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Nelson Mandela Foundation

Address at South African Breweries, October 2001

Item type: Address
Acquisition method: From hard drive
Unique ID: NMS1076


Date:  October 2001


Thank you very much for the invitation to join you here this afternoon. It is not every day that an unemployed pensioner gets the opportunity to rub shoulders with such an august gathering of leaders in the international financial world.

Your gathering here is a very positive sign for our country and its economy. The mere fact that you are here to listen and learn about circumstances and opportunities for investment indicates that current events in the world have not totally pushed our country and continent off the international radar of attention, as some predicted would happen. For that reason we are so particularly glad about this gathering and your presence.

For at the end of it all, our ultimate concern in the world is to create the conditions for a better life for all the people. This is not the occasion to spend too much time on analysing and talking about the current events in the world. What one can say, though, is that the long term solution of conflicts lies in eradicating poverty, hunger and deprivation. And for that to happen countries and societies need economic growth and prosperity. In our global and interdependent world, trade and investment are key elements in achieving such growth and prosperity.

We realise how crucially important you, the analysts and experts gathered here this afternoon, are to making decisions about investments in our country. Hence our great appreciation for the opportunity to spend time with you.

There are other more expert than myself to talk about the technical aspects of our economy. I can merely emphasise once more how important it is for the long term future of our young democracy that we receive substantial foreign investment so that we can grow our economy, create jobs for our people and improve the living standards of particularly the poor.

No one can question that South Africans have done tremendously in resolving in a peaceful and democratic manner the political conflicts that have made it one of the most divided societies in the world. The nature of that transition has often been described as a miracle by a world that expected and predicted a bloody racial war. South Africans from all backgrounds and persuasions came together to confound the prophets of doom.

Today we live in a non-racial democratic order, underpinned by a constitution hailed as one of the most progressive in the world. Today we can live out our differences and tensions that will always be found in a healthy society within the context of our constitutional order. Nobody in the world can claim that our political and constitutional order is under any threat or pressure. South Africa must rank as one of the most stable countries in the world.

That we have social problems such as too high a crime rate is not denied. Or that we face a crisis of unprecedented proportions through the terrible scourge of HIV/AIDS. These are issues that lie at the heart of the social programme driven by our government, and in which it is joined by other sectors of our society. And it is exactly to effectively tackle these issues that we need economic growth and a better life. Many of these social ills that we are battling thrive within conditions of poverty and deprivation.

As I said, there are others better equipped to talk to you about the technical aspects of our economy. But even to a lay person like myself it is eminently clear that South Africa has the sound and sophisticated infrastructure of a modern economy.

We have a highly efficient transport network, whether by road, rail, air or sea. Our communications systems are sophisticated. And our financial institutions are compared to the best in the world. And everybody seems to agree that from the side of government our macro-economic framework is excellently managed. In fact, our Minister of Finance is generally regarded as one of the best in the world, and certainly the best this country has ever had.

It is against that background that I must confess to a poor country boy's confusion and lack of understanding as to why we are not drawing more direct foreign investment, and about why our currency is struggling so much and so often. What more have we to do to convince investors and currency dealers about our political stability, the health of our democracy, the fundamental soundness of our economy?

We had, and I continue to have, the perhaps nave expectation that the world - particularly the industrialised Western world - would rise to hail the end of apartheid and the achievement of a genuinely non-racial order with investment and support. Where some other parts of the world have experienced resurgence of old divisions and conflicts, we have as a nation come together to rise above racial divides of our past. One would have hoped, and continues to hope, that such a situation provides an exemplary model to the world - a model worth supporting through vigorous trade and investment.

However, we should not merely be expressing disappointment. There has been a remarkable upswing and turnabout in the South African economy since 1994 if we were to compare it with the decade preceding. The role of foreign trade and investment in those changes is not negligible and we also need to express our appreciation for that. We trust that the returns and dividends flowing from such involvement in our economy had proved that we are an attractive place for investors and traders.

And I am sure that I can speak on behalf of all South Africans, whether in government, the private sector or labour, in saying that we shall continue to run our economy and society to keep it the stable, sophisticated and well managed place I have described.

Thank you for this opportunity, and I look forward with faith to ever increasing foreign trade and investment in our country. In the current world with its looming tensions, we continue to be one of the most stable and safest places.

I thank you.

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