Africa Must Prioritise Industrialisation for Growth

Workers at a South African car plant
Africa need to develop its industrial base

Although the African continent is the next growth frontier, it must prioritise industrialisation and regional economic diversification, says South Africa’s Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies.

Returning from an official visit to Zurich, Switzerland, to deepen bilateral economic relations between the two countries, Davies’s message to the Swiss government and business fraternity was that Africa was ready for massive growth.

Additionally, Switzerland is a key partner for investment in South Africa.

“The country ranks as the seventh largest foreign direct investor to South Africa. Since 2003, Switzerland has invested in about 30 projects in South Africa, with direct investment volume estimated at R17 billion over the period 2003-2012,” said Davies on Sunday.

Switzerland investment projects in South Africa are distributed across a broad range of industrial sectors including financial services; metals; industrial machinery; equipment and tools; food and tobacco, among others. Switzerland investment projects in SA have created an estimated 13,204 jobs in the country.

Davies, who arrived in Switzerland on Wednesday, held bilateral talks with his Swiss counterpart, Federal Councillor Johan N. Schneider-Ammann. He also addressed the Swissmem Industry Day and met with SwissCham Southern Africa and potential investors.

In his meeting with Schneider-Ammann, the minister said SA’s Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment policy was being refocused towards the development of enterprises and skills development, as this would lead to the reduction of unemployment, especially among the youth, as well as create growth opportunities for Black owned enterprises. This was welcomed by the Federal Councillor.

South Africa’s $2 billion contribution to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) firewall was welcomed by the President of SwissCham Southern Africa, Georg C. Umbright.

“The world needs Africa for sure in the next 10 to 20 years. We can’t do without Africa and the main motor of Southern Africa is South Africa. We are glad that Minister Davies has such a strategic view of how to develop trade amongst the countries of SADC and also on the larger scale,” he said.

Umbright expressed confidence that there would be more industries coming into the country.

In the five-year period ending in 2011, South Africa’s exports to Switzerland showed an upward trend with the exception of 2010. Total exports from South Africa to Switzerland increased over this period from R8.8 billion in 2007 to R21.2 billion in 2011.

Before visiting Switzerland, Davies visited the United States where he signed a new Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) aimed at deepening bilateral economic relationship. The new pact updates an earlier TIFA signed in 1999.

Business Unity SA expressed its support for the agreement.