THE WORLD Economic Forum on Africa (WEFA) gathering, which kicks off in Durban on Wednesday, will be an opportunity not only to showcase Durban and South Africa, but to showcase the entire African continent, Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba said on Tuesday.
Gigaba is part of the South African government’s delegation to the WEFA conference, which will be attended by President Jacob Zuma and Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa.
The gathering will be used by the South African government and business to woo investors and cement existing relationships.
“We understand the responsibility we have towards the continent, that we need to position the African continent favourably and ensure that we tell a good story of ourselves,” Gigaba said.
“One of the things I despise is to see African countries parading themselves individually to investors as if we are in a beauty contest.
“All of us talking about how good my country is, when in fact we should be talking about how good we are as a continent.”
He said Africa was alive with possibilities, as the continent’s best assets were its youthful population. “That potential, when properly harnessed, gives Africa her best possibilities.”
The minister, accompanied by MEC for Economic Development Sihle Zikalala and eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede, went on a tour to major development projects around Durban, including the Bridge City precinct in KwaMashu and the Dube TradePort.
The tour was to explore opportunities for inclusive economic growth, which will ensure that marginalised communities become active participants in the economy.
Gigaba said inclusive economic growth was a key message the government would be taking to the WEFA conference.
He pointed out that there were structural defects in the South African economy, as there remained people who could not participate in the mainstream economy.
He warned that this had to be addressed urgently to avert “serious unrest”.
“There is great social pressure emanating from young people and the marginalised, who want to play a part in the economy. We cannot ignore those sentiments.”
Gigaba said one of the ways to address this was to focus on townships, rural areas and informal settlements to ensure that they become part of South Africa’s “growth story”.
“… So that the form of economic activity that happens there is not only confined to spaza shops, hair salons and car washes.”
Ownership patterns would need to be changed to create new asset owners and new wealth, he said.
“We would rather manage a growing economy than an economy that has reached its climax. The South African budget needs to keep growing for it to have the redistributive effect we need it to have,” Gigaba pointed out.
“We need to find those areas where there is potential for new growth,” he said.
Gigaba added that South African cities still reflect the country’s history in that the unemployed and the marginalised live furthest away from the city centres, which are the hubs of economic activity and employment.
He said accelerated inclusive economic growth would serve as a catalyst to ensure that the marginalised come on board, not only as employees but also as owners of assets. “If we make the mistake of building Bridge City for the people of KwaMashu and Ntuzuma, but they do not own a piece of it, and all the shops belong to people from outside those areas, we are not doing anything to change the ownership patterns; we are actually reinforcing the exclusion of those already excluded.”
Gigaba explained that inclusive economic growth and radical economic transformation were not fundamentally different, as both talk to structural changes in the South African economy.
Zikalala welcomed the WEFA delegates while also urging investors to invest in KZN.
He said the province was full of opportunities for investors as it boasted a diverse economy.
Durban could be proud of a great record when it came to hosting mega events and wanted to be the home of the South African leg of the WEFA, Zikalala said.
“If you talk about the WEF on a global level, people just know it is in
Davos. We can be a home for the WEF in Africa,” he added.
Gumede also welcomed those attending, saying Durban was honoured to host the global gathering, which is expected to be attended by more than 1 000 delegates.