity therefore to express our sincere appreciation for the support extended by Benin and its people to our liberation struggle. The Victory over apartheid is a victory of the whole of Africa, and in which Benin played a significant part.

Earlier today, we had the privilege of meeting with President Kerekou, and our wide-ranging discussions confirmed the determination of the two countries to work together not only in further deepening bilateral relations, but in promoting the regeneration of our continent, and working for a better world.

The President stressed the importance of economic and development co-operation between our two countries and we are in full agreement in this regard.

In addition to the sound political relations, there are many opportunities of co-operation between our respective business sectors, within the context of the New Partnership for Africa's Development, (NEPAD).

Africa is faced with the challenges of fighting poverty through promoting self-reliant and sustainable development. Within the NEPAD framework, we are aware of the need to create the right political and social conditions for this to take place. This includes consolidating democracy as well as good political and economic governance, and to accelerate the efforts of resolving conflicts and supporting peace operations.

With regards to conflict resolution, you would be aware that the African Union and regional organisations are doing all they can to restore peace and stability and put an end to the suffering and loss of life in affected parts of the continent.

The peace efforts in Dafur, Cote d'Ivoire, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo and other parts of the continent indicate the seriousness with which the resolution of conflicts is being taken by continental leadership.

The recent establishment of the Peace and Security Council by the African Union has greatly enhanced Africa's capacity to address its security challenges, to bring about conditions that are conducive to promoting democracy, respect for human rights and sustainable development.

Ladies and gentlemen, the African business sector cannot be bystanders in these efforts. We urge you to partner with us in rebuilding the continent. We urge the African business sector to play its part in promoting economic growth and development.

Some of the priority sectors for development, within the NEPAD context, include:

  • Agriculture and food security,
  • Infrastructure development,
  • Health, education and human resource development,
  • Science and technology,
  • Mining and tourism.

Paying attention to these areas will assist the continent to respond to the challenges of unemployment, under-development and lack of economic diversification.

I am confident that NEPAD as an instrument embodies your own aspirations for economic well-being and development as the Benin Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Let me emphasise ladies and gentlemen, that the private sector is the key to assisting Africa to attain self-reliant development. The public sector on its own would not generate enough resources for this monumental challenge. That is why priority is given to creating conducive conditions for the development of the private sector.

We need a strong African business sector that can meet the challenges of building a new Africa.

The strategy for strengthening the African private sector is being developed in co-operation with the NEPAD Business Group.

This includes the strengthening of the co-ordination of national, regional and continental small, medium and micro-sized enterprises. It is envisaged that African small and medium enterprise will play a role in infrastructure development projects and other initiatives, hence the mobilisation of financial support from development partners in the North, as well as from multilateral international finance institutions.

Distinguished guests, as I stated in the beginning, the aim of my visit is also to lend further impetus to the deepening relations between South Africa and Benin.

The Co-operation Agreement signed last year effectively launched this co-operation and enhanced our constructive bilateral relations.

We are looking forward to improving the existing economic relations between our two countries, and from our discussions earlier today with President Kerekou, our two countries have a clear vision of how we can take this co-operation forward. The areas of transport and infrastructure development, tourism, food processing systems, as well as information and communication technology, are but a few sectors in which Benin and South Africa can co-operate.

While South Africa may offer expertise in the above-mentioned areas, Benin has a wide range of products that South Africa may need, such as cotton, cement and agricultural products. Together we can therefore find concrete projects to cooperate on for mutual benefit.

In conclusion, may I once again thank you for the honour accorded to me to share with you part of our vision for a better future, as we build a prosperous and peaceful Africa.

I thank you.

Issued by: The Presidency
12 Aug 2004

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