Africa ‘committed to tackling trade bottlenecks’

3 February 2014

African heads of state are committed to tackling the infrastructure bottlenecks blocking intra-Africa trade and investment, South African President Jacob Zuma told the Bloomberg “Africa: Economic Outlook and Opportunities” conference in Johannesburg on Monday.

Zuma said this commitment was made at the African Union Summit that took place in Ethiopia at the weekend.

The Bloomberg conference, founded by the 108th Mayor of the City of New York, met in Johannesburg to discuss the economic outlook of the African continent, with South African Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and Reserve Bank Governor Gill Marcus also in attendance.

Zuma said that while intra-African investment had been growing at more than 32% since 2007, a lack of access to trade-enabling infrastructure on the continent remained a fundamental challenge.

“We discussed this matter at length again at the African Union summit in Ethiopia this past weekend. We recommitted ourselves as African heads of state to continue building cross-border infrastructure, to unlock growth and development in our continent.

“In addition to a focus on trade-enabling infrastructure, we are intensifying our continental integration efforts through the negotiation of the Tripartite Free Trade Agreement,” Zuma said.

“We have made considerable progress in the negotiations, which aim to integrate 26 countries of eastern and southern Africa. This involves a population of nearly 600-million people and a combined GDP of US$1-trillion.”

South Africa’s National Development Plan

On the home front, Zuma said that South Africa begun work on implementing the National Development Plan (NDP), the country’s policy framework for eradicating poverty, reducing inequality and boosting employment by 2030.

He said the plan outlined the country’s intentions of transforming the economy and creating jobs through promoting sectors in which the country has a competitive advantage. This includes the minerals sector, agro-processing, mining, manufacturing, construction, general infrastructure and the green economy.

Zuma said the plan also committed the country to investing in a strong network of economic infrastructure designed to support the country’s medium and long-term economic and social objectives.

“We are building roads, bridges, dams, schools, hospitals, universities, colleges and a lot of other infrastructure.

“We believe we are making progress,” Zuma said, adding: “Very few nations have gone through the repression, subjugation and divisions that we went through and emerged to build a new society and a stable democracy in such a short space of time.”

The NDP also envisions South Africa investing Africa. Since 2007, Zuma said, there had been a compound growth of 57% in South Africa-originated foreign direct investment (FDI) projects into the rest of Africa.

“South Africa was the single largest FDI investor in the rest of Africa in 2012, with cumulative FDI jobs created standing at more than 45 000 to date.”

Zuma said that Africa’s economy growth had tripled since 2000, and that growth was expected to continue, “giving rise to a new African paradigm: Africa as the new growth frontier.

The South African government and private sector have a critical role to play in this continued growth,” he said. “There is a need to redefine and to strengthen our partnerships on the continent towards realising the vision of an integrated Africa, underpinned by greater levels of intra-Africa trade and even greater levels of intra-Africa investments.”