3 February 2014

Africa: Zuma - AU Committed to Tackling Intra-Africa Trade Bottlenecks

President Jacob Zuma says the African heads of state have prioritised tackling infrastructure bottlenecks to enable intra-Africa investment to happen in a bid to boost the continent's growth.

Speaking at the Bloomberg "Africa: Economic Outlook and Opportunities" Conference at the Turbine Hall in Newtown on Monday, Zuma said this commitment was made at the African Union Summit that took place in Ethiopia at the weekend.

The conference, founded by the 108th Mayor of the City of New York, met to discuss the economic outlook of the African continent, with Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and Reserve Bank Governor Gill Marcus also in attendance.

Zuma said while intra-African investment has been growing since 2007, at more than 32%, a lack of access to trade-enabling infrastructure on the continent remained a fundamental challenge.

"We discussed this matter at length again at the African Union summit in Ethiopia this past weekend. We recommitted ourselves as African heads of state to continue building cross-border infrastructure, to unlock growth and development in our continent.

"In addition to a focus on trade-enabling infrastructure, we are intensifying our continental integration efforts through the negotiation of the Tripartite Free Trade Agreement.

"We have made considerable progress in the negotiations, which aim to integrate 26 countries of Eastern and Southern Africa. This involves a population of nearly 600 million people and a combined GDP of US $1 trillion," he said.

On the home front, Zuma said South Africa had introduced the National Development Plan (NDP) - the country's policy framework to eradicate poverty, reduce inequality and create employment by 2030.

He said the plan outlined the country's intentions of transforming the economy and creating jobs through promoting sectors in which the country has competitive advantage.

This includes the minerals sector, agro-processing, mining, manufacturing, construction, general infrastructure and the green economy.

Zuma said the plan also committed the country to invest in a strong network of economic infrastructure designed to support the country's medium and long-term economic and social objectives.

"We are building roads, bridges, dams, schools, hospitals, universities, colleges and a lot of other infrastructure.

"We believe we are making progress. Very few nations have gone through the repression, subjugation and divisions that we went through and emerged to build a new society and a stable democracy in such a short space of time.

"It is through the support of development partners like Bloomberg and many of you in this room, that we have been able to achieve our goals," he said.

The NDP also envisions South Africa to invest into Africa, and Zuma said government has already been contributing to that goal.

Since 2007, there has been a compound growth of 57% in South Africa-originated foreign direct investment projects into the rest of Africa.

"South Africa was the single largest FDI investor in the rest of Africa in 2012, with cumulative FDI jobs created, standing at more than 45 000 to date," he said.

He also said the conference took place at a time that the African economy was growing and has tripled since 2000.

"This growth is predicted to continue in the foreseeable future, giving rise to a new African paradigm: Africa as the new growth frontier. The South African government and private sector have a critical role to play in this continued growth.

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