SouthAfrica.info (Johannesburg)

24 January 2013

Africa 'To Build On Its Gains' - Zuma

Photo: Rodger Bosch/MediaClubSA
Container ships in Cape Town harbour.

Africa is already the world's second fastest growing economy after expanding 5% a year in the past two years, well above the global average, and Africa's gross domestic product (GDP) is on track to grow by 5.3% this year.

This was reported during a televised debate with the presidents of African powerhouses South Africa and Nigeria together with business leaders at the World Economic Forum's (WEF's) annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland on Wednesday.

"If certain bottlenecks were taken out, I can easily see that doubling," SABMiller UK chairmand Graham Mackay said. The global brewer, established in South Africa more than a century ago, has extensive investments across the continent. Mackay singled out infrastructure development as probably the key driver to Africa's continued economic progress.

Africa 'determined to consolidate gains'

South African President Jacob Zuma said that African countries were determined to consolidate and build on their gains. "We realize that intra-trade is not enough and are working hard on that," he said, adding that Africa was not consumed with conflict.

"We are also dealing with the economic issues," Zuma said, referring to an agreement between the East African Community (EAC), Common Market for Eastern and Central Africa (Comesa) and Southern African Development Community (SADC) to create a 26-nation free trade area covering southern, central and east Africa.

"We've just discussed and agreed to integrate three of [Africa's] five economic regions, creating a free trade area of more than half-a-billion people."

On the recent labour unrest in South Africa, Zuma said solutions were being discussed by all sectors, including the government, labour unions, businesses and civil society.

Africa 'mostly politically stable'

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan said that while there were risks for investors wherever they invested in the world, in Africa, political instability was no longer one of them. "Presently, about three African states have conducted successful elections two times," he said. "Most African states have stable political systems."

Africa's leaders recognized that there were risks, but they were dealing with them, Jonathan said. Nigeria, for example, was diversifying beyond oil into commercial agriculture to avert economic damage from volatile commodity prices.

Louise Arbour, CEO of Belgium-based NGO International Crisis Group, warned about the risk of the current armed unrest in Mali destabilizing West Africa, but said that the fight against terrorism should not obscure equally important underlying issues that Africa had to address, namely governance, political and economic exclusion, and very weak institutions.

Sunil Bharti Mittal, group CEO of India's Bharti Enterprises, said the narrative in Africa "is changing, and changing very fast ... There is no question that you are seeing more and more countries moving on to the democratic process and moving up the growth curve."

Bharti has been very successful in setting up telecommunications companies on the continent.

"From the standpoint of investors and people coming into Africa, I think what is important to see is commitment from the political leadership to secure investments, ensure there are no major fallouts of any terror activities which have recently developed, and, importantly, manage foreign exchange in a manner which does not deliver shocks," Bharti said.

Leaders need 'resilient dynamism'

The WEF's annual meeting opened on Tuesday and runs through to Sunday, with more than 1 600 business leaders and more than 45 heads of state set to discuss how the global economy can get back to robust growth, and how business models can adapt to generational and structural changes

WEF executive chairperson Klaus Schwab said in his welcoming address that "resilient dynamism" - the theme of this year's meeting - was the combined attribute that would be needed from leaders in 2013.

He said that if external shocks were now the norm in a hyper-connected and interdependent world, then leaders would need to be more resilient; while future growth in the new context of a prolonged global economic malaise required dynamism.

"Either attribute, resilience or dynamism, alone is insufficient, as leadership in 2013 will require both," he said.

World Economic Forum

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