WEF SPOTLIGHT ON AFRICA’S GROWTH CHALLENGES

DURBAN, As hundreds of business leaders gathered in Durban for the World Economic Forum on Africa (WEFA) meeting on Wednesday, South Africa’s Deputy Finance Minister Sfiso Buthelezi says the country has a good story to tell.

Speaking on the side-lines of the global event underway at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli Convention Centre here, he was adamant that while South Africa’s economy was not growing enough to create much needed jobs, thegovernment was doing everything possible to ensure conditions are conducive enough for private sector investment in the South African economy.

The meeting in Durban comes at a time when the whole of Africa, South Africa included, is experiencing slow growth and still feeling the pain of the 2008 economic recession which the world has not recovered from yet.

The spotlight is once again on the meeting’s ability to ensure that the debate is directed towards answering difficult questions that the continent has been faced with. These include the fact that, despite its rich mineral wealth and human resources, the continent is still facing myriad challenges.

Countries are being downgraded and there is a sense of urgency as more and more young people are becoming impatient with the lack of progress in their continent. Drought, exacerbated by climate change, is making things worse in some regions with shortages of food forcing people to flee their countries.

The three-day meeting in Durban is hoping to answer some of these challenges which Africa is battling with even two years ago when a similar meeting was held in Kigali, Rwanda.

Even with the two successive downgrades suffered by South Africa in recent weeks, Buthelezi said there is no need to be gloomy about the current picture, urging South Africans to all work together to stabilise and grow the country’s economy so those who are looking for employment can find it.

Remember that as a country, at some stage, we been through these challenges. We had energy challenges and we experienced black-outs. Businesses were panicking and we as a country were able to solve that problem. Now we have surplus energy, something that creates a good platform for growth going forward, said Buthelezi.

He said there was one strong message that the government delegation, led by President Jacob Zuma, will be communicating to the business community attending the WEF: South Africa is open for business.

We are of course very happy that we have been given an honour to host the World Economic Summit on Africa. This gives us an opportunity to showcase to other countries the opportunities that are there in our country and this included tourism seeing that we are in Durban.”

Another thing we are saying here in Durban is that, as a country we think it’s high time that we start beneficiating our raw materials. It is not correct to keep exporting our raw materials. We will never grow at the speed we want, that is the message, he said.

Turning to the much-talked about radical economic transformation and inclusive growth, Buthelezi said it did not help that some South Africans were questioning the new approach and were viewing the radical shift with suspicion. South Africans needed to understand that the structural economy of the country needs to change if the persistent inequalities and poverty are to be addressed.

We are not going to be married to slogans. The main thing here is that if you look at radical economic transformation, you must look at what does it aim to achieve. What does inclusive growth aim to achieve. We have come to the conclusion that if you talk about radical economic transformation or inclusive growth the end result is the same. The end result is that please get as many of our people as possible to be part of the economy.

Opening up economic opportunities to all South Africans is what government aims to achieve at the end of the debate, he said. We have got an unfortunate history in our country of apartheid that excluded the majority of people from economic activity. Therefore it can’t be business as usual in 2017. It is not sustainable to have 80 percent of the population being on the margins, it’s also not good for growth, said Buthelezi.

Source: NAM NEWS NETWORK