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Opening Address by South African deputy president at U.S.-Africa business summit

Published date:
Thursday, 15 November 2007

Opening a U.S.-Africa Business Summit in Cape Town, South Africa, the country's deputy president, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka proposed that American business should co-operate in an "African Skills Revolution Partnership". She welcomed delegates at the opening of the summit, organized by the U.S. Corporate Council on Africa, on Thursday night.

Greetings and best wishes to all participants. Thank you for choosing South Africa as your meeting place. Welcome to the City of Cape Town and thank you for choosing the Cape Town Convention Centre as the venue for this historic business Summit.

It is said Cape Town is one of those cities you must visit, at least once, in your lifetime.


We thank the Corporate Council on Africa (CCA) for the role it has played over the years in promoting Africa in the United States of America through convening Business Summits and disseminating information about investment opportunities on our continent. A task that has to remain at hand and even intensified. Many of you also do business in Africa and that is also much appreciated.


We are particularly pleased with the decision to hold the first Corporate Council US/Africa Business Summit, outside the United States of America, in our country. But we hope that you will also be doing so in other African countries.

I am sure this summit will have concrete positive outcomes and it will give fellow Africans an opportunity to influence the agenda of the CCA in the best interest of both African and American colleagues.


Africa is experiencing an unprecedented economic boom, which is going to be sustained for many years to come. The time is right for investors who want to participate in this exciting phase of economic prosperity to increase their investments and those who have not yet invested to act. We say: Africa is open for business!

We have NEPAD, which is an all inclusive plan that captures some of key opportunities in Africa.


An average economic growth of five and half percent (5.5%) achieved during the last three years is only the beginning. Growth in the current year is estimated to exceed six percent and the outlook for 2008 is slightly down at 5.8 percent due to global downturn. Africa, however, has some market leaders that have sustained growth.


Tourism in Africa grew at 8.1 percent average, which is above the world average of 5.6 percent in the first eight months of 2007. South Africa's growth is at 9.5 percent, far higher than the continental and world averages. The scope for further growth is bigger in South Africa and in many African countries with greater investment in infrastructure, air transport, hotels, skills and product variety.


Currently, youth aged 12-24 make up 1.5 of the global population of 6.5 billion. Of all young people, nearly 90 per cent one point three billion (1.3 billion) live in developing countries. Relatively, Africa has the largest share of children and youth. This presents our continent and country with an opportunity to shape the next generation, depending on what we do or don't do. If we do not have a smart approach to developing the youth, it could be a burden!

This, I want to argue, requires us in Africa and our partners to invest in a highly productive and healthy youth, this for the sake of Africa and the world, which is poised for an unprecedented skills shortage. Africa has the biggest pool of warm bodies that can be trained for global skills needs and for the achievement of the, yet to happen, African industrialisation.

So we would like to have your good selves as part of our skills production and to curb Africa's underskilling and braindrain.

In this, I urge that we agree to develop an "African Skills Revolution Partnership" as a Joint project with CCA. I volunteer all of us, Africans, to input. That will be a WIN-WIN situation, I promise. Especially assisting in building and rebuilding centres of excellence in Africa, even in your areas of need.


Tourism, agriculture and mining, with beneficiation, are some of Africa's biggest opportunities that offer a win-win solution to US/African relations. As a continent we need partners in improving education and health performance as a base for a robust economic environment. Both also have economic and investment opportunities for example Information Communication Technology (ICT) demand for e-education.


Rising oil prices and strong demand for commodities have contributed to the economic boom of the last few years, but in addition- the restoration of political stability, improved macro-economic management and debt relief - have made a material contribution. Rising prizes have also contributed to the high cost of living in many African countries.

So on its own, resource-demand driven growth is not sustainable or balanced. Africa needs a much broader manufacturing base and much longer and wider value chain. Africa needs to improve its industrial base, value addition, growth of knowledge economy do better on agriculture and fair access to markets. This is an area in which the United States of America can be of great help. This by no means says that we do not appreciate African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). We have seen how well countries such as Lesotho have used Agoa.


There is a younger and dynamic breed of African entrepreneurs, who are breaking new ground they need someone to give them a chance! The combination of these factors have resulted in greater demand for day-to-day goods and services by citizens, as well as increased capital flows. Furthermore, political stability has created a more conducive climate for long term investment in human and physical infrastructure.


Many emerging entrepreneurs have a need for partners with whom to make significant investments in Africa. In such a visit and conference we must not miss opportunities to make these important contacts.


Coming to South Africa, the Republic of South Africa has embarked on a very ambitious programme to improve economic competitiveness. The programme is focused on improving both the human and physical infrastructure and on policy adjustments across a number of sectors. I am sure that the Ministers and business leaders participating in the Summit will highlight some of the interventions. We have our ministers of Trade and Industry and Public Enterprises and Minerals and Energy who will participate in this summit.

Our Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative South Africa (ASGISA) in South Africa is an intervention that address the binding constraints to our growth and even more lack of shared growth, therefore, we identified:

* Infrastructure

* Skills

* Industrial sector

* Capacity and scope of the state and regulatory environment

* 2nd economy and poverty.

* Macro-economic

For each challenge we have interventions: education and skills is a cross cutting challenge and we have elevated it through Jipsa.

Despite all the challenges in South Africa, we have a set of seriously good news: Economic growth has been good for South Africa, living standards have been boosted by:

* Higher wages, lower interest rates and personal income tax relief.

* Rising employment

* Significant share of economic success redistributed through the fiscus.

* The economy has boosted taxes and lowered interest rates – allowing government expenditure to grow strongly.

* Social wage consistently expanded

* Transfers to households have grown

* Public sector remuneration and employment recently boosted.

* Growth in capital spending has improved access to and quality of services.

Though we have a challenge of very high imported goods and lower manufacturing, permanent deterioration amongst significant challenges in the trade balance from oil prices, skill deficit binding.

Our large number of poor citizens entrenches inequality.


Even with all our challenges. You could not have come at a better time. We are at a very exciting stage of development. We sincerely hope that you will take the time to obtain information about investment opportunities in South Africa, and also visit other African countries to see for yourself what is really happening. Now more than ever, Africa needs trade more than aid.


We are ahead of schedule in construction of most of the stadia and the infrastructure projects under construction across the country. Despite experiencing some labour disputes at some of the constructions sites. We are determined to make the 2010 Fifa Soccer World Cup the most memorable African experience ever. We are particularly interested in leaving behind a transportation and infrastructural legacy.

Rolled and updated ICT Boost of tourism and much better management of our soccer industry and the beautiful game.

Through tourism we will also be able to share benefits with other African countries. While, we don't think the United States of America will be in the final of the 2010 Fifa Soccer World Cup, but this should not stop Americans from coming in their numbers to watch South Africa in the finals!


Best wishes and great success in your deliberations. May you find the experience fulfilling and rewarding. Thank you once more for taking the time to deliberate on investment opportunities in South Africa and the rest of the continent.

“ Latest AGOA Trade Data currently available on

Click here to view a sector profile of South Africa’s bilateral trade with the United States, disaggregated by total exports and imports, AGOA exports and GSP exports.

Other regularly updated trade statistics on include: (click each link to view)

  • AGOA-Beneficiary Countries’ AGOA and GSP Trade Aggregates

  • AGOA Trade by Industry Sector

  • Apparel Trade under AGOA’s Wearing Apparel Provisions

  • Latest Apparel Quotas under AGOA

  • Bilateral Trade Data for all AGOA-eligible countries individually.

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