Address by President Nelson Mandela at the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA)

21 November 1997

Directors of the Bank;
Dr. Goldin and staff of the DBSA,

When the Development Bank was founded it took its place, whatever the intentions of its leaders, as a key institution of the apartheid system. Whatever the inclinations of its staff, their skills and energies were bound to serve the larger purposes of an unjust order seeking to perpetuate itself. Such is the power of coercive political and social systems to imprint their will upon their institutions.

Thanks to the people of South Africa and their determination to govern themselves, the apartheid vision was made unworkable. Democracy brought new possibilities for every institution. Every sector of society was faced with the call to participate in and promote the total transformation of our country in order to address our legacy of poverty and inequity.

The Bank has risen to this challenge. It has become one of the key institutions in support of the vision of a new South Africa and the region we form part of. Today it is able to live up to the true meaning of its name as a body dedicated to development, working within the framework of a national consensus around the goals of reconstruction and development.

The achievement of all our goals - whether it be bringing the basic amenities previously denied to most of our people; achieving sustained growth and development to create jobs and resources; creating the conditions for safety and security; or building democracy and national unity - all these also depend on the delivery of infrastructure and social services.

The DBSA's mission gives it a vital role in tis regard. You have the capacity and the responsibility to help ensure that government, business and communities join hands around service delivery and infrastructure.

Your activities will have a marked impact on our people's access to housing, water, sanitation, health-care, energy and education. Your work can make a real difference to the transport and telecommunications systems which can boost our efficiency as a country and make our economy still more attractive to foreign investors.

In the few short years since the ending of apartheid, great progress has been made towards realising our long-cherished vision of development through regional co-operation. SADC is proving an increasingly effective framework for reaping the benefits of interdependence. It is allowing us to pool resources in attracting investors and gaining access to global markets.

But much more must be done before SADC becomes the powerful engine for development that it has the potential to be. South Africa's contribution to that process will draw heavily on the DBSA.

We believe that the Bank is well-placed to make a lasting impact on the prosperity of the region. We are encouraged in this by your work in policy development, in building links with other development finance institutions in SADC, and by the growing list of investment projects in the region.

As we strive to realise our vision of a better life for all, we are confronted with the fact that our resources are limited. Government on its own cannot achieve the goals which the nation has set itself.

We need to harness the energies and creativity of communities in their own upliftment. As it makes progress in its own transformation the DBSA is in a position to help us find innovative ways of getting the best results out of development finance.

This includes the bank's participation in such government programmes as the Municipal Infrastructure Programme and the housing subsidy scheme, and by taking advantage of its expertise and its freedom from the profit motive. One positive consequence of this is the emergence of innovative partnership between government and the private sector which is critical to achieving our goals.

But in the final analysis, the people must drive our programmes. Only when affected communities are involved can we be sure that projects are delivering what people really need and what they will pay for, and that they are creating assets that will be properly managed.

Only by co-ordinating initiatives that have impact on each other will we get the most out of them. I have had the opportunity to get a sense of the potential benefits of integrated development, in the form of the exciting Spatial Development Initiatives that are beginning to change the face of our country and even parts of our region - such as the Maputo Corridor; the Lubombo and Fish River initiatives, and the Phillippi-Wetton Corridor.

I would like to encourage the DBSA to continue and enhance its involvement in this approach to development, as part of its growing contribution to our future.

The transformation of institutions is never an easy task, and we do know that yours has had its difficulties and anxieties. But we are heartened by your achievements in this regard: your success in becoming much more representative of our country's whole population; your focus on the new priorities of our democracy and your role in the region.

To have made these adjustments at the same time as improving efficiency and boosting your disbursements from R1bn in 1995 to over R3 billion this year, sets a shining example of what we are trying to achieve in the public sector.

I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate all of you on these achievements.

The challenges we face as a nation are greater than ever. We must build on the foundations that have been laid for a better life, and work with our neighbours for peace and prosperity.

We know we can count on you.

I thank you.

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation