Address by President Jacob Zuma on the occasion of the South Africa-France Business Forum, Sandton Convention Centre, Johannesburg, 14 October 2013
Your Excellency President François Hollande,
Honourable Ministers from South Africa and France,
Members of the diplomatic corps,
Business Leaders and Captains of Industry,
It is a pleasure for me to be addressing you today on the occasion of the South Africa - France Business Forum.
Let me once again, extend a warm welcome to President Hollande and his distinguished delegation to South Africa and to this Business Forum.
We are very happy to host the President as it provides an opportunity to further enhance our relations with France on many levels especially the economic front.
We had successful bilateral discussions this morning covering various areas of cooperation. We are both satisfied that the relations between the two countries can only deepen, going forward.
We are encouraged by the fact that total trade between the two countries has shown signs of recovery from the global economic crisis.
We trust that your discussions at this business forum will take this recovery further by exploiting more opportunities.
We are happy that there is already lot of economic activity between the two countries.
South African companies have shown a keen interest in France and made sizeable investments amounting to more than R94 million.
We know that our companies are looking forward to increasing their exports into the French market. This forum and ongoing discussions will assist in opening up more opportunities.
Similarly the stock value of French Foreign Direct Investment in South Africa is currently at R9.4 billion with notable investments in renewable energy, consumer products, automotives and infrastructure.
We are therefore working from a strong base. This visit will build on these achievements and increase trade while also assisting to correct the balance.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Let me emphasise that this visit takes place as we begin to implement our socio-economic blueprint, the New Development Plan.
The NDP is our national vision that spells out our mission of eliminating poverty, reducing inequality and accelerating economic growth in South Africa by 2030.
We seek to do this by drawing on the energies of the country's people, growing an inclusive economy, enhancing the capacity of the state, and promoting leadership and partnerships throughout society.
The advantage of having a national vision document like the NDP is that our nation and also our development partners will know exactly what we are trying to achieve and where we want to be by the year 2030. It removes doubt and uncertainty about the direction of this new and very young democracy.
We have already begun implementing the NDP, especially through the economic instruments such as the New Growth Path and the Industrial Policy Action Plan.
The New Growth Path mentions six focus areas that we want to draw your attention to. These are agriculture, tourism, mining and beneficiation, the green economy, infrastructure development and manufacturing.
We are pleased that some companies represented here are already focussing on these areas.
We are excited with the success of our national infrastructure plan.
Over the next 15 to 20 years, we will spend more than R4 trillion to alleviate the constraints and bottlenecks we are experiencing in energy, transport, water and communication infrastructure.
Some of these projects have been completed or are nearing completion while others will take a few more years, due to their magnitude.
Already last month, we re-opened Grootvlei power station, contributing to solving the energy demands in our growing economy.
We will be opening a number of other projects – dams, roads, automotive wagons, hospitals and schools. South Africa is therefore a country under construction and already some French companies are participating in the infrastructure plan.
Our Industrial Policy Action Plan has identified a range of policy measures to promote industrial development and to boost manufacturing. I am sure many of these measures and opportunities have been shared with you at this forum.
We encourage localisation in order to boost our local manufacturing sector.
As part of our broad-based black economic empowerment plan, we want to promote the growth of black industrialists. We would encourage French companies that want to partner South African companies to bear this strategic goal in mind.
We are also creating special economic zones, which provide an appropriate environment for foreign and domestic investment and the development of strategic industrial capabilities.
Ladies and gentlemen
Let me once again welcome the presence of French companies in South Africa. You are in the right country in the right continent at the right time.
It is clear that international investors are increasingly becoming aware that the rate of return on foreign investment in Africa is higher than in any other region in the world.
In addition, African’s competitive advantage continues to draw investments into the continent.
Like most African countries, South Africa offers natural advantages such as its extraordinary mineral wealth and agricultural potential.
It has favourable demographics that include a young working population, and also urbanization and a growing middle class with considerable and growing purchasing power.
These ingredients combine significantly to enhance our economic development prospects and make South Africa a land of abundant opportunities and possibilities.
We will continue to ensure a conducive trade and investment environment. Discussions at forums such as this are helpful as we hear directly from the business community as to what is working and what can be done better to make it easier to do business in our country.
Ladies and gentlemen
We have realised that we need to focus on two key factors to further improve the continent’s competitiveness. That is to promote regional integration and build infrastructure to make it easier to do business in the continent.
As a first step, we have made considerable progress in the Tripartite Initiative that draws together countries of Eastern and Southern Africa.
By 2015 we expect to establish a free trade area amongst these countries combining the markets of 26 countries with a population of nearly 600 million people, and a combined GDP of a trillion US dollars.
Underpinning this has been an intensive programme of work to advance infrastructure across the continent. This includes the programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa and the Presidential Infrastructure Championing Initiative, with the flagship programme being the North-South Corridor.
In order to fast track the implementation of this ambitious infrastructure programme, as African leaders we launched the Presidential Infrastructure Champion Initiative, which I chair.
The aim is for Heads of State and Government to champion specific strategic regional projects that will enhance regional integration and unlock development.
The North-South Corridor, which South Africa champions, is currently conceived to be from Durban to Dar-Es-Salaam and will ultimately widen to cover the Cape to Cairo.
Projects include road, rail and bridges. This provides opportunities for companies in the infrastructure sector to expand further into the region.
At a broader level, we are looking at building infrastructure necessary for more integrated transport, energy, ICT and trans-boundary water networks to boost trade, spark growth and create jobs. This will boost the ability of African countries to trade amongst themselves and also to attract more foreign direct investments and partnerships.
Let me emphasise how happy we are to host President Hollande and his delegation for this historic State Visit.
Our two nations will nurture the present relationship and build towards our vision of a prosperous South Africa, a peaceful Africa and a better world.
I therefore welcome you as Captains of Industry to partner with us in realizing our African dream by optimizing on the investment opportunities presented during this visit.
I thank you.
Issued by The Presidency