Honourable Ministers, Deputy Ministers, MECs, MPLs,
Comrades and Colleagues,
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is a pleasure to participate in this summit and have an opportunity to share some views and reflections on the critical subject matter of this gathering. At the outset I would like to register my appreciation to the organizers of the Summit. The meeting is an occasion to focus our minds on the key subject of job creation and employment opportunities. Employment creation, and especially employment opportunities for the youths, is the topmost urgent political economy issue all over the world nowadays. Not only the developing economies but even the developed nations of Europe, and even the US, are grappling with the daunting task of employment creation for the new entrants into the labour market. We are all too aware that our country, and all its regions and provinces, are saddled with the triple evils of structural unemployment, widespread poverty, and excessive inequality of income. These facts are clearly and systematically articulated in Mpumalanga Growth and Development Strategy(GDS) 2004-2014. Themes 3 and 4 of the Province’s GDS directly relate to the subject matter of our summit.
It is a fact that at the national level, our government has placed a great deal of emphasis on collaborative approaches to growth promotion, industrial development and jobs creation. Over the past few days, we have witnessed how the President has led a process of focused attention on a collaborative framework in dealing with the issues facing our nation. This underlines a critical reality that in modern economies it is the extent of collaboration and social consolidation that helps create a constructive environment for growth and development as well as for sustainable job creation.
Whilst the recent initiatives have been a response to the prevailing developments in our national industrial relations arena, the emphasis on collaborative framework has been integral to our government’s approach to economic development and job creation. For example, the Department of Trade and Industry through IPAP2 and the Department of Economic Development through the New Growth Path have identified a range of opportunities and introduced a number of initiatives to achieve job creation and sustainable development in the country. Nearly all these initiatives hinge on a close and constructive collaboration amongst the various stakeholders within our political economy space.
As we explore our options towards the creation of sustainable employment opportunities, it is critical that we place emphasis on the real opportunities that we do have in the province. In the jargon of economics, we need to work with our socio-economic endowments. Our task it is to facilitate, accelerate and augment the real economic and investment opportunities that the province offers.
As we do so, we should be mindful of the broader goals and objectives as set out by the Province’s Growth and Development Strategy. It is noteworthy that the strategic objectives of the province are well articulated, the challenges are clearly known and the need for multi-stakeholder partnership is recognized. I emphasize this point because the nature of the task in hand, namely job creation is such that the highest success is achieved only when all the social partners collaborate, positively engage in the process, and rise above the common divisive practices. Globally, the trend is towards the recognition of the importance of collaboration, as opposed to contestation, in tackling the political economy challenges facing the society. This theme is prominently highlighted in our government’s National Development Plan, as released by Minister Manuel, the Minister in the Presidency.
In Mpumalanga, the economy is relatively diversified, and most importantly the key sectors – agriculture, mining, and manufacturing- remain fairly robust. In addition the growth and expansion of tourism activities in the province has been impressive. Of course, the challenge in Mpumalanga, as in a number of other provinces, remains to be the need for further diversification of the province’s economic structure. As the structure of the Province’s economy moves gradually but systematically towards the services sector, or the tertiary sector, new systemic issues arise.
Given the close operational linkages between the private sector and the public sector stakeholders, it is critical that the necessary alignments within the public sector, broadly defined, are put in place to ensure competitiveness and growth. Job creation within a tertiary sector economy is all about system’s alignment, coordination and operational efficiency of the interrelated services across private and public entities. In essence the quality of public services becomes as important a factor in success as the quantity of services rendered.
With regard to the primary sector activities, and mining in particular, the Province continues to enjoy considerable opportunities, be it in coal, gold or other mineral endowments. Whilst these activities have brought much benefit in the form of jobs and income, and other developmental results, they have also left behind serious human, social and environmental scars. The tensions and divisions created within many communities in the Province is a case in point. Likewise there are severe negative environmental impacts arising from mining in the province. These and many other cases highlight the imperative of approaching mining differently.
