24 May 2018

South Africa: President Cyril Ramaphosa - African Renaissance Conference


Programme Director,

Premier of KwaZulu-Natal, Mr Willies Mchunu,

Vice-Chair of African Renaissance, Prof S Ngubane,

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and gentlemen,

I wish to thank the African Renaissance Trust for this invitation to participate in this celebration of Africa Day in the year in which we mark the centenaries of two notable Africans - Tata Nelson Mandela and Mama Albertina Sisulu.

These are Africans who, at different time in the history of our continent, bequeathed to us values and behaviours that stand us in good stead in the 21st Century.

Both Tata Mandela and Ma Sisulu dedicated their lives to securing better social and economic conditions for all the people of our country and our continent.

Just a few days ago, I was very honoured to be near here, in Amanzimtoti, to interact with a global industrial giant and a group of highly skilled and productive young South Africans.

They are both living proof of how our social and economic landscape is changing for the better.

My visit to the South Coast took me to the Volvo Trucks factory, where Volvo has firmly placed its confidence and its capital in South Africa as a vibrant, productive and profitable investment destination.

Sensitive to the need for us to promote manual work in the midst of the unstoppable march of automation, Volvo continues to invest in providing skills to its energetic team of assembly workers.

Between them, these impressive young people turn the key on a new Volvo truck every 45 minutes, thanks to the skills, sound working conditions and motivation with which they have been empowered.

These young workers have not only become self-sufficient individually, but the material support they provide to their families means that purchasing power and personal pride and dignity are living side-by-side in neighbourhoods around Amanzimtoti.

Programme Director,

I tell this story because it illustrates that the achievement of the African Union's Vision 2063 relies on seemingly isolated and disparate stories that are unfolding from Amanzimtoti to Abidjan, Algiers and Addis Ababa.

Yet, instead of being isolated and disparate, these examples of progress are in fact part of a rich tapestry of social and economic transformation that, collectively, produce a composite image of a continent on the rise.

It is therefore with a sense of hope and optimism that we find inspiration in the transformation that is sweeping across our continents in waves of varying intensity and size.

These waves of development and transformation are constantly reshaping the shoreline of underdevelopment and disadvantage that used to characterise life on our continent.

Hopelessness and despair are being eroded by the expansion of education and entrepreneurship on our continent, and the advancing empowerment of women in African societies and economies.

In March this year, the AU Summit in Kigali, Rwanda reached the historic milestone of an Agreement on the African Continental Free Trade Area.

This agreement seeks to dissolve barriers to shared opportunity and prosperity, by enabling the movement of people, goods, services and knowledge around our continent.

This agreement places the best that Africa has to offer at the disposal of all Africans and promises to reduce the inequality that exists across national borders.

Poverty and underdevelopment often exists just a few kilometres away from prosperity and progress.

The agreement on an African Continental Free Trade Area took place in a continent far removed from the Africa in which Pixley ka Seme penned his 1906 essay titled 'The Regeneration of Africa'.

Seme called for all the people in the land to unite and see the continent as equal in its contribution to civilisation.

His generation understood that the responsibility rested on their shoulders to restore the dignity of the African people.

They challenged the Eurocentric stereotypes of Africa as a dark continent.

It was our forebears, especially those who had early contacts with their diaspora counterparts studying overseas, who exchanged ideas on how to confront colonial oppression.

In the interconnected world of today where we as Africans assert ourselves as equals - not subjects - in the global governance system and the globalised economy, we are able to sustain the thinking and work pioneered to Pixley ka Seme.

Our current task is to shape the progressive and prosperous Africa we wish to bequeath to future generations.

This future must be the outcome of a shared vision in the same way that our dismantling of the shackles of oppression and colonialism relied on solidarity and unity in resistance.

Therefore, in 2018, we continue to be guided and inspired by Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Murtala Mohammed of Nigeria, Patrice Lumumba of Congo, Amilcar Cabral of Guinea Bissau, Agostino Neto of Angola, Eduardo Mondlane of Mozambique, Seretse Khama of Botswana, WEB Du Bois and Martin Luther King Jr of the United States, Marcus Garvey of Jamaica, and our own Albert Luthuli and Nelson Mandela.

We remain inspired by the words of Madiba, when he said: "I dream of the realisation of the unity of Africa, whereby its leaders combine in their efforts to solve the problems of this continent."

The realisation of Madiba's dream rests on leaders from all sectors of our society - leaders in government, business, labour, communities and civil society at large across the continent.

In our own instance as South Africa, we are taking steps to transform an economy that remains largely characterised by the structural flaws of a racist and patriarchal past.

As we noted in Parliament yesterday, millions of our people remain outside of productive economic activity, unable to contribute, unable to benefit.

Like elsewhere on the continent, the majority of these people are young.

They live far from economic centres, they do not have the skills, work experience or networks to find gainful employment, and they do not have the assets or the markets they need to start their own enterprises.

This is the environment in which we look to collectives such as the KZN Growth Coalition, the Durban Chamber of Commerce and the African Renaissance Trust to develop solutions and opportunities that will help us overcome the lingering poverty, unemployment and inequality that face many people in this province and elsewhere.

We look to the collective leadership of this province to explore ways of giving effect to the new social compact around job creation that we are seeking to build among labour, business and communities nationally.

As leaders in this province, you are best placed to bring this effort to secure growth, development and transformation to the people of KwaZulu-Natal.

As we build up to a national Jobs Summit, government, business, labour and community in KwaZulu-Natal have an opportunity to investigate how and where sustainable jobs and skills development can be implemented in this province.

The experience of Volvo Trucks and its staff is a powerful example, among many, of what can be achieved - and should be sustained - as we set out on an ambitious drive to attract investment of $100 billion in our economy over the next five years.

These are examples that we wish to see replicated not just around South Africa but around our continent.

Our own new dawn is part of a broader continental dawn of shared growth and prosperity, in which South Africa retains its position as a gateway to pan-African opportunity for the peoples of this continent and our international partners.

South Africa's own growth stands to benefit significantly from - and contribute to - the rising tide of development in our region and continent.

This rising tide entails political and economic cooperation, with outcomes that include greater regional integration and the development of regional infrastructure, services and knowledge bases that equitably benefit all member states.

Investors and innovators must feel at home in Africa.

We must be inspired by our ancestors, whose boundless creativity and majestic works endure today.

The magnificent pyramids of Egypt, the sculptures of the ancient kingdoms of Ghana and Mali and Benin, the temples of Ethiopia, and the rock paintings of the Kgalagadi, all speak volumes about Africa's innovation and contribution to human development.

Increasingly, these representations of African civilisation are being supplemented by advanced infrastructure, industrial parks, scientific laboratories and corporate tower blocks that mark our continent's urban landscapes.

The engineers and artists of ancient times have worthy successors in a new generation of young scientists, technicians, financiers, coders and designers.

Our task is to create the conditions for this new generation to grow and thrive and to build a continent of hope and progress.

We must constantly remind them of the words of Madiba, who said:

"Sometimes, it falls upon a generation to be great. You can be that generation. Let your greatness blossom."

It is then that the brighter day of which Pixley ka Seme spoke will rise upon Africa.

It is then that our chains will be dissolved, our plains will be red with harvest and our crowded cities will send forth the hum of business.

It is then that we will achieve an African renaissance.

God bless Africa. Nkosi sikelel' iAfrica.

I thank you.

Issued by: The Presidency

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