9 May 2013
Africa’s attitude towards itself and how it interacts with the world has changed for the better, South African President Jacob Zuma said at the opening of the World Economic Forum (WEF) on Africa meeting in Cape Town on Thursday.
Speaking at the event’s main opening plenary session, Zuma said that, 50 years after the setting up of the Organisation for Africa Unity (OAU) – now known as the African Union – the continent stood at a precipice.
“If you take the 50 years since it was established, we are almost at a point of launching Africa into very great activities to achieve a prosperous continent,” he said.
He said Africa had to get to the stage where it was self-sufficient and could use its own resources to fund its own development needs, while being able to trade with the world on equal terms.
However, conflicts in Africa still stood in the way of development, and it was for this reason that South Africa and its fellow African states were working hard to rid the continent of conflict, he said.
“I think African leaders are saying, for the first time, ‘Let us organise ourselves and let us talk to the kind of organisations that will respond positively and very effectively on what we think needs to be done to develop our continent’.”
He said South Africa’s BRICS membership represented an important turning point for Africa’s connectivity to the globe.
Referring to the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) summit that took place in Durban in March, Zuma said: “I think the BRICS leadership found it very pleasing that Africa could say, ‘Here are specific projects that Africa is presenting to investors’.
“Our belief is that the membership of South Africa to BRICS represents the one-billion people on the continent of Africa.”
Zuma said the BRICS Development Bank would soon become a reality and that finance ministers from the five member countries were currently working on the technical details around setting up the South-South development bank.
He said the two main issues that finance ministers were addressing was how BRICS members would capitalise the bank and secondly, where to base the development bank.
Zuma called for the development bank to be based in Africa, where he said the greatest need for development funding lay.
African Union Commission chair Nkosazana Dlamimi Zuma, also addressing Thursday’s opening plenary, said that in the next 50 years, Africa should be described as a prosperous continent and one at peace with itself.
Dlamini Zuma said the key to Africa’s growth would be to invest in its people by improving health, education, skills and innovation. Investing in agriculture would be key, as agriculture could help create jobs and feed those on the continent, she said.
She pointed out that in promoting growth, the continent should opt for modern techniques, tools and infrastructure. The continent also needed more partnerships between businesses, citizens and governments.
African Development Bank president Donald Kaberuka told the gathering that the continent had to continue developing infrastructure, pointing out that poor infrastructure added about 40% of the cost of doing business on the continent
Kaberuka said he had spoken with Zuma about mobilising African resources to fund infrastructure, rather than rely largely on foreign aid, as the African Development Bank currently does, to fund such projects.