29 March 2012
President Jacob Zuma has invited business representatives of the BRICS countries to explore the investment opportunities created by South Africa’s new infrastructure development projects.
Addressing a BRICS business breakfast ahead of the meeting of BRICS leaders in New Delhi, India on Thursday, Zuma said the South African government had singled out infrastructure as the key driver of new growth and development on the African continent.
Foundation for 20 years’ growth
Zuma announced the country’s infrastructure plan – which lays the foundation for 20 or more years of growth, improved service delivery and job creation – during his State of the Nation address in February. The government has already set aside in excess of R860-billion for infrastructure development by March 2014.
Zuma told the business representatives that the infrastructure drive was about providing housing, sanitation, public transport and running water for millions of South Africans.
“It is about connecting rural communities to economic opportunities through building dams and irrigation systems, connecting farms and villages to the energy grid and building schools and clinics. Our view is that cities should not be the only places with lights, roads or tap water.”
Focus would also be placed on education and skills development, with a skills plan running in tandem with each major project. Work was being done with the country’s universities and colleges to speed up the production of the critical skills needed for the infrastructure projects, Zuma added.
‘New types of developmental agreements’
“I invite you, as the business community of BRICS, to collaborate with us to explore these infrastructure opportunities,” Zuma said. “We are convinced that we can negotiate new types of mutually beneficial developmental agreements with BRICS countries on infrastructure development.”
Zuma also expressed optimism about a proposed BRICS-led South-South Development Bank, which would be funded and managed by the BRICS and other developing countries, and could act as a counterweight to other multilateral lenders, such as the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank.
The leaders of the five BRICS countries on Thursday directed their finance ministers to examine the proposal to create such a bank and to report back to them at the next summit in South Africa in 2013.
“The bank will reinforce the BRICS grouping by utilising surplus reserves,” Zuma said. “It will also encourage investment in a more sustainable and productive manner for the financing of infrastructure.”