Speaking notes for Deputy President, Kgalema Motlanthe, on the occasion of the meeting with the Congressional Black Caucus
29 March 2011
Introduction and Background
First off, I would like to thank the Congressional Black Caucus for making this historic conversation with us possible today. I am here today accompanied by ministers who have the core business of strengthening of bilateral relations between our two countries.
Let me congratulate Representative Emmanuel Cleaver for his election as the chairperson of the Congressional Black Caucus in the 112th Congress.
Importantly, I also wish to congratulate the Congressional Black Caucus on its 40th Anniversary. Since its formal foundation in its current form the Congressional Black Caucus has played a pivotal role and stayed true to its goal of “positively influencing the course of events pertinent to African-Americans and others of similar experience and situation” and “achieving greater equity for persons of African descent in the design and content of domestic and international programmes and services.”
In line with this vision, the Congressional Black Caucus did its part and did so with excellence in lobbying for the demise of apartheid in South Africa and has continued to support us since the dawn of democracy in 1994.
Africans in the Diaspora Conference
As you are aware South Africa has been confirmed as the host of the 2012 African Diaspora Summit, which has stimulated interest in Congress and from the United States civil society.
At the Congressional level, Congressman Bobby Rush tabled the Africa Investment and Diaspora Bill on 15 February 2011, in the presence of the South African Ambassador Rasool and AU Ambassador Amina Ali.
We commend this initiative and we will work closely to ensure synergies between our own effort to host the African Diaspora Summit and carry its resolutions forward, in order to strengthen relations and solidarity with the African Continent.
This year marks the United Nations International Year for People of African Descent. At an inspirational level, this must provide us with the necessary impetus as we celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the Black Congressional Caucus and 100th Anniversary of the founding of the African National Congress in 1912 as well as the holding of the Diaspora Conference in South Africa.
Earlier today, Vice President Biden and I discussed, amongst others, the critical importance of AGOA for the growth and development of South Africa and Africa.
I understand that congress will ultimately make the decision about whether AGOA will continue beyond 2015.
As a key component of Congress I call today on you to ensure that Congress votes in support of AGOA’s continuation to ensure that South Africa and Africa’s economies continue to boom.
In our assessment, the global economic crisis has resulted in slower growth in our traditional partners in the North. This has been offset by the rapid recovery of growth in China, India and Brazil.
Africa’s importance has also grown in recent years, as a source of resources and a potential market with one billion consumers as well as being one of the fastest-growing regions in the world.
This view is shared by the McKinsey Report, which states that:
· Africa’s collective GDP in 2008 was $1. 8 trillion, roughly equal to Brazil or Russia’s and this will rise to 2,6 trillion in 2020,
· Africa’s combined consumer spending in 2008 is $860 billion and this will rise to $1,4 trillion in 2020,
· Africa’s share of the world’s total arable land is 60%, and
· The number of Africans of working age will be 1.1 billion in 2040.
This is the reason we are encouraging the United States as a country with immense economic and political influence, to remain engaged not only in South Africa, but in Africa broadly.
In this context AGOA is a powerful cohesive measure facilitating economic relations between the United States and Africa.
Our view is that the United States should continue to open its markets to African goods and this has a positive impact on economic growth in Africa. The benefits of the commodity boom, allows Africa to expand its value added products designed for exports and the United States is an important customer in that regard.
In return, Africa’s imported capital goods account for almost half of investment, thus making our exports a critical enabler of our continent’s future growth, based largely on imports of capital goods from the United States.
Accordingly we see the recent United States’ National Export Initiative (NEI) as a positive step in creating win-win outcomes because it boost job creation in both South Africa and the United States and strengthens economic growth in both our countries by building SMMEs and forging joint venture partnerships between United States and South African companies.
In South Africa specifically, we seek your partnership in addressing the key challenges we are grappling with today, which include creating jobs, reducing poverty, building infrastructure and expanding our economy.
South Africa Today
Since our transition to democracy our economy has undergone considerable structural changes. Reintegration into the world economy as well as changes in mining and agriculture saw extensive job shedding, which is amongst our key challenges we face in South Africa, particularly amongst the youth. Today, 42 per cent of young people between the ages of 18 and 29 are unemployed.
Our intention is to have a country where millions more South Africans have decent employment opportunities, which has a modern infrastructure and vibrant economy and where the quality of life is high.
To this end we have developed the New Growth Path which starts by identifying areas where employment creation is possible and then analyses the policies and institutional developments required to take advantage of these opportunities.
Climate Change – COP 17
South Africa also has the daunting honour to host the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Seventeenth Conference of the Parties (COP17) in November this year. The Conference will be held in Durban, which has on numerous occasions demonstrated that it has the capacity to host large events. The COP 17 conference will be held in the Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre as well as the Durban Exhibition Centre - the biggest convention centre in South Africa.
It is our desire to see a successful outcome and concrete results emanating from COP 17. We see the United States as a critical partner in ensuring that we achieve concrete results from COP 17. We are concerned at the difficulty of the United States to pass domestic legislation which considerably hinders its ability to participate meaningfully in the UNFCC negotiations. As such, the USA did not have a formal negotiating mandate from the US Congress at either the COP 15 in Copenhagen or the COP 16 in Mexico.
In conclusion I reiterate that it is an honour to speak to the Congressional Black Caucus at the time which is truly historic but also challenging.
It is historic because of our common heritage as the children of Africa and our common desire to ensure that the future of Africa and its Diaspora will see us deal more decisively with the twin challenges of racism and under-development.
Our task is daunting but if the CBC with its forty years of experience and South Africa, guided by the continent’s oldest liberation movement with 100 years of experience, can join forces, then surely we are bound to succeed.
Thank you for your attention.
ISSUED BY THE PRESIDENCY ON 29 MARCH 2011