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SA open for business, says President Zuma

Written by Bathandwa Mbola

International relations

President Jacob Zuma has called on world leaders to invest in infrastructure projects in South Africa and other African countries to boost the long-term economic growth of the continent.

President Jacob Zuma at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland with Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan (left) and Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel. President Zuma told the forum that there were enormous business opportunities in South Africa.President Zuma was speaking at Davos-Klosters, Switzerland during the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF).

More than 2 500 leaders in business, government, academia and civic life attended the five-day forum.

Accompanied by several ministers and industry specialists, the President also used the WEF to promote South Africa’s National Development Plan (NDP), which seeks to significantly reduce the country’s triple challenges of unemployment, poverty and inequality by 2030.

The NDP also aims to ensure that all South Africans have access to quality services such as education and health, and that the country plays a leading role in continental development, economic integration and human rights. Infrastructure development, President Zuma told the forum, was the flagship project of the NDP, given its capacity to create jobs while changing the landscape of the country. “Domestically, there are roads, dams, power stations, schools, hospitals and more that are being built or refurbished. All these provide enormous opportunities for the business sector.”

He told delegates that South Africa was stable, friendly, resilient and able to solve its problems.

“We are presenting a South Africa that is open for business and which is open to provide entry into the African continent, a fast growing region which is proving many Afro-pessimists wrong.”

Under the theme ‘Resilient Dynamism’, the meeting saw discussions on how the international community can return to a good economic path, create higher employment opportunities and tackle the challenges within the international financial system.

Africa’s dynamism was highlighted with participants indicating that the continent has now become the world’s second fastest growing economy.

The lack of progress on women’s rights, corruption and freedom of the press in the Arab world since the Arab Spring uprisings also came into focus.

Participants also discussed the two-year civil war in Syria. With no resolution in sight, the conflict is creating a growing humanitarian crisis, with human suffering on a massive scale. This, delegates felt, was placing an unsustain- able burden on neighbouring countries that have to take in fleeing refugees.

The forum also saw South African-born Hollywood star Charlize Theron being recognised for her humanitarian work by being awarded a WEF Crystal Award.

Awarded each year, the Crystal Award honours artists who have used their art to improve the state of the world.

Theron was recognised for her outreach project, which finances programmes designed to prevent HIV among young Africans and South Africans in particular.

The project includes providing mobile health services to secondary schools in the rural uMkhanyakude District of KwaZulu-Natal.

The district is one of the poorest regions of the country, with only 6.6 per cent of the population employed and nearly 83 per cent of households living below the poverty level. President Zuma met with Theron on the side-lines of the WEF where she briefed him on her project.

“We wish her success in every venture she undertakes. I assured her that South Africans love her and wish her all the best,” said the President.

Last year the award went to another South African, Yvonne Chaka Chaka.

Theron proved to be the star of the WEF opening, with a heartfelt plea for funds in the fight against HIV/ AIDS. Her message to the forum was that progress in the fight against HIV/AIDS must be maintained by adequate funding.

The next forum, which will be the 44th, takes place in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland from 22 to 26 January 2014.