Address by President Nelson Mandela at the Eastern Cape Investors Conference, East London

7 November 1997

Premier Stofile; Cabinet Ministers and MECs; Members of the Provincial and National Legislatures; Distinguished Guests,

It is a special pleasure to welcome so many distinguished foreign and local visitors to the region of my birth and where I spent my formative years. Whenever I come here I am struck by the irony of its neglect by apartheid. I say this, not because it is one of my homes, but because after having traveled to many distant places, I still find the Eastern Cape to be a region full of rich unused potential.

The legacy of apartheid is all too obvious in the region's high unemployment rate; in its visible disparities; and in the evident burden of poverty. This is a story repeated to varying degrees across our country, the product of a system whose economy was oriented towards the needs of a minority and distorted by protection.

Our Reconstruction and Development Programme is transforming our society in order to deal with this legacy. Amongst other things it brings us the double challenge of reorienting our economy towards the needs of the whole of South Africa while at the same time entering a globalised and competitive world market.

This conference is an important part of that process. It represents the partnership of public and private sectors which is essential for growth and development.

A broad partnership, of all sectors of society has been the driving force behind all our achievements, be it political stability; the increasing impact of our programmes to meet social needs; the launch of development initiatives like the Maputo corridor; or the realisation of our macro-economic policies.

After years of stagnation we are in our fourth successive year of growth. Behind the positive trends of a shrinking deficit, falling inflation and improving balance of payments, there are signs of deep structural changes. The growth we have enjoyed has been driven by increasing levels of fixed investment and expanding exports. Both have featured a strong manufacturing input.

Now, three years after achieving democracy our economy is going through a restructuring akin to an industrial revolution.

Building on the fundamental strengths of our economy, our macro-economic strategy has raised our targets still higher. This we have done so that we can produce the resources and create the jobs needed to reach our goals of reconstruction and development. Amongst the measures to maintain the trends and improve them are industrial support measures to boost productivity, and strategic links between industrial policy and the provision of infrastructure.

Our efforts to encourage investment in areas of strength and unused potential include not only tax incentives and training programmes but the Spatial Development Initiatives.

These initiatives are designed to generate sustainable economic growth and development in under-utilised areas which have inherent economic potential; to promote long term job creation; to maximize private sector investment and lending; to open small businesses opportunities; to empower local communities and to exploit the advantages for export oriented growth.

The Eastern Cape initiatives being presented to you at this conference will do all these things. They will reap the potential in the region's industrial, manufacturing, agriculture, tourism, and forestry sectors.

Much work has already been done to create an enabling environment for investors.

Some of the infrastructure already exists. There are ports and airports yet to reach their full capacity. In building on what exists and in identifying new opportunities, the partnership between the public and private sectors, between local companies and foreign investors; and between big and small business will be crucial.

The attraction of Eastern Cape as a destination for investment also depends on its strategic location. It is equidistant to all major international markets, providing new opportunities to manufacturers who must increasingly focus on the global market both for raw materials and to sell their products. It is easily accessible to the Southern African market. And it is well serviced by road, rail and air and telecommunications infrastructure.

The Eastern Cape boasts abundant natural resources, including South Africa's richest forestry resources, presently under-utilised. Its textile, wool, mohair and leather industries are all serviced by extensive farming activities in the hinterland.

There is potential for expansion in agriculture and in food processing. The motor, food processing and petro-chemicals sectors provide a solid core around which strong clusters of economic activity can develop. And should any of our visitors have time for leisure they will see for themselves why tourism is bound to experience intense growth in the Eastern Cape.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

There are many exciting prospects for investment within the Eastern Cape Spatial Development Initiatives. Some of these you will know about, like the Coega deep water port, which has received in principle support from the Cabinet. Others will be unveiled for the first time at this conference.

The success of each of them will depend on the partnership between government, business and the rest of society.

Each will bring reward for investment and enterprise as well as benefits of development for the people of the region. The Fish River Initiative alone represents a potential injection of some R12 billion or more of investment into the Eastern Cape in the next five years, and 65 000 potential jobs, half of them permanent,

I urge you to give your serious consideration to the opportunities. The development train is in motion. Don't be left behind!

A future of prosperity and a better life is within our reach.

Let us grasp the opportunity with both hands!

Issued by: Office of the President

Source: South African Government Information Website