Opening address by President Nelson Mandela at the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Consultative Conference: Investment Forum

1 February 1996

Chairman of the Council, Vice-President Mogae of Botswana;
Ministers of SADC countries;
Our guests from Europe, North America and other regions of the world;
Members of the diplomatic corps;
Distinguished guests;
Ladies and gentlemen.

Our region is on the verge of a real economic breakthrough. It is therefore with great pleasure that I welcome all of you to this SADC Consultative Conference with its specific theme of Investment. I am especially grateful that SADC chose South Africa to host this important conference.

Our vision of a prosperous Community with an increasing standard of living for all its peoples will be realised through regional co-operation infrastructure and natural resources, tourism and shared management of our ecosystems. These and other sectors have the potential to be a bedrock for sustainable development and economic growth in the sub-continent. Southern Africa has most of the characteristics of a winning region. We need to capitalise on the mutually beneficial possibilities and harmonise our strategies on matters of common interest.

In the short time since the countries of our region were freed of apartheid and destabilisation they have taken great strides along the path of regional co-operation. The region is now characterised by political stability, democracy and far-reaching programmes of reconstruction within a framework of financial discipline. It is for these and other reasons that the region has become an ideal destination for investment.

We are happy that foreign and local investors have come to realise the SADC region's potential as a viable investment prospect. Their interest has seen an increased demand for investment conferences in the region. During 1995 the World Economic Forum and the other investment conferences provided potential investors with the opportunity to acquaint themselves with the regional investment environment and to set up a platform for joint ventures with regional investors. We welcome all the opportunities that arise out of such dialogue.

As individual member states of SADC we each possess different trade and investment opportunities. These opportunities are multiplied many fold in the regional context, given our natural resources, our potential for expansion and our large market. Through SADC we want to seize these opportunities and turn them to reality by assuring regional stability and greater economic co-operation.

Our region is therefore poised to be an important role-player within the global trade and investment system. But much more is needed in the form of further development of investor-friendly policy frameworks and trade-related measures.

Very soon we will have a trade protocol which, among other things, will simplify trade relations within SADC and present this region as one entity to the rest of the world. The level of co-ordination and harmonisation at the level of detail is well under way, affecting specific rules and regulations, tariffs, and other measures related to trade. The result will be greater scope for joint ventures, for the development of investor networks and eventually the realisation of the huge investment potential of this region. Our region will benefit by earning more foreign exchange; creating sustainable jobs through intra-regional and inter-regional trade; improving credit worthiness and increased economic growth and development.

Ladies and gentlemen;

The future of this region lies in the hands of its people. We in SADC have taken advantage of the post-apartheid era to move decisively from policies that make our borders the definitive element for relationships. Instead we seek ways of building on our complementary strengths and economic interlinkages. The governments of the region are committed to implementing policies and strategies that will result in greater benefits for all. Indeed economic growth and development are better tackled in a collective manner.

We are aware that we have only made a start, and that the policies that ensure success are not necessarily easy choices for us. Nor do they bring instantaneous results. It is therefore imperative that we stay focused on the ultimate goal and resist the urge to address our problems in ways which have short-term advantages for individual nations.

I believe that the existence of this Community demonstrates each government's commitment to irrevocable change for the better for all of our citizens. We take courage from realising that the conditions for economic growth and development are becoming more favourable throughout Africa and Sub Saharan Africa in particular.

The outcome of our efforts is made all the more promising by our having an infrastructure that can compete favourably in the world. In the fields of communication, energy, transport, and water resource management we have a capacity to interact as a region and to compete internationally. Our financial markets may be small and weak nationally but the combined capacity is enough to ensure that that the region and its international partners are serviced adequately.

We are focusing on trade and investment because these are the only sure guarantee of sustainable growth and development. But in the past these have been complemented by aid, which has been of great benefit. Such aid still has a critical role to play. Even as growth and development take root we would encourage donors to expand their aid to Southern Africa, both to the region and to its component nations. It will help us to know that our efforts are reinforced by all who have an interest in our future.

In conclusion, ladies and gentlemen, may I repeat what I have said on previous occasions: South Africa is fully committed to working as a full and equal partner towards the realisation of a better region for all. Our success is linked to that of the region. We address our own problems as part of a family of Southern African nations, our destiny inextricably linked by geography, history and our huge collective potential.

In the spirit of regional co-operation I wish you all a fruitful conference.

Thank you.

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation