Address by President JG Zuma to G20 business leaders on partnering with Africa’s dynamic markets; Toronto, Canada – 24 June 2010
Stephen Hayes, President and CEO of the Corporate Council on Africa;
Lucien Bradet, President and CEO of the Canadian Council on Africa;
Leadership of the Pan African Chamber of Commerce and Industry;
Leadership of Business Unity South Africa;
Esteemed guests and delegates:
It is a great pleasure to have the honour of speaking at this event.
This gathering comes at a really significant moment in Africa’s economic history. The world is finally beginning to move beyond the myths about Africa. For that reason, it is important for the political and business leadership of the continent and the world to interact regularly, to prevent misconceptions.
We therefore value this meeting.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Africa offers a huge market of one billion people and provides enormous economic potential. Sub-Saharan Africa is the third fastest growing region in the world, after China and India. There is every expectation that Africa’s current pace of growth will remain at a high level, at around six percent per year.
As Africa we bring to the G8 and G20 Summit the key message that we must, together as the developing and developed worlds, promote stronger and more effective international partnerships for growth and development.
If we are serious about this challenge we need to ensure that sufficient time and attention is given to Africa in these summits.
We will be emphasising that Africa is open to meaningful partnerships and engagement towards ensuring sustainable development, and to meet the United Nations Millennium Development Goals.
We underscore as well that our markets are open for trade and investments. Africa must now not be viewed as only a destination for development aid.
Ladies and gentlemen,
We meet as the world recovers from the global economic crisis which caused devastation in many national economies.
Africa surprised many as it fared better than most regions and registered growth. The average growth last year for the advanced economies was about minus two-and-a-half percent, while that of Africa was two percent. Low income countries in Africa grew at over three percent.
In South Africa, we are fortunate that we have been able to counteract the economic slowdown and its adverse effects. This is thanks to good policies and regulations, business rescue programmes, job retention schemes and huge infrastructure programmes. Our economy registered five percent growth in the first quarter of the year.
Like Canada, South Africa’s banks were protected against the financial crisis by good regulation and good practice by policy makers and our private sector.
There are many reasons why Africa was not as devastated. At the political level, there is no doubt that accountability and political freedom have improved enormously in the continent since the end of the Cold War. There have been significant improvements in the four African Union Peer Review Mechanism pillars: democracy and political governance, economic management, corporate governance, and socio-economic development.
The index of political freedom prepared by the think-tank Freedom House, shows that while less than a third of African countries were classified as free or partly free in 1990, today about two thirds of African countries are considered free or partly free. The Kennedy School Index of Good Governance shows that governance in 38 African countries has improved since 2000.
There is also marked improvement in peace and security in the continent. The African Union has declared 2010 as the Year of Peace and Security. Progress has been made with regards to the Peace and Security Council, an African Standby Force, and a Panel of the Wise responsible for mediation and preventive diplomacy.
The G8 Africa Action Plan of 2002, which makes certain commitments to supporting peace and security in Africa, needs to be pursued vigorously. This includes support for African efforts to resolve the principal armed conflicts on the continent.
The G8 countries had also committed to assist with disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration. They undertook to provide technical and financial assistance to support peacekeeping operations.
Economically, Africa performed better because of improved economic policies, good prices for commodities and rising domestic consumption.
You will recall also, Ladies and Gentlemen, that at the London G20 summit, world leaders made provision for special measures to assist developing countries. IMF funds were topped up, the regional development banks were recapitalised, and the World Bank made emergency trade credits available. No doubt these measures also helped.
What we have achieved is a real African rebirth in the true sense of the word. This should make African markets attractive to development partners in the North and the emerging South, including the international private sector. The environment is being created for economic growth and development.
Of course there is much more to do in terms of economic reform, and the development of infrastructure and social services in Africa. I doubt that many will disagree, though, that we know better and agree more than before on what we still have to do in Africa.
This understanding is what informs the New Partnership for Africa’s Development – NEPAD – which provides a practical programme for the economic development of the continent. It envisages Africans working together to advance our common economic progress.
