Pretoria: Developments in the mining sector as well as South Africa’s achievements formed part of World Bank Chief Jim Yong Kim’s interaction with the South African government.
Speaking at a joint press conference on Thursday, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan said that challenges facing South Africa were discussed with the World Bank leader, among them issues concerning mining.
“The sad events in Marikana and in the mining industry generally [were discussed],” said Gordhan, noting that the dynamics of the mining industry needed to be better understood.
“The platinum industry already is under pressure and at the same time, we must ensure that the bulk of the industry is at work. In that sense… employers and employees [must] find each other on work and social issues.
“The message we need to communicate to the rest of the world is that South Africa is at work and most of it is highly productive and is still available for investment.”
The current events in the mining industry would not impact economic growth, he said.
Kim said the World Bank was committed to South Africa’s growth and that in his interactions with President Jacob Zuma, TB contraction among miners was discussed. Kim also learned of South Africa’s plans to propel its development.
The two leaders agreed that social justice and inclusive growth were closely related.
Gordhan welcomed Kim on his first visit to Africa since his appointment earlier this year. Kim has met with Zuma and eight ministers and deputy ministers.
He was also briefed on what the country was doing on issues including education and health, small business and science and technology.
“The World Bank is an important institution and we have confirmed our faith in the multilateral system,” noted Gordhan, saying that in order for the multilateral system to be inclusive and fully representative, transformation was necessary.
Gordhan expressed confidence in Kim’s vision for the bank.
“We support his stance on social justice, eradicating poverty and inclusive growth.”
However, the question around eradicating poverty and inclusive growth remained, Gordhan said. He was pleased with the World Bank leader’s endorsement of the role of middle income countries like South Africa in coming up with lasting solutions.
The minister said that it was not only the bigger or smaller economies that should attract assistance from the bank.
“We expect the World Bank will introduce a new era to ensure knowledge and expertise, apart from money, are availed to middle income countries, in a way that [ensures] economies grow and that social justice is at the centre of solving poverty and inequality.”
The leaders also discussed South Africa’s infrastructure plans for the future, with high expectations for South Africa to be a laboratory for innovation.
Kim, who prior to his appointment to the World Bank had worked in countries like Lesotho, held South Africa in high regard.
“I have enormous respect for this country and its people. South Africa’s success is important for the region and the world,” he said, adding that the South African government was committed to boosting the country’s growth.
He said gender equality and good jobs for the youth were important.
“Discussions with the ministers were impressive, I was impressed with the level of analysis,” he said of the talks he described as “frank” in frank nature.
Though good policies were in place, implementation remained a challenge for all countries, said Kim, noting that the bank had a contingency of practitioners that were available to assist countries.
“For us, being engaged with South Africa is not focused on our ability to bring expertise but we’re also here to learn, many innovations have happened here. We want to learn from the innovations and achievements,” said Kim, who concludes his trip to South Africa today.
“I was honoured to meet President Zuma. We spoke of the importance of implementation. I think we can bring experiences from other countries that might be helpful to SA.”
The two also discussed how the World Bank can best support African countries to achieve higher levels of, and more inclusive, economic growth, as well as enhance Africa’s infrastructure programme.
Zuma also raised the issue of the democratisation of the World Bank. “I discussed with Dr Kim, among other issues, the role that the World Bank Group can play in support of the integration of African economies. We have already done much work to highlight the vital importance of regional trade corridors that connect countries through roads, railways, and provide access to ports and airports.
“The World Bank Group can play a vital role as a catalyst for the development and financing of infrastructure, especially because private sector investors will draw comfort from the anchor role that a financier like the World Bank Group can play,” said Zuma.