Address by Nelson Mandela at business luncheon hosted by Minister Manuel in Toronto, Canada

25 September 1998

Master of Ceremonies; Ladies and Gentlemen; Canadians and South Africans

We could not have asked for a better ending to our visit to North America than a day that includes a summit of trade and business leaders like this. Our visit had many important purposes, but none more so than building relationships between Canadian and South African business partners.

The value we attach to the Summit will be evident from the number of senior government representatives present, and the 40 or more of our business people here on a five-day trade and investment mission. You may gauge our private sector's interest in doing business with Canada by the fact that over 100 companies wanted to join the mission.

Success in today's competitive climate depends on a strong partnership of government and private sector. So it is a great pleasure to welcome people whose task is to make or shape investment decisions. The occasion brings a valuable opportunity to share ideas on how we can work together for our mutual benefit. This is especially important at a time when the crisis in the global economy reminds us all of the interdependence of nations and economies in today's world, and of the necessity for us to meet our goals through co-operation with one another.

As two relatively small economies, one industrialised and one developing, there are some specific advantages we can draw from co-operating with each other. We both need investments from other countries and international corporations. We have a common interest, along with many others, in promoting a more equitable system of international trade rules.

The struggle to free South Africa forged a world-wide community of people who love freedom and justice. Within that wider community close and valuable links have been built between the Canadian and South African people, that have grown still stronger as we set out to rebuild our country. Today, when we face still greater challenges of development, the relationship becomes even more important, especially in the economic sphere. The potential for mutual benefit is also much greater than it was.

In 1994, when we addressed audiences in many countries, those whom we met joined us in celebrating our freedom.

But there were clearly also concerns as to our capacity to govern a modern economy. Many people were skeptical that South Africans could leave their divided past behind them. The doubts were understandable. We had no track record in government. We would be the first to admit that we have made mistakes, but looking back over the four years of democratic government we can say that we have done well. What we have achieved is far beyond anything even attempted by any previous government in South Africa.

In every sphere we have used our four years of freedom to lay the foundation for a better life for all, and we are busy building on it. Those early doubts have been laid to rest except amongst a small and dwindling minority.

The South African people confounded the prophets of doom, by joining hands to work for a better life for all. Of course we have our differences, and they are sometimes sharp, but they take place within a broad allegiance to our new democracy. There is a broad consensus around government's policies and our challenge is effective implementation.

Democracy and a culture of human rights have struck deep roots. The spirit of reconciliation is steadily but surely healing the divisions created by generations of enforced division on the basis of race.

Our second democratic election next year will see the replacement of an 80 year old president with a younger one. If the democratic process selects Thabo Mbeki then the country will formally gain a President who is already running the country in fact!

Although crime and corruption are still at an unacceptable level we have turned the tide. The new institutions of our democracy have introduced a climate of transparency, helping us to expose corruption, whoever is involved, and root it out. Democracy has brought the opportunity to reshape a police force whose former function was to protect minority interests and suppress opposition. A new relationship between police and community is at the heart of a strategy that combines effective law-enforcement with action to address the social roots of crime.

Our programmes for socio-economic improvement are already bringing the basic necessities of life to millions of poor people who could only dream of them before. There is no magic in numbers, and we know that we have only begun on a task of many years. But we think it important you should know that we are in earnest about improving the quality of life of our people. For example, on average, on every single day since the election of South Africa's first democratic government on every single day - about 1,700 people have gained access to clean water; 1,300 homes have been connected to the electricity grid; and over 800 telephone lines connected. Every week since then has brought two new clinics into existence and access to health-care for some 20,000 people.

At the moment about 1,000 houses are being brought into construction or completed every day.

This is what has been happening day after day, week after week, month after month for four years, and that is why we can speak of millions of lives that have changed for the better. As business people you will appreciate the cumulative effect on the economic life of our country.

Our economic policy framework has been firmly established over the four years of democratic government. At its heart is a combination of prudent use of public resources; far-reaching programmes of socio-economic improvement; restructuring of state assets; industrial restructuring for export-oriented growth as we integrate in a competitive global economy; and a gradual lifting of exchange controls.

Investment, and in particular foreign direct investment, is of critical importance to the kind of growth we need, and we systematically encourage it.

A powerful thrust in our investment promotion programme comes from our Spatial Development Initiatives. Some, like the Maputo Development Corridor, are joint projects with our neighbours. These packages of industrial projects and infrastructural development, based on private-public sector partnerships and exploiting unused potential for export-oriented activities, are changing the face of our country and region. At the moment there are some 400 SDI-related projects at various stages, with a total value of R83 billion and the potential to create 68,000 jobs.

The economic indicators point to the success of our policies.

Years of stagnation have been turned to five years of continuous growth.

The rate of growth, slowed down by the effects of the recent global turmoil, is expected to pick up again in 1999. Inflation has been reduced and despite the impact of the recent financial crisis it is expected to remain in single digits.

Government has reduced the fiscal deficit from 10% in 1993/94 to a targeted 3.5% this fiscal year.

Most significant are the signs of the underlying changes we are seeking:

* sustained productivity growth with falling costs per unit of output; and

* a sharply improved export performance (20% up from 1993 to 1996; 12.5% in 1997 and 12,0% in the first half of this year).

The restructuring of state assets continues, after the initial sale of six radio stations and an airline, and the acquisition of strategic equity partners for our national telecommunications corporation and the Airports Company. On this year's agenda for restructuring are the national forestry corporation and airline, South African Airways. We believe that the consistent application of these policies and the soundness of our well-capitalised banking system are the main reasons that we are weathering the global financial turmoil. Our policies provide the correct long-term strategies for the structural reform that will bring sustainable growth.

All countries, even the most powerful, are being obliged to recognise that none of us can achieve sustained growth and development, peace, stability and prosperity, unless others do so too.

South Africa therefore places the highest priority on the economic integration and political stability of Southern Africa, on the basis of balanced development, equitable relations and democratic governance. The Southern African Development Community is on its way to becoming an integrated market of 180 million people within eight years.

The reconstruction and development of our continent as a whole is a condition of the fulfillment of our own destiny as an African nation.

Because none of us is able on our own to solve the important challenges which we face, South Africa actively participates in efforts to deal with problems through multilateral organisations.

In particular, we share the urgent concern of all those who would want the world trade and financial system to move in a direction that translates world economic growth into the benefits of development.

We come to you from Africa, a continent whose people are working hard to improve their lives; and whose people reach out to you, not with a begging bowl, but to join hands in a partnership of mutual benefit that will add to the momentum for growth. The economic links that a summit like this helps to build, and the opportunities for trade and investment that it facilitates, are indispensable to the generation of sustained growth on which the realisation of all these goals depends.

South Africans are looking for increased economic links with Canada. That is why we are here and why we opened a new office in Toronto in July to promote economic ties between us.

There are many profitable opportunities for Canadians in South and Southern Africa. By seizing them you will be rising to one of the great challenges of our time, the regeneration of the African continent.

Let us join in a partnership for peace and prosperity as we enter the new millennium!

Issued by: Office of the President

Source: South African Government Information Website