Ladies and gentlemen,
We reiterate that Africa is open for business. It is open for trade and investment.
The biggest development in Africa’s economic relationships in recent times has been the increasing role of countries of the South in our trade and investment links. Nevertheless, the advanced economies of the North remain very important to the continent. They provide us with mature markets, helpful networks, innovative technologies, and an important source of foreign direct investment.
However, the African continent also calls for fair trade. Our movement forward will be greatly enhanced by the speeding up of economic reforms to enable more inclusive and faster growth.
It is our strong view that the United Nations and its member states must play a role in the ongoing international discussion on reforming and strengthening the international financial and economic system. We also support the move to a more open, transparent and merit-based approach to choose the heads of the World Bank and the IMF.
When we raise these issues, we should not create the impression that we have come cap-in-hand to ask for favours. The developing world has an equal right to direct the work of these institutions.
We need to prioritise the completion of the Doha Development Round. This will ensure that the developing countries have favourable access to markets in the developed world without restrictive conditions. Africa has strong potential on raw commodities and this will be the mainstay of our economies in the foreseeable future and for many years to come. It is therefore crucial that we harness and optimise these resources in a global community where there are limited trade barriers and protectionist policies.
These are some of the measures we will keep pushing for.
It is imperative that we achieve a just international financial and economic order. We will continue to do our bit as a continent to formulate policies that will create the right investment environment, and we will continue to improve on good governance.
The African Union is unambiguous on the need to achieve these goals. Other goals include our ambitious strategic infrastructure programmes which link countries in the regions, and the creation of functional Regional Economic Communities in the continent.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Our continent will also benefit from adequately developed human resources. It is therefore vital that the North makes favourable contributions towards improved Human Development Indicators in this continent. In this regard, work towards achieving the MDGs cannot be over-emphasised.
I am aware that you share these concerns and goals as business people as well.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
As you are aware, we left South Africa in the grip of a massive football fever. There have been ongoing street parties since the launch of the 2010 FIFA World Cup tournament on the 11th of June.
We are happy that everything has gone so well since the start of the tournament. Football has proven once again its power to unite people and to unite the world. Africa can host events of this magnitude and we are proving Afro-pessimists wrong. We are truly proud to be hosting the tournament on behalf of Africa.
South Africa has invested a lot in the World Cup tournament and this is yielding economic benefits. Preparations for the World Cup in recent years have boosted the level of our GDP already. Additional spending by World Cup visitors and residents should boost economic growth this year alone by at least zero point three percentage points.
The marketing benefits, including tourism spin offs, will no doubt be felt for many years to come. The benefits in terms of building unity and social cohesion in the country cannot be quantified. South Africa will never be the same again.
We have to build on the gains and ensure that we do not lose the momentum. Most importantly, we succeeded in laying out and improving the necessary infrastructure, such as stadia, airports and roads, and the necessary services, on time. We are confident that this massive infrastructure investment will prove to be a good pull factor for you as you consider your next investment destination in Africa.
More than the infrastructure that our future generations will inherit, we remain hopeful that the various skills that our people acquired since we started working on this FIFA World Cup project, will prove useful going forward.
In addition to the economic benefits, we want to see the lasting legacy of education for the African continent. South Africa is hosting a high level Education Summit to promote the 1 Goal Education for All Campaign. World leaders will be asked to dedicate themselves to ensuring that every child is in school by the next FIFA World Cup tournament in Brazil in 2014. This is one of the most important legacies of the World Cup in Africa.
We do not expect a slowdown in the aftermath of the World Cup. There is so much still to do. There are houses to build, schools and hospitals to improve. We will also continue to focus on our top priorities such as creating decent jobs, improving education, health care and rural development, as well as the fight against crime.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Canada has long been a good friend to democracy and growth in Africa. We celebrate this relationship today, with the wish that it will proceed to greater heights. We look forward to a productive engagement over the next few days.
As Africans we are ready as always to work with development partners from other regions, to build a better Africa and a better world.
May I use this opportunity to urge you to visit South Africa before the end of the World Cup. You cannot afford to miss the vibrancy of the first World Cup competition on African soil!
I thank you.