Address by President Nelson Mandela at the World Economic Forum Southern Africa Economic Summit, Harare - Zimbabwe

21 May 1997

Mr Chairmen;
Your Excellencies;
Distinguished Guests;
Ladies and Gentlemen,

The regional summit of the World Economic Forum has become one of the most significant events in Southern Africa's calendar.

For SADC in particular it provides an unparalleled opportunity to measure progress and challenges against the judgements and the plans of decision-makers in government and business.

It has therefore been deeply encouraging to witness the steady growth of interest in the Forum from leaders of business, within the region and beyond. This year is no exception, and we would like to take this opportunity to add our voice to those thanking the World Economic Forum and the SADC Secretariat for making it possible; and to President Mugabe and the Government of Zimbabwe for their service to the region in playing host.

The importance of bringing those who command investment resources together with SADC and its member governments, is not merely in providing the former with a window on opportunities - though it does do that. It lies rather in its contribution to the forging of a partnership that goes to the heart of our vision for Southern Africa.

SADC was conceived in the struggle for freedom in Southern Africa as an instrument for realising our dreams of co-operation for prosperity. But we had to wait for the consummation of that struggle before its true potential as an engine for development could being to materialise.

If the liberation of South Africa and the ending of Southern Africa's destabilisation ushered in an era of new possibilities for the region - and indeed the continent - they did so in a global context that defined new imperatives for the achievement of our most urgent objective - the eradication of the poverty that afflicts the great mass of our people.

This then is the crucible out of which our vision for the SADC region has been refined. This Summit, like each one since 1994, will take stock of how Southern Africa has succeeded in using the new opportunities.

Suffice it for now to say that a preference for democracy and the peaceful resolution of disputes; demonstrable commitment to the disciplined management of public resources; policies designed to encourage the flourishing of enterprise, and far-reaching plans for reconstruction have effectively become the norm across the region. To the extent that they have, they are fostering a climate for sustained growth and development.

Southern Africa's interest in peace and political stability as a fundamental condition for development and its commitment to entrenching them, is reflected int he work of SADC's Organ for Politics, Defence and Security led by President Mugabe.

The fruits of these practices and policies are to be seen, amongst other things, in continuing positive economic trends.

But no country in Southern Africa can succeed on its own. Inter- dependence amongst neighbours and the pressures of a globalised economy increasingly defined by regional blocs dictate that we work together as a region.

Progress in developing a regional approach to power; water; transport, and the combating of illicit drug trafficking have shown us what can be achieved.

We have set out on the path to a single regional market, in the knowledge that it is no easy path. The ideal of economic integration has to be approached in a way that is consistent with the historical imbalances within and between countries from which we started.

The phased reduction of internal barriers to trade must be accompanied by measures to address that legacy. We cannot reduce tariffs only for benefits to accrue to the stronger partner. Integration that causes destructive movements of capital, skills or labour defeats our purposes. Balanced development and equitable trade relationships must be our watchwords.

The process must assist us, as a region and as individual countries, to compete in the markets of the world. Hence our emphasis on large-scale infrastructure development; on investment in skills and technology; and a drive for activities that add value to our primary commodities.

Ladies and gentlemen;

We have set ourselves ambitious objectives. But we must do so if we are to claim our share of investment and markets; if we are to generate growth that creates jobs and produces resources to improve the quality of life. The objectives are achievable: but not by government alone; and not by Southern Africa on its own.

The logic of regional integration leads also to a special relationship with other developing countries. A partnership with the nations of the South gives us a collective voice that will help ensure that the emerging world order is to the benefit of all, and not only the strongest.

Development can no longer be regarded as the responsibility of government alone. It requires a partnership of government with its social partners: private sector, labour and non-governmental organisations.

The evolution of SADC from "Co-ordination Conference" to "Community" not only broadened its scope from a focus on infrastructure to a much more comprehensive approach to reconstruction, growth and development. The same process dramatically expanded the possibilities for private sector contribution to development, including in the area of infrastructure formerly associated with government alone. The region is replete with examples, actual and prospective, of large-scale projects demonstrating the power of public and private sector partnership.

SADC is in the midst of a review of its structures. Amongst the answers it must find is the best institutional form for promoting the partnerships that are essential to achieving Southern Africa's development goals in the current era.

SADC came into being under the most unfavourable circumstances, a product of our region's aspiration for peace and prosperity through co-operation. The conditions now exist for it to flourish, and for an economic breakthrough.

Difficulties there are, and we do not underestimate them. To name but some of them: we have to find ways of ensuring that growth translates into employment; that the region - and the continent - secures an equitable share of world trade; and that investment into the region matches its record in creating an ideal destination for investment.

Overcome these difficulties we must. The fact that poverty and deprivation continue to define the condition of most of our region and of humanity is an indictment of the past from which we are emerging.

But should we fail to build the partnerships for development which can eradicate these scourges, then history will make a harsh judgment upon us too.

I thank you

Issued by: SA Communication Service

Source: South African Government Information Website