I am pleased to join the South Africa-India Business Forum on this important occasion of the State Visit by Her Excellency the President of India.
It is an important occasion for us all, as our two countries share a rich political history.
India stood with us throughout the years of struggle, using every forum and opportunity to campaign against apartheid and for freedom and democracy in our country.
As we celebrate the ANC centenary this year, we recall this selfless solidarity and once again extend our gratitude to the people of India.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Since the birth of our democracy our country has grown from strength to strength.
We have done extremely well politically. We have consolidated democracy and achieved peace and stability.
We consciously set out to promote unity and reconciliation, and to ensure that our people learn from the past, and build a better future together.
We have also made progress in socio-economic transformation. Scores of people who never had basic services such as water, electricity, housing, sanitation and others now do.
Access to education, health care and other social services have also been improved considerably.
However despite these strides, we still have a lot of work to do before we can say we are breaking the impact of centuries of deprivation and institutionalized racism.
As a young democracy we inherited huge backlogs arising from three centuries of colonialism and apartheid. It would be foolhardy on our part to expect to dramatically reverse the impact in only 18 years of freedom and democracy.
The country still faces three serious challenges – poverty, inequality and unemployment. Since political democracy has been entrenched, we are engaged in the second phase of struggle, the struggle for freedom from hunger, unemployment and inequality.
We have therefore decided on a single-minded focus on breaking the back of this triple challenge.
In 2009 we took a decision to focus on five key priorities to improve the quality of life. These are education, health, rural development, the fight against crime and creating decent work.
Our government is doing well thus far in ensuring that the focus on these five priorities yield the desired results.
On the economic front, we launched the New Growth Path in 2010, designed to help us grow the economy and create jobs to improve livelihoods of our people.
We are looking at six main areas to boost growth and jobs.
These are infrastructure development, agriculture, mining and beneficiation, manufacturing, the green economy and tourism.
This year we have singled out infrastructure as a critical part of obtaining freedom from hunger, poverty and inequality.
Infrastructure such as railway lines can allow us to mine more of our coal, iron-ore, platinum and manganese; and beneficiate them locally, so that we create jobs in mining, in the building of rail lines and in the production of trains and locomotives. That is what freedom from unemployment means.
Infrastructure such as dams and irrigation systems bring water to impoverished rural communities, so that they can use the land to grow food, to eat and to sell. That is what freedom from hunger will mean for our people.
Infrastructure in the form of houses, community facilities, sanitation, power-lines that bring electricity to households, all help to create decent human settlements, where our people can live with some measure of security and comfort. That is what freedom from homelessness means.
In this business forum, we invite the business communities of India and South Africa to consider seriously how they can invest in projects that will help us take forward these goals of breaking the back of unemployment, poverty and inequality, while obviously obtaining returns on investments.
During our discussions yesterday, we agreed with Her Excellency on the need to further grow economic relations. We stand ready to provide whatever support is needed to make doing business easy in the respective countries.
You will recall that this meeting of the South Africa-India Business forum on the sidelines of the State visit by Her Excellency President Patil, serves as a follow up to the commitments made during my State Visit to India in 2010.
During that visit, our two governments made a commitment to facilitate direct interaction between the private sectors of their respective countries. We set a target of 15-billion US dollars of trade between South Africa and India, to be achieved by 2014. According to current trade statistics this could be reached earlier than anticipated.
The figure by the end of 2011 was close to 7 billion US dollars. We are on the right path indeed. We congratulate you as business for taking this challenge seriously.
Let me hasten to add that our Ministers responsible for trade, industry and commerce are of the view that we should increase our mutual trade to 111 billion rand by 2014. I fully endorse the view. That means this business forum has a lot of work to do in the months ahead!
We have various areas in which to explore economic cooperation, including energy, information and communication technology, manufacturing in addition to infrastructure development which I mentioned earlier.
Let me remind you that you are in the right continent at the right time. The African Continent is the new frontier of economic growth and development.
We take this opportunity therefore to remind you as well of opportunities within the continent, especially for infrastructure development, in line with the African Union/NEPAD Infrastructural plans.
Infrastructure developments that have been undertaken in Africa will eliminate most of the hindrances to growth. It is widely known that Africa’s inadequate infrastructure is one of the main factors inhibiting trade, integration and economic development.
It has been calculated that if the continent continues to narrow its infrastructure gap, economic growth will receive a further large boost – perhaps by as much as two percentage points a year.
In view of this, the African Union has set up the Presidential Infrastructure Championship Initiative, a continental committee of eight NEPAD Heads of State and Government, which I chair, to champion infrastructure projects at the highest level.
South Africa is also chair and champion of the North-South Road and Rail Corridor project, which traverses eight countries in eastern and southern Africa.
The corridor aims to facilitate trade by upgrading road, rail, power and port facilities, as well as simplifying cross-border regulatory procedures, so that producers and traders can access regional and international markets more easily.
We encourage the industry champions present here today to take advantage of these opportunities and participate in the economic development of South Africa and Africa at large.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Our relationship with India goes beyond bilateral relations into the multilateral arena.
We are together in the BRICS forum, which we regard as the holding anchor for our South-South strategy.
South Africa will host the next BRICS Summit, and this will be an opportunity for us to contribute in realizing the objective of establishing the BRICS Development Bank.
In addition, India is our partner in IBSA and the G-20, and the Non-Aligned Movement.
We are also working together in the United Nations, fighting to transform that institution so that it can reflect the views and interests of the developing world as well.
This includes the much-needed reform of the United Nations Security Council and that of international financial institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
Ladies and gentlemen,
We have come a long way in our three centuries of struggle against colonialism, colonial oppression and apartheid.
We achieved our freedom thanks to the support and solidarity of friends such as the people of India.
As we work to reverse three centuries of exclusion and deprivation, we are happy to be able to count on those friends who were with us in the trenches, to become our trusted development partners.
India is such a partner. We are truly delighted to host Her Excellency President Patil this week.
We expect this visit to contribute immensely to further strengthening relations between our two countries and peoples.
We wish Her Excellency a very successful visit as prepares to explore Cape Town and Durban, two cities that will surely make her a tourism ambassador of our country when she gets back home.
I wish you a successful business forum as well. Work should not end today. There should be continuous interactions as we further build and grow the economic relations between our two nations.
I thank you.