Address by His Excellency President Jacob Zuma at the Business Gala Dinner hosted by the Antwerp World Diamond Centre in honour of his visit to Belgium
28 September 2010
Minister Kris Peeters,
The President of the Antwerp World Diamond Centre, Mr Nishit Parikh,
Mr Barend Petersen, CEO of De Beers,
Distinguished Captains of Industry and Commerce,
Let me thank the Antwerp World Diamond Centre and the City of Antwerp for hosting us in this beautiful city. I can see why you have the slogan - Diamond Loves Antwerp.
Antwerp has long history with South Africa and many of our companies are active here.
As one of the major producers of diamonds in Southern Africa, We have a strong interest in the sustainable growth and expansion of this important industry.
We congratulate you for the important role you continue to play in promoting the sustainable development of the world diamond industry.
Antwerp is also the gateway to Europe and the bulk of our exports reach the mainland via Antwerp Port. We are especially mindful of the contribution that Belgium and the Antwerp diamond industry made to the Kimberly Process.
We hope that we can expand our areas of co-operation and take our partnership to a higher level. I will say a bit more about this later.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The relationship between South Africa and Belgium continues to grow. We are pleased that despite the global recession in 2009, trade between our countries has increased in the last six months.
Belgium is our fourth largest trade partner in the European Union, with total trade amounting to two point one billion Euros.
We have also seen new areas of co-operation between our two countries in the fields of education, rural development, customs co-operation, renewable energy and science and technology.
We look forward to the next meeting of our Joint Commission in the first quarter of next year.
Ladies and gentlemen,
This morning, we attended the 3rd SA-EU Summit. Our discussion focussed on expanding our strategic partnership which has grown dramatically over the past few years.
Since the signing of the Trade Development and Co-operation Act, our trade has increased five fold, and the European Union remains our largest trading partner and source of foreign investment.
Last week at the UN General Assembly, the WTO released their report predicting that global trade, which had slowed down due to the recession, will grow by thirteen point five percent - the highest since the 1950's.
We have indicated to the European Union that as the SADC region, we would like to conclude the Economic Partnership Agreement trade negotiations by the end of the year. That means we must therefore resolve the outstanding issues within the remaining period so that we can get back to the real business of expanding bi-lateral trade and investment.
For us as South Africa, international trade is an instrument to help us achieve economic growth, so that we can deal with the challenges of unemployment, inequality and poverty.
We need to achieve a growth rate of seven percent a year to eradicate unemployment and poverty. To achieve this we are currently developing a new growth path, as part of implementing our economic policy that was adopted in 2007.
The new growth path recognizes that while we have had economic growth for a sustained period since the advent of democracy, with particularly high growth since the early 2000s, poverty remains high, inequalities have remained and the jobs created often brought low wages and poor conditions.
These are the challenges we are seeking to correct.
Our research shows that our economy has the potential to create employment through a few sectors such as infrastructure development, mining and agricultural value chains, the services, construction and tourism; the green economy and knowledge-based sectors.
Other sectors are rural and African regional development and through the social economy and the public sector.
Alongside our economic strategy we are putting in place measures to improve the quality of education and health care.
Europe is therefore one of our key strategic partners in the achievement of these goals.
Europe remains the investor in key sectors of our economy such as automobiles infrastructure and financial services.
There are also opportunities to be explored in manufacturing, especially in the automotive, agro-processing and the textile sectors, the promotion of a green economy, agriculture, and skills development.
Ladies and gentlemen,
As a country that is a foremost producer of diamonds, we see growth within our huge mining industry as well.
This is uppermost in our minds today as we visit this city that loves diamonds!
As you are aware, the mining industry has been the foundation of economic development in South Africa for well over a century.
Despite considerable diversification of our economy in the recent past, the mining sector remains a key variable in our economic growth equation.
The wealth of the mining assets in South Africa remains significant, and are currently valued at two point five trillion US dollars, excluding energy commodities such as coal, uranium and thorium.
In 2009, the mining industry contributed more than thirty percent to the country's total export revenue, and employed two point nine percent of the country's economically active population.
That is currently just below half a million direct jobs and a further half a million indirect jobs.
As the global economy recovers, and the demand for commodities increases, real opportunities for maximum returns in the mining sector exist.
South Africa is well-placed to take full advantage of these improving prospects in the sector.
Estimates suggest that our mineral resources are expected to be exploitable for over a century to come.
Our country continues to host significant known reserves of mineral commodities, with almost 60 minerals being actively mined.
A large number of these known reserves were discovered using conventional exploration methodologies and technologies.
This is further supported by existing mining infrastructure, which enables investors to obtain maximum value from their investment in South Africa, while at the same time contributing to socio-economic development.
Our mining industry is definitely poised for growth, and the advantage is that we offer certainty as well as proven economic and political stability.
The successful hosting of the 2010 FIFA Soccer World Cup in South Africa demonstrated to the world that we are a country that can deliver on its undertakings.
The hosting of the event in the midst of a global economic downturn clearly proves the economic prowess of the country.
Therefore investments in our mining sector will continue to yield the desired results for investors who take advantage of our favourable investment environment.
As you would be aware, the State is the custodian of all South Africa's mineral and petroleum resources in line with domestic law as well as international convention through the UN Charter of Economic Rights and Duties of States.
The UN Charter grants States full permanent sovereignty, including possession and disposal over all their natural resources.
Being in the city of Antwerp, let me remind you that South Africa and Africa have mainly been exporters of raw materials and unprocessed diamonds.
Whilst we have been exporting diamonds for more than 100 years, we have not been able to develop a local diamond cutting and polishing, jewellery industries.
We have therefore not been reaping the full benefits of our commodities.
Last year the SA government adopted a clear and explicit Industrial Policy - aimed at actively promoting our manufacturing sector and diversifying our industrial base.
Central to our Industrial Action Plan is beneficiation of our raw materials, including precious metal such as diamonds and platinum.
We invite our friends in the Antwerp Diamond Industry to expand their involvement in South Africa and the SADC region.
We believe that Antwerp will be an ideal partner to help us build a strong and diversified diamond industry in Southern Africa.
We can benefit tremendously from your wealth of experience and extensive knowledge of the diamond market.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Let me reiterate that as the South African government we remain committed to creating favourable conditions for investment and trade.
As you are aware South Africa is active member of G20 and we have been playing a key role in the Doha Development Round.
Alongside a number of other developing countries, South Africa has also witnessed a significant expansion of trade with the BRIC grouping of countries - Brazil, Russia, India and China and other emerging markets.
This has increased the demand for our exports and the increased diversification has reduced our vulnerability and ensured more balanced growth.
We look forward to deeper economic and trade relations with the Kingdom of Belgium as well as the European Union.
We are very optimistic following the start of this visit, and know that we will conclude on a high note tomorrow when we embark on the bilateral part of the visit.
We hope to see most of you in South Africa soon, as you come to further strengthen relations between the city that loves diamonds, and the country that is the home of diamonds!
I thank you.