SA has made great strides
More people now have access to free education, housing, electricity amd clean water, writes President Jacob Zuma
WE have achieved a lot in 20 years since the dawn of freedom in 1994. We have a laid a firm foundation for a thriving democracy in a short space of time.
Among our key achievements is the manner in which we have created an open democracy and an open society.
We pride ourselves on having a progressive constitution that enshrines freedom of expression and of the media.
We are also proud of our wellestablished democratic processes, such as the holding of elections successfully and transparently every five years.
In May this year, we cast our ballots for the fifth time cheerfully, patiently and in peace.
Our democracy has come of age in a very short space of time.
We have also done well in building a new society and an improved quality of life.
We have made enormous strides in expanding access to free education, housing, electricity, clean water and sanitation to people who did not have these basic services before.
Close to half of our people are now in the middle- to high-income brackets due to progressive transformation policies by the democratic government.
The number of people living in absolute poverty has been slashed by the extension of a sustainable safety net to 16-million of our more vulnerable citizens.
As we work towards an ambitious target of 5% growth by 2019, we believe we have laid a sound economic foundation.
We are also encouraged by the fact that our foreign direct investment outlook continues to be positive.
Last year, 130 foreign companies entered South Africa for the first time or expanded their investments, contributing to a total direct investment inflow of $8.2-billion, which is double the figure for 2012.
Ernst & Young predicts that such flows into South Africa will average $10-billion (R107.5-billion) annually for the next four years.
Foreign institutions and other investors also continue to seek opportunities within the continent, working with South African companies.
In addition, the World Economic Forum ranks South Africa among the world’s best for the strength of our banks, the independence of our courts and the protection we afford property rights.
We are also recognised for the transparency of our policymaking, the rigour of our financial auditing and reporting standards, and the governance of our financial markets.
Another important study was done by Goldman Sachs last year, entitled “Two Decades of Freedom – what South Africa is doing with it and what now needs to be done”.
The investment bank found much to admire in our performance between 1994 and 2013.
We took our GDP from $136-billion to $400-billion.
We tamed inflation while expanding our tax base more than seven- fold.
The market capitalisation of businesses on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange grew eightfold.
We increased our gold and foreign exchange reserves from $3-billion to $50-billion US dollars.
We really have a good story to tell about 20 years of South Africa’s democratic rule.
But we are also the first to admit that our work is not yet completed.
We still have a long, hard road ahead of us as we confront the triple challenges of unemployment, pov- erty and inequality.
Fortunately, we have a roadmap in the form of our National Development Plan Vision 2030.
By 2030, we want poverty to be history, unemployment to be reduced and growth to average an annual 5.4%.
These are not easy targets, but with determination and hard work nothing is impossible.
We look forward to the further expansion of trade and investment opportunities with the US and other key markets.
The African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa) has been a powerful instrument in achieving this goal.
Over 95% of our exports get into the US markets through Agoa.
While opening up markets for our goods, Agoa has also been opening up and helping to grow new markets for American goods and services.
Let me hasten to add that South Africa will succeed not alone, but as part of the broader African success story.
We are working to integrate our economies and to boost regional trade.
We are promoting industrialisation and power generation.
We are developing transport infrastructure to get our goods both to overseas markets and to the new internal markets that we are creating.
Together as African countries, we are making progress in all these areas.
Transcontinental corridors running north to south and east to west are moving from the drawing board to reality.
Plans to tap the full 40 000 megawatt hydropower potential of the Grand Inga Dam in the Democratic Republic of Congo are also becoming a reality.
The free trade area uniting southern, central and east Africa into a market of 600-million consumers, with a combined GDP of $1-trillion, is now in prospect.
It is truly a season of great hope and promise for Africa.
While challenges remain in the areas of peace and security or poverty in parts of the continent, there is a determination to find African-led solutions.
Partnerships with the rest of the world in dealing with these challenges are important.
In this regard, we welcome the opportunity that this week’s USAfrican Leaders’ Summit provides to engage further on Africa’s economic growth, development and security.
We are open for investment, open for trade, open for tourism and open for partnerships that will enhance our drive towards a better life for all our people.
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