Address by President Nelson Mandela at the Investors Conference of the West Coast Investment Initiative, Saldanha Bay

26 February 1998

Premier Kriel;
Cabinet Ministers and MECs
Distinguished Guests.

When I learnt about this conference I thought it important to find time in my schedule to join you. The initiative has great importance both for the people of the West Coast and for our country's economy. Its success is critically dependent on private sector investment and it is therefore a great pleasure to welcome so many people whose task it is to influence or make investment decisions.

To our foreign visitors especially, I wish you a stay that is not only profitable but also a pleasure.

The importance which we attach to the West Coast initiative will be only too evident to you from the number of senior representatives of our government present at this conference.

They and their officials can convey to you, more ably than I could and in more concrete detail, the investment opportunities of the West Coast.

From them you will know the details of how government is creating an environment in which business can take advantage of those opportunities at the same time as bringing benefit of the people of the area and our economy.

By the end of the conference you will be left in no doubt that this is a region endowed with abundant natural resources and an infrastructure largely in place, an ideal setting for industrial growth that abounds with opportunities in tourism, agriculture and manufacturing, amongst others.

A region as special as this surely deserves special attention, abd that is why government has declared it one of our Spatial Development Initiatives.

It is - like most parts of our country - an area which in the past was neglected as far as its people are concerned. In one of the ironies of our history, the apartheid planners invested in the infrastructure but not the people of this region, more concerned with grandiose plans to draw Coloured people away from Cape Town than with uplifting those who lived here. The legacy is still felt today.

Through our Reconstruction and Development Programme, our society is being transformed in order to deal with the legacy. As we entrench our democracy, as we work to improve living conditions, we are also facing the challenge of taking our place in a highly competitive world economy.

In common with the other SDI's, the West Coast is an area with economic potential which is under-utilised; and which in particular offers favourable conditions for sustainable export-oriented growth and long term job-creation, as well as opportunities for small and medium enterprises. Together our development initiatives are contribution to a restructuring of our economy that is akin to an industrial revolution.

Central to our strategy for growth and development is a partnership of private and public sectors, and that is what lends this conference such significance.

A partnership of all sectors of society has been the driving force behind all the achievements of our young democracy. It has been responsible for our peaceful political transformation, for the quickening pace of our programmes to provide the social services which most of our people were denied; for the national strategy which is beginning to make an impact on crime; and for an economy whose sound fundamentals have let it weather the turbulence of international markets.

In order to fully reap the region's economic and development potential, that spirit of partnership is needed in every sphere. We will need it in the short-term as much as the long-term - for as we seek the benefits of sustainability, we have also to deal with immediate challenges.

Finding ways of rapidly transferring into the region skills long denied our people and making creative and adaptive use of the skills that are present; ensuring that our young people are preparing themselves for the jobs of the future that will require expertise and technical knowledge; managing the impact of major projects which create temporary jobs during construction but take time to yield the full fruit of sustain employment that grows around them; ensuring that growth and the creation of infrastructure do not impair the precious environment but rather preserve and enhance it - all these challenges and more, we do know, are inherent in ambitious development projects, and the West Coast has had its own encounter with some of them.

But our experience as South Africans has also shown that solutions to even the most difficult problems can be found when all those involved work together for the good of all and seek the common interest.

The West Coast is already feeling the impact of change. The bold investments in Namakwa Sands and Saldanha Steel, among others, have seen to that. From my own visits to the West Coast I know its people to be resourceful and filled with determination to uplift it and transform it into a hive of activity to make a better life for all..

Many of the new possibilities are being presented here at the conference. They range from major investments to small and medium openings. The success of each will depend on the partnership between government, business and the rest of society.

Ladies and Gentlemen;

Those who invest here over the next few years will help take us into the global economy by producing the world's thinnest steel, the healthiest herbal teas, the tastiest braaied crayfish, and the highest quality seaweed for medical technology, to mention but a few West Coast products.

Your investment and enterprise will earn good reward. And they will help bring the benefits of development to the people of the region.

The Spatial Initiatives are stations for boarding the Development Train - now is the time to catch it!

I thank you.

Issued by: Office of the President

Source: South African Government Information Website