If we in South Africa in general, and in the Province specifically, are to succeed in extracting maximum benefits from our mineral endowment, we must do things differently. The operative word is “doing differently’. This means doing governance differently and it also means the industry must rethink its organizational and operational processes. We cannot afford to go through another phase of extractive mining or “mineralization of the country”, and leave behind a heap of painful socio-political and destructive environmental legacy. The painful events at Marikana over the past two months bear testimony to this. Rather, a decade from now, we should boast a new dispensation in mining and mineral beneficiation- a new paradigm that is conducive to social upliftment, environmental integrity and economic development.
It is therefore our collective obligation to ensure that the considerable wealth of natural endowment is utilized to generate socio-economic benefits and integrated development for our communities and for our nation. To this end, not only do we need to expand the industry, but also avoid the undesirable consequences, and to ensure a mining industry that is socially progressive, environmentally sustainable, and economically competitive.
As we reflect on a paradigm shift in the mining sector, it is stating the obvious that we cannot continue to mine and export ore and other raw materials for processing elsewhere, as this severely limits the benefits we can derive from the exploitation of our natural resources. There is therefore a need to increase value addition to our minerals before they are exported, in line with government’s new mineral beneficiation and industrialization priorities.
In effect the rich natural endowment of the province needs to be leveraged in a systematic manner to maximize benefits in supply and procurement activities within the province. As importantly, the development of human resources with special emphasis on training and skills generation for our labour force is of particular importance.
In addition to human resource development and skills, the development of the key infrastructure associated with mining activities is an important platform for the diversification of economic activity within the province. This is specially pertinent with regard to development of effective and well-integrated logistics infrastructure. As importantly, long term planning for water availability is critical not only for the promotion of mining activities, but as significantly it is a requirement for the expansion of agriculture, agri-industries, and tourism activities in the Province. Whilst the percentage share of agriculture activities within the Provincial GDP has declined, in absolute terms agriculture remains a vital source of job creation and rural development in Mpumalanga. Together with tourism, agriculture activities will continue to form an important pillar of economic life in the Province. The provision of bulk water and its reliable accessibility are the keys to the promotion of agriculture and agri-industries and hence economic diversification.
It is important to highlight a critical technical imperative, namely: we need to integrate our opportunities and ensure that we create not only diversification in the Province’s economic base, but also establish the required scale in economic activities to justify the logistics and related infrastructure. Meaningful sustainable job creation will result from such integration.
Not only Mpumalanga, but also more broadly South Africa, today, enjoys a considerable range of opportunities for integrating our mineral beneficiation and industrialization programmes in order to enhance the pace of social development and economic growth. This approach to mineral beneficiation and industrialization calls for a much higher degree of coordination within the public sector and across the private and public sectors.
As we approach mining and mineral beneficiation differently, in a number of areas we have to consciously, proactively and systemically do things differently. In amongst them is the design and operations of our post-Apartheid cities. Learning from our own history, we should avoid the emergence of divided, inefficient and operationally expensive Apartheid-like cities of the past. Instead, we ought to focus on energy-efficient, socially integrated, and operationally efficient and competitive cities. As we enter the new century of mining and mining related industrialization, we need to now reflect on the legacy that we would like to leave behind. The urban and environmental landscape that we bequeath to our children has to be dramatically different from what history has bequeathed to us. This is our collective responsibility and it will arise from our collective choices today.
At the same time, the competitiveness and sustainability of our mining activities and other industries will, to a large extent, depend on the degree to which it adopts ‘green technologies’ and sound environmental practices. It is a fact that all over the world, the mining industry is synonymous with the destruction of the environment and the land potentially useable for agriculture and food production. This dichotomy has to be managed carefully and responsibly via sound and concurrent environmental rehabilitation management practices.
Clearly we stand at a critical juncture in our country’s and province’s history. We are busy defining the path for our next phase of social development going forward. Our focus is firmly on sustainable job creation. As we join forces and mobilize all the stakeholders to this end, I remain highly optimistic that given the province’s economic potential, the opportunities for industrial diversification of the Mpumalanga Province are considerable. It remains for us to join forces to unlock these opportunities, leading to employment creation and socio-economic upliftment of our communities.
I thank you.