Midrand: Although South Africa faces a number of challenges, it is still seen by the world as the gateway to the African continent and is looked upon for the direction in which emerging economies are moving, says secretary general of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), Jean-Guy Carrier.
“South Africa is still the gateway to Africa; it is seen; as it can speak for the continent,” said Carrier.
Speaking on international perspectives on employment and the economy at the annual convention of the South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SACCI) on Friday, Carrier said SA was the economy to watch when projecting the growth prospects of rising economies.
“South Africa is a country… that the world looks to for leadership in terms of the direction in which emerging economies are going to go, and how will they work with all of us in the world to make it a better place,” said Carrier at the convention organised under the theme ‘Mobilising business to create jobs’.
Carrier used the platform to raise concern over the financial strain in Europe. Rising unemployment levels in countries such as Spain and Greece were much talked about, while countries like China had growth rates as high as 7.5% when growth in most of the developed world was declining.
The ICC secretary general said business had a role to play in difficult financial situations as governments on their own could not solve the problems.
“Governments are not going to get us out of the situation alone. They may be simply too indebted,” he said.
The ICC provides a forum for businesses and other organisations to examine and better comprehend the nature and significance of the major shifts taking place in the world economy. It also offers an influential and respected channel for supplying business leadership to help governments manage those shifts in a collaborative manner for the benefit of the world economy as a whole.
South Africa, as it stands, is dealing with its own battle in addressing unemployment, poverty and inequity.
Although it had the biggest GDP on the continent (which was at 3.2% in the second quarter of 2012, up from 2.7% in the first quarter), South Africa still faced challenges in areas such as the education system.
“On the issue of competitiveness, taxes are high compared to the rest of the continent and education is needing and productivity is low,” noted Carrier.
He called on business not to wait for government to come up with solutions to job creation.
Sacci’s newly appointed president, Clive Manci, said partnerships with government were crucial.
“The private sector is keen to invest in infrastructure,” said Manci of government’s major infrastructure plan.
President Jacob Zuma, in his State of the Nation Address earlier this year, announced an infrastructure plan for the country. It lists 17 strategic integrated projects which cover a range of economic and social infrastructure projects across all nine provinces, with a special emphasis on poorer regions.
The plan is intended to transform the economic landscape of South Africa, create a significant number of new jobs, strengthen the delivery of basic services and support the integration of African economies.
Following a three-day Lekgotla in September, Cabinet agreed to include a new Strategic Integrated Project (SIP) on water and sanitation as part of government’s infrastructure plan.
Speaking at the SACCI gala dinner on Thursday evening, President Zuma called on business and labour to work together to ensure “shop floor peace” and stability in the country.
This, the President said, was necessary in order to work towards the collective responsibility of promoting economic growth and development.
“We have gone through a difficult period in our country in the past few weeks with wild cat strikes, one of which tragically claimed the lives of 46 people in Marikana. We should not seek to portray ourselves as a nation that is perpetually fighting. We must create a climate of constructive social dialogue, which South Africans are known for,” he said.