Address by President J G Zuma to the South Africa-Russia Business Forum on the Occasion of the Official Visit to the Russian Federation, Moscow,
Russia, 06 August 2010
Ministers from the two delegations,
The President of Business Unity SA, Ms Futhi Mtoba,
Co-Chairpersons of the South Africa-Russia Business Forum,
Excellencies Ambassadors of South Africa and Russia,
Distinguished Captains of industry and commerce,
Ladies and gentlemen,
We are nearing the conclusion of a highly successful visit to Russia, which is a historic friend of the South African people.
Many South Africans regard Russia as home, as they lived and studied here during the struggle against apartheid. Many others were born here, and spoke Russian before any South African language.
We have fond memories of that solidarity and friendship, which existed when friends of the oppressed in South Africa and Africa were very few. It is the basis on which we can build stronger political, economic and social ties.
Ladies and gentlemen,
An important part of the visit is no doubt the business segment. That is why we are encouraged by the hard work that has taken place on the margins of the visit, to promote trade relations.
The South Africa-Russia Business Council is a crucial mechanism of interaction by our respective business communities.
We will provide all the support we can as government, to support the Council and to create the necessary enabling environment for business to thrive between the two countries.
Ladies and gentlemen,
During this visit we have certainly taken our relations with Russia to a higher level politically. We have also laid strong seeds for people to people cooperation, and also to work together on international multilateral issues.
As South Africa, we are driven by the imperative to take forward the economic transformation of South Africa, and advance the fight against poverty through promoting the creation of decent work.
That is why the South African business community is a key partner in our foreign policy.
Business Unity South Africa understands that point very well, and we continue to work well together to promote stronger economic linkages in Africa and the world.
We are building these linkages to create decent work for the South African population, and contribute meaningfully to the fight against poverty. The creation of decent jobs is the primary focus of our economic policies.
We are pleased that the South African delegation comprises both big and small business enterprises, providing a wider scope for Russia.
As we conclude the visit, we can sense that the mood is upbeat and optimistic on the South African side. We therefore expect many positive economic spin offs from this visit.
The South African economy offers many opportunities for the Russian Federation, given the diverse nature of our economy.
As per the resolutions of our ruling party at its 52nd national conference in December 2007, which created the foundation for our policies during this term of government, our vision is to create a truly mixed economy.
It is an economy where the state, private capital, cooperative and other forms of social ownership, complement each other in an integrated way to eliminate poverty and promote shared economic growth.
It is an economy that is connected to the world, and in particular, which is integrated into the Southern African region and our continent as a whole.
To achieve our goals, we are building a developmental state, which will play a strategic and central role in shaping the key sectors of the economy, such as mining, energy and infrastructure development, including information and communications technologies.
The developmental state must ensure that our national resources such as land, water, minerals and marine resources are utilized to help us increase economic growth and employment.
As part of implementing our vision, and to create the backbone for the success of this developmental state, we are currently engaged in a massive infrastructure development programme.
We are investing more than 106 billion US dollars over the next three years.
This goes beyond the infrastructure developed for the 2010 FIFA Soccer World Cup.
Another key project that we are engaged in, is the review of the role of State Owned Entreprises, agencies, utilities, and companies in which the state has significant shareholding.
The enterprises are a key strategic resource and an important economic base. We have to ensure that they act in terms of our overarching industrial policy and economic transformation objectives.
The Presidential Review Committee assigned to undertake this work has already started its work and is progressing well, under the oversight of the Presidency.
The end result will be clearly focused and developmental enterprises, which will be in line with the country’s mandate of creating decent work, improving skills development, enhancing rural development and other strategic priorities.
The review occurs as part of several other key initiatives of preparing our economy for growth. For example, we recently launched the second phase of our industrial policy, a three year Industrial Policy Action Plan.
It represents a significant step forward in strengthening our efforts to promote long term industrialisation.
It also provides for diversification beyond our traditional strengths in commodities and non-tradable services.
Ladies and gentlemen,
We are keen to obtain lessons from the Russian Federation’s own transformation. It has been one of the most breathtaking in recent economic history.
Russia has influenced several countries to consider changes in their industrial and economic policies and will continue to do so in decades to come.
That is why our partnership is an important one as we have a lot to learn from each other.
But most importantly, the South Africa-Russia cooperation presents enormous opportunities for both countries.
From our side, we have brought here the message that the South African economy offers a multitude of opportunities. This is something to which a number of Russian companies can already attest.
In the last few years we have seen a dramatic escalation in the participation of major Russian companies in South Africa with investment stock from Russia amounting to more than nine billion rand.
South African investment into Russia has also been growing steadily.
Beyond the lucrative opportunities the South African market offers, co-operation with our companies also offer unique opportunities in global markets.
Currently South Africa is the largest investor within the African continent. Our companies have established valuable expertise, knowledge and the required relationships to succeed in this promising market.
By combining expertise and developing synergies, Russian and South African companies can establish successful partnerships, which will also contribute to the development of the continent within the framework of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development.
Within the continent, key projects have been identified in fields such as infrastructure, energy as well as information and communication technologies.
We will also work to further explore the market offered by the Brazil-Russia-India-China or BRIC grouping. We are happy that we have a strong working relationship bilaterally and collectively with all the BRIC countries.
We extend a warm welcome the new chairperson of the South African chapter of the South Africa-Russia Business Council, Mr Robert Gumede.
The Council should be able to function optimally now, with leadership having been finalized on the South African side. We have been informed that the resolution of this matter affected operations.
We will wish the Council well in its work, and government will provide support as much as it can.
Ladies and gentlemen,
As you are aware we have just emerged from the hard work of hosting the 2010 FIFA Soccer World Cup tournament.
FIFA and others say the tournament was amongst the most successful, profitable and safest World Cup events ever held. More importantly for us, the World Cup has contributed towards ending Afro-pessimism.
It proved that Africans are capable of hosting events of such magnitude successfully.
We are humbled to have achieved that on behalf of Africa and the developing world as a whole.
The FIFA World Cup also left a legacy of nation building in South Africa, as well as valuable skills, infrastructure and other benefits.
Having experienced the benefits of such an event, we wish Russia the best of luck in its bid to host the World Cup tournament. South Africa is ready to share its experiences and project management skills if required.
His Excellency President Medvedev has welcomed our offer of partnership in this regard.
We look forward to welcoming more Russian investors into our country and to work with you to ensure a productive and profitable experience for the companies that invest and trade in South Africa.
We know that Russia is waiting to welcome more of our enterprises too, to explore opportunities in this market.
We congratulate all for a successful business forum, and a successful visit. It should be the beginning of more robust economic activity between the two countries.
I thank you.