SA has made great strides

More peo­ple now have ac­cess to free ed­u­ca­tion, hous­ing, elec­tric­ity amd clean wa­ter, writes Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma

Sunday World - - Opinion -

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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