Address by President Jacob Zuma to the National Press Club, Washington DC, United States of America, 4 August 2014
The President of the National Press Club, Mr Myron Belkind,
Ministers and Deputy Ministers
Members of the National Press Club,
It is an honour and a pleasure to be able to speak to you today from the same podium that our President Nelson Mandela spoke at, 20 years ago as South Africa's first democratically elected president.
I would like to thank the National Press Club for providing this unique opportunity for us to talk about our country’s journey towards a truly non-racial, non-sexist and prosperous South Africa.
We have achieved a lot in 20 years since the dawn of freedom in 1994. We have a laid a firm foundation for a thriving democracy in a short space of time.
Amongst our key achievements, is the manner in which we have created an open democracy and an open society.
We pride ourselves in having a progressive Constitution that enshrines freedom of expression and of the media. We are also proud of our well-established democratic processes such as the holding of elections successfully and transparently every five years.
In May this year, we cast our ballots for the fifth time cheerfully, patiently and in peace. Our democracy has come of age in a very short space of time.
We have also done well in building a new society and an improved quality of life.
We have made enormous strides in expanding access to free education, housing, electricity, clean water and sanitation to people who did not have these basic services before.
Close to half of our people are now in the middle to high income brackets due to progressive transformation policies by the democratic government.
The number of people living in absolute poverty has been slashed by the extension of a sustainable safety net to 16 million of our more vulnerable citizens.
As we work towards an ambitious target of a five percent growth by 2019, we believe we have laid a sound economic foundation.
We are also encouraged by the fact that our foreign direct investment outlook continues to be positive.
Last year, 130 foreign companies entered South Africa for the first time or expanded their investments, contributing to a total direct investment inflow of 8.2 billion US dollars, which is double the figure for 2012.
Ernst & Young predicts that such flows into South Africa will average 10 billion US dollars annually for the next four years.
Foreign institutions and other investors also continue to seek opportunities within the continent, working with South African companies.
In addition, the World Economic Forum ranks South Africa among the world's best for the strength of our banks, the independence of our courts and the protection we afford property rights.
We are also recognized for the transparency of our policymaking, the rigour of our financial auditing and reporting standards, and the governance of our financial markets.
Another important study was done by Goldman Sachs last year, entitled: Two Decades of Freedom – what South Africa is doing with it and what now needs to be done.
The investment bank found much to admire in our performance between 1994 and 2013. We took our GDP from 136 billion US dollars to 400 billion US dollars.
We tamed inflation while expanding our tax base more than sevenfold. The market capitalization of businesses on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange grew eightfold.
We increased our gold and foreign exchange reserves from three billion to 50 billion US dollars.
We really have a good story to tell about 20 years of South Africa’s democratic rule.
But, we are also the first to admit that our work is not yet completed.
We still have a long, hard road ahead of us as we confront the triple challenges of unemployment, poverty and inequality.
Fortunately, we have a roadmap in the form of our National Development Plan Vision 2030.
By 2030, we want poverty to be history, unemployment to be reduced and growth to average an annual 5.4%.
These are not easy targets, but with determination and hard work, nothing is impossible.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Earlier this morning, we met with members of the US Chamber of Commerce. We are happy that there are about 600 US companies investing in the South African economy.
The presence of these companies demonstrates that South Africa is a viable investment destination.
We look forward to the further expansion of trade and investment opportunities with the US and other key markets.
The African Growth and Opportunity Act has been a powerful instrument in achieving this goal.
Over 95 percent of our exports get into the US markets through AGOA.
While opening up markets for our goods, AGOA has also been opening up and helping to grow new markets for American goods and services.
We look forward to a seamless, unconditional and long-term renewal of AGOA, with South Africa included among the beneficiaries.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Let me hasten to add that South Africa will succeed not alone, but as part of the broader African success story.
We are working to integrate our economies and to boost regional trade. We are promoting industrialization and power generation. We are developing transport infrastructure to get our goods both to overseas markets and to the new internal markets that we are creating.
Together as African countries, we are making progress in all these areas.
Trans-continental corridors running North to South and East to West are moving from the drawing board to reality.
Plans to tap the full 40 thousand megawatts hydropower potential of the Grand Inga dam in the Democratic Republic of Congo is also becoming a reality.
The free trade area uniting southern, central and east Africa into a market of 600 million consumers, with a combined GDP of one trillion US dollars, is now in prospect.
It is truly a season of great hope and promise for Africa. While challenges remain in the areas of peace and security or poverty in parts of the continent, there is a determination to find African-led solutions.
Partnerships with the world in dealing with these challenges are important.
In this regard, we welcome the opportunity that this week's US-African Leaders’ Summit provides to engage further on Africa’s economic growth, development and security.
We thank President Barack Obama for the invitation to participate in this Summit.
We are ready to discuss partnerships that will assist in making African-led initiatives succeed.
We hope that the outcomes of the Summit can be achieved and be implemented through multilateral mechanisms.
We also look forward to outcomes that will be co-owned, co-developed and be co-driven by the participating nations.
Ladies and gentlemen,
We meet during a difficult period in the Middle East. We are outraged by the killing of civilians by Israel, some in United Nations shelters.
We also condemn the killing of Israeli civilians by Hamas.
We call upon all sides to lay down arms and work towards a negotiated solution, that will lead to the internationally recognized and supported two states solution.
Ladies and gentlemen,
It has been a real privilege to meet with you today.
South Africa has a good story to tell.
We are open for investment, open for trade, open for tourism and open for partnerships that will enhance our drive towards a better life for all our people.
I thank you.
Issued by The Presidency
04 August 2014