Africa 'open for business': Motlanthe
29 March 2011
Delivering a public lecture at New York University on Monday, South African Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe dismissed negative perceptions of Africa, saying the continent was ripe with opportunities for those willing to make investments.
Motlanthe is on a four-day working visit aimed at boosting relations between South Africa and its second-biggest trade partner, as well as getting US buy-in for South Africa's new economic strategy.
Africa's 'Lions on the Move'
In his lecture on Monday, Motlanthe cited a June 2010 report by the McKinsey Global Institute entitled Lions on the Move, which reflected the shifting wisdom on Africa in finding that:
- Africa's collective gross domestic product (GDP) reached US$1.6-trillion in 2008.
- Africa's combined consumer spending topped $860-billion in 2008.
- Africa's mobile phone subscribers grew from 184-million in 2000 to 500-million in 2010.
- At least 20 African companies now enjoy annual revenue of $3-billion or more.
- Foreign direct investment in Africa reached $514-billion in 2009, up from $154-billion in 2000.
"These developments are encouraging as Africa strives for greater regional integration, fair trade and a reformed international financial system," Motlanthe said.
For its part, South Africa – which accounts for only 5% of Africa's population, but 50% of its trade – recognised that its own development and security were intertwined with the reconstruction and revitalisation of Africa, and thus supported the continent's efforts to diversify and strengthen its economic capabilities.
Motlanthe challenged the government and people of the United States, especially Africans in the Diaspora, to contribute towards building the African continent, particularly in the areas of education, capacity building and skills development.
Call to Africa's Diaspora
Whereas in the past skilled Africans migrated to other countries across the world, the need to "reverse the emigration of much-needed and strategic skills is a critical issue for our continent," Motlanthe said.
"Ironically, in every developmental problem in Africa lie new vistas of opportunities which have the potential to absorb African skills that reside abroad."
South Africa, Motlanthe said, was investing in its human capital "in the knowledge that a skilled citizenry drives research, development and innovation, and ultimately spurs the economy to higher rates of growth".
Universities and colleges play a critical role in this, and "a university such as the University of New York can help us with the necessary intellectual apparatus to manage our developmental challenges.
"We call upon the American people in different fields of human endeavour to once again join hands with us, so that together we can contribute to the achievement of these important goals of reconstruction and development.
"In effect, challenges of development in Africa offer opportunities for academics and intellectuals in the United States and elsewhere in the developed world to make a meaningful contribution in this regard.
"The partnership we are calling for works out to a win-win situation in that Africa is ripe with opportunities," Motlanthe said.
"What this means is that while the American partners bring invaluable capital investment, they also stand to gain in terms of healthy returns."
New growth path to address inequality
Also on Monday, during a visit to the New York Stock Exchange, the Deputy President said that, although South Africa was battling inequality, its New Growth Path aimed to set the economy on a road of inclusive and equitable growth.
"The biggest challenge for South Africa remains the deep inequalities left by apartheid," Motlanthe said. "Despite the strength of our economy, it is still one of the most inequitable in the world."
Motlanthe said South Africa faced high structural unemployment and deep disparities in access to infrastructure and market institutions. "This kind of inequality and division is not sustainable," he said.
The country's New Growth Path aims to create five-million new jobs by 2020.
"Like other emerging economies, we need international investment to support productive activities that increase the overall competitiveness of our economy. We are of course most interested in direct investment that brings with it skills, cutting-edge technologies, and access to global markets."
South Africa plans to invest over R700-billion in infrastructure over the next three years, mostly for power generation and to upgrade rail and road networks.
"We will seek to support infrastructure and productive investments across Africa, especially to build logistics infrastructure linking southern and central Africa," Motlanthe said.
Motlanthe is being accompanied on his trip by the Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson, Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel, and Deputy International Relations Minister Ebrahim Ebrahim.
Motlanthe will hold talks with US Vice President Joe Biden in Washington DC on Tuesday, before meeting the American Chamber of Business and speaking at the Council on Foreign Relations. He will end his trip in Chicago on Thursday.
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