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Address by ANC Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa at the ANC Nelson Mandela Region Gala Dinner

24 October 2014

Programme Director,
Members of the ANC Provincial Executive Committee,
Members of the Nelson Mandela Regional Executive Committee,
Members of Parliament and the Provincial Legislature,
Executive Mayor and Councillors of the Nelson Mandela Metro,
Traditional and religious leaders,
Representatives of the business community,
Young professionals, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I greet you all in the name of the African National Congress.

I wish to thank the Nelson Mandela Region of the ANC for inviting me to speak here this evening. It is an honour to address you as business people and young professionals who have an important role to play in the economic development of our country.

Our common identity as South Africans enjoins us to work together to address the legacy of centuries of deliberate economic exclusion and dispossession.

Our country, like our continent, has suffered the plunder of its natural resources, the exploitation of its people and underdevelopment.

The economic challenges we face - of poverty, unemployment and inequality - are not exclusive to South Africa. They are shared throughout the continent.

As we have common problems, so too should we seek common solutions. We need to boost intra-African trade as perhaps the most potent instrument for the achievement of rapid and sustainable economic growth.

We must work together to strengthen cooperation between African business and government to expand our asset base, produce more goods and create more jobs.

Africa`s recent growth has been largely dependent on the export of raw minerals to Europe, Asia and the United States. That makes our economies particularly vulnerable to fluctuations in demand.

As we discovered in the wake of the 2008 global financial crisis, we must make every effort to ensure that our growth comes from a diverse set of economic activities.

As Africans, we need to find a common strategy to develop new economic assets, open up new markets for our products and strengthen our competitive advantage in global trade.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

At its 53rd National Conference in December 2012, the ANC came to the conclusion that we must use our mineral resources in a manner that will produce more economic value. This includes increasing local beneficiation of raw minerals and the development of secondary industries.

The underlying intention is the creation of black industrialists that will drive economic restructuring. This will expand the industrial base of our economy, transform ownership patterns and create employment.

This strategy is particularly relevant in this region, which historically has a strong industrial sector and is well located to access export markets.

These markets are not only in Europe or the Far East. They are also elsewhere on the African continent. With over a billion people, Africa has the potential to become the most important market for Africa`s own goods.

We need to integrate our economies in a manner that recognises the needs and productive potential of each country`s economy.

We must increase investment in the development of alternative energy sources, invest in the expansion of the minerals value chain, grow our services sector and broaden our manufacturing capacity.

Betterinfrastructure is an essential ingredient for productivity and growth. As South Africa we are undertaking the largest infrastructure investment programme in our history. This programme is expanding our economic capacity significantly, stimulating key sectors of the economy, and creating jobs.

We must continue to develop strategies to champion regional and cross-border infrastructure projects. These increase trade and enhance regional integration.

One such project is the North-South corridor infrastructure project. Championed by President Jacob Zuma, it is a network of road and rail from South Africa right to the top of Africa.

While our governments will continue to lead these investments, there is great value and great opportunity for private sector investment in infrastructure development.

As we improve our road and rail networks, as we increase our energy generation capacity, as we improve our water infrastructure, and as we roll-out new telecommunications capacity, we are creating the conditions for investment by the private sector to establish new operations and expand existing ones.

But it is critical that this investment is accompanied by a concerted focus on education and skills development. Industry needs more than electricity and water and roads. It needs people with knowledge and skills and experience.

As a country, we are making progress in improving the quality of our entire education system, from early childhood development through to higher education and training.

At the one end, we are expanding access to Grade R as an entry into school, while at the other we are massively improving the quality, relevance and appeal of our Technical and Vocational Education and Training colleges.

We are looking to business to partner with us in this effort. We need to do more and be more creative in bridging the divide between the world of study and the world of work.

Young people need to have opportunities to gain skills and experience in real work situations.

At the same time, we need to open up opportunities for those young people who want to run their own businesses. As government, we need to support them. As established business, we need to mentor and nurture them. As society, we need to encourage them.

As we build the economy, so too do we need to transform it.

We need to undo the deliberate exclusion of black people and women from meaningful participation in the mainstream of the economy.

We have made some progress, but we need to do much more. We need to use the resources of the state to promote black business through preferential procurement. We need to refine the codes of good practice and better implement them.

We need to understand the barriers that still prevent black and women business people from establishing themselves in particularly industries. And we need to work together to address them.

Black economic empowerment is necessary not only to satisfy the imperatives of the Constitution. It is necessary not only to correct the wrongs of the past. It is necessary and essential if we are going to build a prosperous, sustainable and equitable society.

Effective black economic empowerment benefits everyone.

Comrades and friends,

The Nelson Mandela Metro is a strategic economic centre. It has significant infrastructure and a strong industrial base. It has skilled and capable people. But most importantly, it has tremendous potential for growth and development.

What is required is a dynamic and vibrant partnership between government, business, labour and communities. It requires a common vision for growth and development. It requires a commitment to collaboration and cooperation.

Let us work together to ensure that this region becomes an integral part of the economic corridor that we are building from Cape to Cairo.

Because working together, we move South Africa - and Africa - forward.

I thank you.