OP-ED: This is the right time to host the Africa Investment Forum
President Cyril Ramaphosa has made increasing investment in the South African economy, an inclusive economic economy and good governance the major pillars and centre-piece of his presidency. He has set a target of attracting $100-billion over the next few years.
This an edited version of David Makhura’s opening remarks at the Africa Investment Forum, in Sandton, this week. One of Africa’s astute intellectual and revered political figures, Amilcar Cabral, once observed: “Always bear in mind that the people are not fighting for ideas, for the things in anyone’s head. They are fighting to win material benefits, to live better and in peace, to see their lives go forward, to guarantee the future of their children.” Cabral’s observation resonates with the mood and broad objectives of the inaugural Africa Investment Forum, popularly dubbed the “Davos of Africa”. Ours is not about “things in anyone’s head”, but more about unlocking economic development potential intended to change the face of Africa, previously characterised as a dark continent and mostly depended on foreign aid for her prosperity and survival. This august and historic Africa Investment Forum could have taken place anywhere in the continent – it could have been held in Kigali, Nairobi or Addis Ababa; it could have been held in Abidjan, Accra or Lagos; it could have been held in Cape Town or Cairo. We are honoured that it is held in Johannesburg, the home of our two centennials Mme Albertina Sisulu and President Nelson Mandela. The Gauteng Provincial Government put a strong case and won the bid to host this biggest investment platform on the African continent. Gauteng is the economic engine of South Africa; we are the industrial and manufacturing hub of Sub-Saharan Africa; Johannesburg is Africa’s financial and technological nerve centre. We are emboldened by the fact that our golden province continues to be a destination of choice for investors. Through our collective efforts of attracting investment into our economy, it will assist us in changing the racialised, unequal and genderised economic patterns, we inherited from our Apartheid past system, which was declared a “crime against humanity” by progressive world forces for change. Gauteng contributes 35% to South Africa’s GDP and 6% to the total GDP of the continent. Gauteng is a key driver of Africa’s economic integration and intra-Africa trade. Gauteng-based companies have more than 200 FDI active projects, $30-billion, in different regions of Africa. Equally, Gauteng is a classic mirror of the “two nation thesis” former President Thabo Mbeki, once defined in his polemic speech “Reconciliation and Nation-Bulding” – “(This) reality of two nations, underwritten by the perpetuation of the racial, gender and spatial disparities born of a very long period of colonial and apartheid white minority domination, constitutes the material base which reinforces the notion that, indeed, we are not one nation, but two nations.” We have fashioned this investment forum in collaboration with our sister developmental institutions from our continent as a critical instrument to drive economic growth and prosperity for the total benefit of the wretched in Alexandra; Orange Farm, Diepsloot and elsewhere in our province. This will bring practical expression to our longstanding goals of building a South Africa that truly belongs to all as envisaged in the Freedom Charter. Gauteng’s successful bidding and hosting of this important gathering, geared towards attracting and hosting some of the major events and conferences that have huge socio-economic impact on jobs and tourism spend is good not only for the economy, but to foster national unity and social cohesion. Undoubtedly we have the best infrastructure and human capabilities to host events of this magnitude. The Africa Investment Forum comes to South Africa at an exciting time of renewed hope and optimism; a time of rising investor confidence and positive public sentiment about the future of our country. South Africa is back on track. This is the right time to host the Africa Investment Forum because President Cyril Ramaphosa has made increasing investment in the South African economy, an inclusive economic economy and good governance the major pillars and centre-piece of his Presidency. He has set a target of attracting $100-billion over the next few years. Two weeks ago, he hosted a very successful Inaugural South African Investment Conference (SAIC). This inaugural Africa Investment Forum gives momentum to President Ramaphosa’s investment drive. Our desire is to see Africa transition from poverty to prosperity in our lifetime. The mission of my generation is to move Africa from aid to investment. Aid impoverishes and entraps Africa in a dependency trap. Today, Africa is the 21st century’s biggest investment frontier. The Africa Investment Forum is the Davos of Africa. It will be less about talking and more about transactions. It is a great platform to translate Africa’s professed potential into real progress. It is now time to turn Africa’s potential into real progress that can be measured in improvements in the quality of life and well-being of African populations across the continent and the Diaspora. The youth and women need real business opportunities and decent jobs. South Africa is open for business. Gauteng is ready to contribute to the realisation of this as the African Century. In the words of Africa’s celebrated son and South Africa’s former President Thabo Mbeki: “This is a country that gave birth to the melodic African prayer and anthem – Nkosi sikelel' iAfrika! God bless Africa! Raise high her glory! Hear our prayers and confer on us your blessings.” Equally, in deed and action “god bless us, hear our prayers and confer us your blessings”, as we forge ahead to accelerate infrastructure development, economic growth and employment opportunities for our people. DM David Makhura is Premier of Gauteng and ANC Provincial Chairperson.