Cape Town – President Jacob Zuma says African countries are already working together to remove red tape that hinders intra-African trade.
The President said while doing business in the continent was not easy, African Heads of State were already tackling all the bottlenecks seen to be preventing local and foreign investors to move freely across borders.
President Zuma was participating in a debate hosted by the CNBC Africa on the side-lines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Wednesday.
He said this, coupled with infrastructure development, was key to advancing inclusive growth within the continent which will lead to job creation and poverty alleviation.
“We realise that if you are in Africa it is difficult to move and we are saying it should be quick to move if we are to implement our belief that intra-Africa is important and therefore once we have the infrastructure, it should not be blocked by the different countries.
“I know that regulations are the biggest problems for investors. These are matters we are dealing with to try and make it easy [for investors to invest]. We are also looking at how investors can do business easily without dealing with complicated bureaucracies. These are matters we are addressing,” he said.
President Zuma also said that while Africa was blessed with skilled industrialists, they have had to relocate to countries in developed states because there were simply no industries in their respective countries to use those skills.
“We also have skills in the continent that are not in the continent but are dispersed all over the world because there was no industry for those skills to be utilised.
“We believe that once we have the infrastructure, we have energy, those skills are going to come back to the country and they are not going to leave the continent. So therefore the shortage of skills is not going to be an issue and these are the matters we are working on.”
Intra-African trade has been on the African Union (AU) Commission’s agenda in recent times, especially with the continent consistently recording economic growth of above five percent.
South Africa is catching up to its peers
Last year, Nigeria overtook South Africa to be ranked number one in the continent in terms of economic growth.
South Africa’s Growth Domestic Product (GDP), however, slowed down to 0.6% in the third quarter of 2014 before growing to 1.4%. The National Treasury later revised the GDP growth downwards.
The President said while this was good for the continent, it was important to never compare South Africa’s challenges to other countries as the democratic government was tasked with growing the economy despite being burdened by the legacy left by the apartheid regime.
“We are not like countries that have been developing all the time. But I think we are doing our best to deal with the legacy but also to expand the economic situation in the country.
“We are investing in infrastructure massively, we have the National Development Plan (NDP), we are dealing with energy as a specific area to grow the economy,” he said.
He said government was doing all it can to implement the National Development Plan in order to meet the target of growing South Africa’s economy by a rate of five percent by 2019.
A World Bank report has projected the country’s Growth Domestic Product (GDP) to grow by 5.2% in the 2015/ 16 financial year.
“So from our point of view, we … understand why our country is not growing fast. We are doing everything to ensure that we catch up.
“That is the mood and South Africa is a very open country for investment,” he said.