Notes for an address by President Nelson Mandela at a meeting with Business people of the Northern Cape

Notes for an address by President Nelson Mandela at a meeting with Business people of the Northern Cape

16 November 1996

Introduction

It is a great pleasure to meet business leaders of the Northern Cape. It provides a welcome opportunity to share ideas on the challenges and enormous possibilities for growth and development of the province.

The government and the ANC attach great importance to the role of the business sector in nation-building. Business is a key player in the economy of our country as well as its social and political life.

Getting down to work to improve the quality of life

When we look back on the first two-and-a-half years of democratic government, two things strike us. We still face enormous challenges in our central goal of improving the quality of life. On the other hand our achievements so far will help us meet these challenges.

The establishment of democratic government, from national level to local; and the unity of a nation so recently divided in conflict ad ravaged by violence, is something in which every South African can feel great pride.

Already we have felt the benefits of peace and stability, combined with disciplined economic policies and far-reaching plans for reconstruction. Economic stagnation has been replaced by a growth rate of 3 per cent and the economy is in a long-term upswing.

The progress we have made allows us to set our sights still higher. In order to create more jobs - 400,000 a year by the year 2000 - and produce more resources for the improvement of living conditions - we need to achieve a growth rate of 6 per cent by the end of the century. Our macro-economic framework provides an environment for government, business and labour to work together to achieve these aims.

The mcroeconomic framework has been given support inside ad outside the country. The challenge we face, all of us, is to work together to ensure that it is implemented without prevarication.

What is most encouraging is the way in which all sectors of society are mobilising around the framework. This is part of a broader mood which reflects itself in a strengthening of our national unity, whatever the differences in detail.

For example, we were seeing a certain negativity and ambivalence about the future of the country in some quarters. Business people from other countries were beginning to comet on this - there is perception they have that one of the reasons for international investment not being as fast as we need, has been a lack of marketing by local businessmen to promote our country.

Now, however, this is giving way to a determination to get down to work and seize the opportunities. We think, for example of recent statements by the senior executives in Anglo-American and Sanlam that we South Africans should stop speaking ill of our own country and work together to promote it and show our real strengths. We think too of the foreign business and government delegations which have come with some negative perceptions but left with great optimism after seeing things for themselves. In the past week, newspaper editorials voiced similar sentiments, calling on South Africa and to begin acknowledging their own achievements.

United, and with the right policies, we can tackle the challenges that face us, as a nation and as a province.

Challenges of building growth and prosperity

Creating growth ad prosperity in Northern Cape requires a partnership of business, government and other sectors.

The Big Hole of Kimberley is a monument to the vast resources of the Northern Cape, and the region`s contribution to South Africa`s economic development.

The Big Hole, however, also serves as a constant reminder of the finite life of a mine. As the most important sector of this province`s economy is mining, the need for investment that does not depend solely on the mineral economy is critical to sustain growth in this province. This includes investment which processes and adds value to our raw materials - this will develop manufacturing capacity that will stand the province in good stead in the future.

While we have witnessed a 1% growth rate in tis province`s economy since 1988, we have also seen a decline in formal sector employment. This can be directly related to a reduction in mining activities, bringing a challenge to develop creative alternative opportunities.

There are many ways in which we can resolve the crisis of joblessness in this province. But whatever we do, real and meaningful change of the people of the Northern Cape depends on us all working together in a committed and resolute manner; that government, business, the unions, and the communities share a broad and common vision and galvanise behind that vision.

Small business

Initiatives to develop small business is already having some impact in the Northern Cape, and the development of this sector is a priority for government.

Your Provincial Small Business Council has made commendable progress, and central government recognises the need to match that by making sure its national support programmes have impact in this province.

Established business have a key role to play too - those who have the resources and the skills can help the Northern Cape meet its desperate need for a broader skills base. Business can assist in the training of entrepreneurs amongst those previously excluded from the world of business. Mines that are downscaling can help by seeing that workers receive training in courses to develop business skills.

The promotion of small business should go hand in had with developing labour relations in line with our democratic ideals, both wages and working conditions. It includes steps to ensure that local communities benefit from new business ventures.

Investment possibilities and partnership

The government in this province is doing much to provide investment opportunities. Tax incentives for business that decentralise, provide employment and invest in reconstruction and development are being explored and some initiatives are being implemented.

One of the biggest obstacles to reconstruction and development was the lack of democratic local authorities. The way is now open for all sectors, including business, to work with government to contribute fully to the province`s development.

Government at local level needs to think about economic development in terms of joint ventures and partnerships with those in the private, public and community sectors.

Conclusion

It is clear that the prospects for development in the province are vast. They depend for their realization on the commitment of all sectors and interest groups to work together.

Simply put, we have to make the Northern Cape work and prosper together. We cannot afford to fail ourselves and generations to come.

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