29 June 2013

Africa: Obama in Africa At the Right Time - Zuma

Pretoria — United States president Barack Obama is visiting Africa at the right time, President Jacob Zuma said in Pretoria on Saturday.

"We are pleased to be working with you [Obama] today with a common goal of expanding trade and relations between our two countries," said Zuma in a televised press briefing.

"Mr President you are visiting Africa at the right time...Africa is rising...It is the second fastest growing region after Asia and has become an attractive market for investment."

Zuma said the country was shifting from "disinvestment to reinvestments".

"Thus the United States strategy towards sub-Saharan Africa that you launched last year is well-timed to take advantage of this growing market," said Zuma.

"We look forward to strengthening the US-Africa partnership and we are pleased with the growing bilateral trade and investment."

There are 600 US companies operting in South Africa which have created in excess 150,000 jobs.

"We are pleased to be working with you today with a common goal of expanding trade relations between our two countries."

He said the US was a major export market for South African products.

"South Africa in turn is your biggest market in Africa, accounting for more than seven billion US dollars of exports," said Zuma.

"Our mutual trade has reached the levels preceding the global recession." Zuma said he would like to see increased investment in the South African economy for mutual benefit arising out of Obama's visit.

"We have placed on the table bankable projects which range from infrastructure development to skills development for the youth...

"We have urged that underpinning these investments should be the drive for regional integration, industrialisation and localisation of supply and manufacture."

Zuma said youth development was a key focus area for South Africa given that a third of the population is under the age of 15.

"Mr president, let me welcome you, your family and your delegation to South Africa," said Zuma, despite several protests against Obama this week.

He added that South Africa remained concerned at the lack of progress in the Middle East peace process.

"We unequivocally support the Palestinian bid for statehood and believe in the principle of a two-state solution," said Zuma, adding that South Africa had noted the US's latest attempts to revive negotiations.

"At the same time,we are of the view that lasting peace in the Middle East will not be possible without addressing the other ongoing conflicts in the region, which are a source of much insecurity and instability."

On investment, Obama said he was not threatened that other countries, led by China, were investing in Africa.

The more countries that come to Africa, "the merrier", he said, but warned that Africa should be cautious of outside investment.

Obama also pledged support for the push to have the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa) extended. He said he supported moves to "improve" and "renew" Agoa.

Agoa -- which allows Southern African countries to ship certain products to the US tariff-free -- expires in 2015.

Obama said he would first have to convince the US Congress, which had to approve the extension of the Act.

The extension of Agoa formed part of bilateral discussion between Obama and President Jacob Zuma, and their respective delegations.

Zuma also re-affirmed the need for Agoa to be extended.

"Our mutual trade has reached the levels preceding the global recession, largely due to the Act," Zuma said.

"Arising out of this visit we would like to see increased investment in the South African economy for mutual benefit."

There were currently 600 US companies operating in South Africa, which have created more than 150 000 jobs.

"The US is also a major export market for South African products.

"South Africa in turn is your biggest market in Africa, accounting for more than seven billion US dollars of exports," Zuma said.

Zuma said South Africa had put several bankable projects on the table.

These included projects on infrastructure development and skills development for the youth.

"We have urged that underpinning these investments should be the drive for regional integration, industrialisation and localisation of supply and manufacture."

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