Welcome Address by His Excellency, President Jacob Zuma, at the World Economic Forum Africa Regional Meeting 2017, Durban, 04 May 2017
Excellencies Heads of State and Government;
Distinguished delegates and special guests,
Good morning to you all.
Thank you Professor Schwab for your opening remarks. It is always a pleasure and honour for South Africa to host the Africa meeting of the World Economic Forum on behalf of Africa.
Let me thank the Heads of State and Government who have taken time off their busy schedules to travel to South Africa to attend this important gathering.
We are truly pleased to host all the delegates.
This Forum meeting takes place under an important theme, which emphasises inclusive growth.
This presents an opportunity to discuss vigorously, the various issues of economic growth and development, mindful of the fact that opportunities from that growth must not be enjoyed only by a few.
The global context has evolved since we last met in Cape Town in 2015. In the past two years we have seen a drop in commodity prices which affected a number of economies in Africa.
We have also witnessed an increase in social discontent among citizens globally, due to increasing alienation and exclusion.
The theme for this year’s World Economic Forum on Africa is therefore most relevant to the challenges facing the world.
Other critical challenges facing the world include weak economic growth, the management of migration, global security and terrorism as well as related international crimes.
The youth, in particular, have been very clear in calling for leaders to address issues of exclusion, inequality, poverty and unemployment.
They are an important stakeholder for us because Africa is a youthful continent, which means we are a continent that has a very bright future if we invest correctly in our young people.
Importantly, as leaders we have not addressed adequately, how we are going to close the gap between the rich and poor in the world, and achieve meaningful inclusive growth. The gap between the developed and developing worlds or North and South remains huge, while the gap between rich and poor in many countries also remains wide.
We grappled with this theme of unbaiting inequality in Davos a few years ago. We are pleased that this week some of these issues will be discussed by global leaders at this forum.
We support the G20 resolution of 2016 that a people-centered sustainable development must be achieved which ensures that no one is left behind and that the dignity of every person on the planet is protected.
This can only be achieved if each country is allowed to grow its economy base on its unique features without imposing conditions.
Also important as decision makers discuss this week, is for all to commit to the advancement of a just world order, as outlined in the United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Goals and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda.
In working towards facilitating inclusive growth and prosperity, the continent has a number of issues to resolve, which we are already addressing, and which are in line with our continental blueprint, Agenda 2063.
In our country, we speak about radical economic transformation, which in our view will take us on the path to inclusive growth and a better life for all.
Moves are already underway to radically transform the African economy. Infrastructure development remains top of the agenda to ease the movement of goods, people and services across Africa. Also critical is the work that is being done to promote regional integration and intra-Africa trade.
In our region SADC we have decided to prioritise industrialization especially through labour intensive manufacturing to promote job creation. Other focus areas include agriculture in order to improve food security and also to begin to derive more value from the ocean, through boosting the ocean economy. These are areas that many investors would find lucrative on the African continent.
For Africa to succeed in taking these programmes forward, we need to mobilise appropriate financing.
Accordingly, we must invest in developing local capital markets and mobilise domestic resources through taxation and other means.
More importantly, one of the most important actions that are critical for Africa in sourcing finance, is to arrest illicit financial flows. Billions are taken out of Africa each year and this is money that should be used to fund our development.
We are encouraged by the work done by the Financial Action Task Force.
One of the recommendations of the Task Force is that countries should identify, assess and understand the money laundering and terrorist financing risk for the country and that countries should take action. This is of absolute importance.
However, while much has been done globally to fight terrorism financing, the proliferation of illegal weapons and money laundering, not much has been done to fight profit shifting, tax crimes and other related economic crimes.
We wish to emphasise therefore, that combating the illicit financial flows, transfer pricing and other related international financial crimes is critical to the attainment of global sustainable development. These matters should be taken seriously by global decision makers as part of the move towards a just world order and inclusive growth.
Another radical step that we must take as African countries is to diversify our economies away from dependence on commodities so that they become less vulnerable to commodity shocks.
We also need to step up investment in both social and economic infrastructure.
Improving the quality of life of our people through social infrastructure such as building hospitals, schools will improve the quality of life.
In order to achieve these goals and many others, we need to strengthen developmental partnerships between government, business, labour and all relevant stakeholders.
This Forum is a key instrument in this regard as it brings global actors together to discuss such important matters. It is also important for such discussions among social partners to continue taking place domestically, which has been an important area of emphasis for South Africa.
As Africans we have decided to take charge of our destiny. Our people yearn for prosperity and we are determined not to fail them. That is why we have Agenda 2063 as a clear roadmap towards inclusive growth and a better life.
We are acting to propel the rise of the African giant, our continent.
Yes, we need to partner with the rest of the world to achieve our radical economic transformation goals. Our partners will find us moving forward with determination and zeal.
Africa is rising and African leaders are rising to the occasion!
Let me once again extend a warm welcome to all of you in this warm city of Durban.
We invite you to explore the city and the rest of the country at the conclusion of the meeting.
South Africa remains alive with possibilities and has a lot to offer!
I thank you.
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