Africans are doing it for themselves with great success

15 May 2013

In 2000 the influential financial publication, The Economist, labelled Africa the “hopeless Continent”, but has since had to revise its view in recognition of the remarkable transformation of Africa.

This icon of Western business thought leadership stepped down as follows: “Since The Economist regrettably labelled Africa the hopeless continent a decade ago, a profound change has taken hold.”

Today that profound change is even more evident, the World Economic Forum (WEF) Africa hosted in Cape Town last week under the theme “Delivering on Africa’s Promise” showed Africans are doing it for themselves and with great success.

WEF Africa afforded representatives of governments across Africa and the business community an opportunity to discuss how African countries could integrate to further the continent’s advancement.

Speaking at WEF Africa 2013 President Zuma said: “We have the opportunity to define our own future as Africans and create the Africa we desire. An Africa that is united; integrated and free of the scourge of poverty.”

This year’s WEF Africa meeting was of special significance, it coincided with Africa celebrating the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), which spearheaded the liberation and integration of African states.

The OAU - now known as the African Union - was instrumental inthe liberation of Africa from colonialism and apartheid. In the 1980s it pressured western nations to impose sanctions on apartheid South Africa, this ultimately contributed towards the demise of this unjust system.

It was the organisation’s extensive work on fostering co-operation amongst other factors that has helped position Africa at the centre of the current revolution in global economic power.

President Zuma remarked that 50 years after the setting up of the OAU the continent stood at a precipice. He said: "If you take the 50 years since it (OAU) was established, we are almost at a point of launching Africa into very great activities to achieve a prosperous continent."

Africa has experienced a decade of economic growth and is the second fastest growing region in the world after Asia.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicts that growth in Sub-Saharan Africa will rise to 6.1 per cent in 2014.

According to the Economist Intelligence Unit seven of the fastest growing economies in the world between 2012 and 2016 years will be in Sub-Saharan Africa. These include Ethiopia, Mozambique, Tanzania, Congo, Zambia, Nigeria and Ghana.

South Africa as the biggest economy on the continent plays an integral role in Africa’s advancement.

During the African Venture Capital Association in Cape Town earlier this year Goldman Sachs economist Jim O'Neill said: "South Africa has a big role to play and probably quite a responsibility in being some kind of genuine gateway to helping the rest of Africa become more successful."

South Africa has placed Africa at the centre of its own economic development as our destiny is undeniably linked with that of the continent.

The National Development Plan (NDP) – the country’s blueprint to develop the nation over the next 20 years – highlights the importance of Africa as it recognises the global shift of economic power from developed to developing countries.

South Africa is encouraging local businesses to expand into Africa to support continental growth through the relaxation of cross-border financial regulations and tax requirements on companies.

Similar support measures will also apply to foreign companies wanting to invest in African countries using South Africa as their regional headquarters.

Over the last few years the South African Reserve Bank (SARB) approved nearly 1 000 large investments into 36 African countries.

These mutually beneficial investments generate tax revenue, dividends and jobs between countries.

South Africa’s manufactured exports to the rest of Africa rose by R20 billion in the past year and accounted for more than 90 000 jobs in the country. Africa accounts for about 18 per cent of our total exports.

According to Ernst & Young Africa annual Africa attractiveness survey South Africa was the single-largest investor in foreign direct investment (FDI) projects in Africa last year.

Furthermore, the  massive investment in developing large-scale infrastructure is helping create opportunities for South African and African companies to expand trade and investment across borders.

The Development Bank of Southern African (DBSA) is intensifying investment into the SADC region by supporting infrastructure projects, particularly in key areas of electricity supply and in improving road infrastructure in the region.

Investment by the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) in 41 projects across 17 African countries totalled R6.2 billion in 2012. The bulk of these investments are mining, industrial infrastructure, agro-processing and tourism.

South Africa is also championing infrastructure development in Africa through the continental north-south rail and road links, as part of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).

The project will improve the Pan-African rail and road infrastructure, with a strong focus on the North-South Corridor linking Durban and Mombasa, Kenya.

South Africa supports the establishment of a continental Tripartite Free Trade area which will create Africa's biggest free trade bloc with a single continent-wide market estimated to be worth $1 trillion. The 26 African countries involved have an aggregate GDP of over $860 billion and a combined population of 600 million.

Our economic development is strongly driven by real physical investment totalling R827 billion over the next three years in road and rail construction, new power stations, housing, water and sanitation.

The World Economic Forum (WEF) Global Competitiveness Survey released earlier this year placed South Africa first out of over a hundred countries in its legal rights, regulations of securities exchanges and reporting and auditing standards index.

Those who are yet to revise their view of Africa should do so today or risk being left behind. Africa is on the rise and the future for the continent and its people continues to look bright.

Phumla Williams is Acting CEO of the Government Communications and Information System (GCIS)