Address by President Nelson Mandela at a luncheon for delegates to the International Iron and Steel Institute (IISI) Board Meeting, Cape Town

23 March 1998

Master of ceremonies;
Mr Chairman of the International Iron and Steel Institute;
Distinguished guests,

As a country busy creating a new place for itself in the international economy, we are proud to welcome so many distinguished leaders of one of the world's great industries. We are honoured that you have chosen Cape Town to hold your meeting and I hope that your stay here proves both fruitful and enjoyable.

As we entrench our democracy and gear ourselves for success in the competitive market-place of the world, iron and steel have an important place in our strategy to unleash the full potential of our natural resources and our people. Your deliberations on the challenges facing the iron and steel industry internationally therefore touch us closely.

Four years into our political transition South Africa enjoys political stability to a degree that has confounded the skeptics. A partnership of all social structures is rebuilding our country. Our social programmes are changing the lives of millions who were previously denied such basic amenities as clean water, health-care, electricity and adequate housing.

Disciplined use of public resources in pursuit of reconstruction and development has helped us turn the economy round from stagnation to sustained growth. Inflation continues on its downward trend. Rising export performance and productivity confirm that we are turning an inward-looking economy into one with a global focus.

These trends help explain our success in weathering the recent turbulence in international financial markets. Large-scale programmes for training and innovation, restructuring of state assets and a three-year budget framework are amongst the measures that are sustaining the positive economic trends.

With our neighbours we are turning Southern Africa into a powerful engine of development through co-operation. An integrated approach to infrastructure is already a reality and we are on our way to creating a single regional market of 150 million or more.

If we stress these achievements, it is not because we are satisfied with them. Indeed we are only at the beginning and many challenges face us. Rather we stress then because they reflect, and in turn further promote, a restructuring of our economy and infrastructural development that are changing the face of our country and our region.

In particular, our Spatial Development Initiatives are drawing investment to areas of unused potential that are ideally located for export-oriented and employment-creating activities. Already they comprise some $15 billion of investment projects at varying stages of planning and development.

These initiatives are the setting for exciting developments that shift the emphasis from export of primary steel products to the internationally competitive manufacture of value-added steel products. They are helping us realise the potential of a steel industry which, like our economy generally, stagnated in the nineteen eighties and early nineties and did not match the growth rates of many of the developing countries.

We think of the Saldanha Iron and Steel Plant, close to completion on schedule, of the Columbus Stainless Steel Plant; and of the project being evaluated for a major iron plant in Maputo that will use South African ore and Mozambican gas to produce iron for the international market. And we think of plans for a mini-mill in the Eastern Cape at the Coega harbour, a decision on whose construction is close to finality.

These are investments on a scale to raise the international profile of South and Southern Africa in the industry.

Central to the success of such developments is partnership. The partnership of government, business and labour, whatever the natural differences amongst such social partners, is based on an overriding commitment to find common solutions. It includes collaboration for the development of particular industrial sectors. Through the partnership of public and private sectors investment resources far beyond the capacity of government are being mobilised. The partnership of Southern Africa's neighbours at last allows the location of production capacity to be decided on economic logic alone.

And our international partners bring new technology and market access that help turn South Africa's natural advantages into profitable investment. Through joint ventures many foreign investors are creating opportunities for those who were excluded by apartheid from the world of business.

This is no one-way relationship. We are confident that from an international perspective the comparative advantages of investment in South Africa will be evident, whether they concern raw materials: human resources, infrastructure or the strategic location of Southern Africa between Asia, the Americas and Europe.

In welcoming you as visitors to our country, therefore, we also look forward to a sustained and mutually beneficial relationship. May we long work together as partners for development and prosperity!

I thank you

Issued by: Office of the President

Source: South African Government Information Website