Address by President Jacob Zuma to the South African Business Community attending the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland
Brand South Africa Chairperson, Ms Chichi Maponya,
The South African business community,
Members of the media,
Good afternoon to you all.
We are here in Davos, as South Africans from different sectors, to present South Africa to the World Economic Forum as a country of many opportunities, and as a destination of choice for investors.
We will present a South Africa that is part of the impressively growing African continent.
We also meet in Davos just a few weeks after a very important political event in our country, the 53rd national conference of the African National Congress, which plays a key role in determining the country’s policy direction.
The conference adopted the National Development Plan, which was produced last year by the National Planning Commission in my office, as our blueprint towards development and prosperity.
The conference has thus set the tone and provided the line of march, not only for the next five years, but until 2030.Nobody can say that they are uncertain about the direction that our country is taking. That is the good news about South Africa.
The Mangaung conference also declared that our key objective for the next five years in particular, is to achieve comprehensive socio-economic freedom.
We have achieved a comprehensive political freedom and stability and consolidated our constitutional democracy. Now we must deliver prosperity and a better life for all, especially for the poor and the working class in our country.
Together as business, government, labour and the community sector, we must tackle our three fierce enemies – poverty, unemployment and inequality.
These three challenges remain persistent, regardless of the progress we are making in improving the quality of life for all.
You will recall that our Census 2011 report also indicated the high levels of inequality that we must still deal with, regardless of the strides we have made since 1994.
One of the findings of the Census 2011 is that income distribution and growth are still racially skewed in favour of white compatriots. This is a cause for concern for all of us.
It compels us to work together with all our social partners to attack head on, the triple challenges.
All these challenges will be easier to tackle now under a climate of policy certainty. They are easier to tackle if there is unity in action.
A positive note for our growth and development prospects, confirmed by the Census, is that we are essentially a nation of young people. Just over a third of the population is under the age of 15.
Therefore our focus on improving the quality of education and skills development is well-placed.
The good news is that we already have agreements on basic education and skills development signed by government, labour and business, which demonstrates the willingness to work together to solve problems facing the country. This willingness to work together is a very positive attribute of South Africa. We must celebrate it and nurture it.
Going forward, we invite the business sector to continue partnering government in finding solutions. There can be no “us and them’’, we are building one country.
Now that the National Development Plan has been put on the table, and enjoys the widest support in the country by all political parties and sectors, we must now implement it, all of us.
In government and the ANC we will spend time at the two forthcoming makgotla this month and in February discussing the implementation of the plan. We invite business to do the same. We trust that companies will align their strategic plans with the National Development Plan. Companies should be able to say what they want to achieve by 2030 in terms of promoting sound and inclusive growth, in line with the National Development Plan.
We also urge companies to anticipate difficult situations such as the current global economic crisis which is impacting negatively in our country socially and economically.
The decrease in the demand and price of platinum, coupled with internal dynamics within the sector, are already leading to job losses in South Africa.
Shareholders naturally look at their profit margins and tend to prioritise them over jobs.
If we plan together as we should and keep channels of communication open at all times, we can arrive at win/win solutions that benefit the country as a whole, while protecting the vulnerable, especially workers and the poor in our country.
Let me also remind you of our six job drivers in which we urge you and the international business sector to invest in. These are agriculture, tourism, infrastructure development, mining, manufacturing and the green economy. We have been promoting investments and growth in these six areas since 2010 and trust that you will continue to find opportunities. The purpose is to create jobs and improve the livelihoods of our people.
Infrastructure development is our flagship project, given its capacity to create jobs while changing the landscape of our country. Domestically there are roads, dams, power stations, schools, hospitals and more that are being built or refurbished. All these provide enormous opportunities for the business sector.
In the continent, the North-South infrastructure development corridor that South Africa champions, from Durban to Dar-es-Salaam, also provides enormous investment opportunities.
Let me reiterate that Mangaung has brought about policy certainty. Now is the time for us to work harder to break the back of poverty, unemployment and inequality, working together. We must focus our collective energies on building a prosperous South Africa and the achievement of socio-economic freedom in our lifetime for our people.
It is also the time for all us to begin promoting our country and selling its many positive attributes. This means we need a serious shift in mindset. We must turn our backs on negativity and embrace a new spirit of innovation, creativity and patriotism. We also need to stop exaggerating some of the occurrences in our country which are regarded as normal in other countries. For example, worker strikes are a common feature in democracies. Workers have rights and know their rights. They will exercise these rights from time to time. Strikes hardly make headlines in other countries as they are normal occurrences. In South Africa these tend to be seen to indicate that the country is somehow falling apart!
We have a progressive labour relations framework which must be utilised to quickly resolve industrial disputes. We must move away from exaggerations and focus on solutions.
It is possible to build a South Africa as outlined in the National Development Plan, where all have water, electricity, sanitation, quality education, health care and housing, and where the majority have jobs and a good life. But that will require a lot of work from all of us. It will require the collective use of the talent and leadership that exists in our country in business, government, labour and the community sectors in a partnership for development and progress.
South Africa provides huge opportunities in the six job drivers, especially the infrastructure programme, which is estimated at four trillion rand over the next 15 years.
South Africa is stable, friendly, resilient and able to solve its problems. That is the type of country and society that we are presenting to the world.
We are presenting a South Africa that is open for business and which is open to provide entry into the African continent, a fast growing region which is proving many Afro-pessimists wrong.
I wish you well with all your sessions.
Let us make South Africa shine in Davos, together!
I thank you.