Humble Greetings and a warm welcome to the historic and legendary KwaZulu-Natal!
As we gather, I am reminded of a timeless idiom by the people of Africa when they say: “If you want to walk fast walk alone, if you want to walk far, walk with others”.
This is a saying that resonates with the ancient and resilient philosophy of Ubuntu encapsulated in the idea one’s humanity is tied to the next person’s humanity, that is, “umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu”. Our conception of development is communalistic and anchored on the idea that no one must be left behind.
As Africans we are clear that our future in Africa and our destiny is joined to the hip with all the sons and daughters of Africa who want this African century, the 21st century, to be a story of unity and shared prosperity on our beloved continent.
TODAY MARKS INTERNATIONAL DAY OF DEMOCRACY
Today on the 16th of September 2021, we fittingly join the Inter-Parliamentary Union and parliaments around the world to celebrate the International Day of Democracy, as declared by the United Nations General Assembly in 2007.
International Democracy Day was first declared by the International Parliamentary Union on the 16th of September in 1997 in Cairo, Egypt and later adopted by the UN.
Through resolution A/RES/62/7 the UN noted that "democracy does not belong to any country or region,” and that "while democracies share common features, there is no single model of democracy".
It is this common and universal adherence to democracy which today brings us together as nations and provinces. With different origins all of us seek to fashion a common future together based on the will of the people and the legitimacy of the governments they choose.
In this regard, the public violence that we experienced in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng in July took us by surprise in its extent and impact. We have condemned the violence, destruction of property, and loss of life. We have spared no effort in strengthening our national security and law enforcement agencies to prevent such occurrences or respond much better and in a coordinated manner in future.
In hindsight, it became clear that at the heart of our challenge, it was the divisions in our economy, along race, gender, and class that were raising their ugly heads. We were reminded that as clearly stated by former President Thabo Mbeki in 2003, ours remains a country of two nations – one rich, and one poor.
WELCOMING THE HOSTING OF INTRA-AFRICA TRADE FAIR IN KZN
Yet, as the common African saying goes, “the sun that softens the wax, also hardens clay”. In other words, we can use the recent challenges as enormous opportunity to rebuild for economic growth which taps into the skills and resilience of the majority in our countries and provinces.
As we seek to grow trade between ourselves, this must be people-centred and seeking to address the triple challenges of inequality, unemployment and poverty. With people as objects and drivers of economic growth, we must never again leave our people behind.
We would like to pay tribute to the tireless work of President Olusegun Obasanjo in ably leading the Advisory Council of the IATF, and for advising that indeed, KwaZulu-Natal is the best place to host this magnificent event. Your Excellency and your team, we can never thank you enough for your unwavering vote of confidence, especially at a time when all our efforts in KwaZulu-Natal are focused on rebuilding our economy and taking advantage of all the growth opportunities that Africa presents for our people.
We have no doubt that the Advisory Council noted the location of KwaZulu-Natal as a strategic transit route between the country’s two busiest ports of Richards Bay and Durban, and Africa’s economic hub Gauteng.
The Council also noted that at least 70% of our country’s seaborne trade passes through KwaZulu-Natal and is therefore a vital organ to the life of South Africa’s economy. KwaZulu-Natal is an important trade route from South Africa into neighbouring countries in the SADC region, especially those that are landlocked.
We therefore take this opportunity to congratulate the African Union which in collaboration with the African Export-Import Bank, has put together this ground-breaking initiative of the bi-annual Intra-Africa Trade Fair 2021.
Our province already boasts a solid relationship with the AfreximBank having signed an MOU to work together with the Bank in May this year.
The Intra-Africa Trade Fair takes place at a historic place where on 09 July 2002 the Organisation of African Union completed its evolution to become the African Union.
It is on these shores, in this majestic venue the Inkosi Albert Luthuli ICC where the AU was born. This venue itself is named after the late ANC President, Inkosi Albert Luthuli, who sixty years ago became the first African to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace.
Today with the launch of the IATF 2021, we are again witnessing Africa’s rebirth and renaissance following the devastation of the Coronavirus pandemic.
In our province that dream of the African Renaissance, and the vision of the African century was launched in the form of the AU.
We are equally enthused with the coming into being of the Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) since 01 January 2020, fulfilling Agenda 2063 and a long held pan-African vision of the founding fathers and mothers of the OAU.
Under the agreement businesses and governments will access the integrated African market of over 1.2 billion people, and its combined Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of around US$3 trillion under the AfCFTA.
WELCOMING THE PROPOSAL OF THE AFRICAN SUB-SOVEREIGN GOVERNMENTS CONFERENCE
In this regard, we wish to express our full support for the AfreximBank’s African Sub-Sovereign Governments Conference under the theme: “Supporting the Establishment of an African Sub-Sovereign Governments Network to Promote Trade and Investment Among African Sub-Sovereigns”.
We congratulate AfreximBank for this initiative to promote intra-African trade and investment by setting up government networks at the level of provinces and states. These engagements will be held on sidelines of the Intra Africa Trade Fair.
As a province in a unitary state, KwaZulu-Natal is empowered by the Constitution in which three spheres of government have exclusive and concurrent responsibilities. As a sub-sovereign government, we have our own legislature and are also charged with the responsibilities of collecting revenue, managing expenditure, advancing economic development and promoting trade and investment.
We believe that broad participation of companies in AfCFTA as sub-sovereigns will deepen access to information, sharing of ideas, knowledge and skills. This will also act as a conduit for the Afreximbank to deepen its intervention within countries and deepen regional integration through grass-roots interconnections and involvement.
While the Intra-Africa Trade Fair for 2021 will be held in this great city of eThekwini from the 15-21 November 2021, the African Sub-Sovereign Governments Network will be held on 18 November 2021 at the ICC alongside the IATF.
OPTIMISM THAT A BETTER CORONA-FREE WORLD IS IMMINENT
This is a significant marker of the break that we are making with our recent past. A few days ago, His Excellency President Cyril Ramaphosa in his address to the nation conveyed this spirit of optimism sweeping through South Africa when he declared, and I quote:
“South Africa is fast becoming a vaccination site. Over a quarter of all adult South Africans have received at least one vaccine dose, and more than 7 million people are fully vaccinated”.
The President further said:
“We are now administering a million doses every 4 to 5 days. Government has secured sufficient vaccines to vaccinate the entire adult population, and the supply of vaccines is no longer a constraint.”
The glimmer of hope in the President’s address is an illustration of the war currently being waged by the entire world which is to defeat the threat of the coronavirus pandemic.
Today the entire world is clear that the vaccination drive is our ticket to a certain time in the near future, when we will fully reopen our provinces, states, counties and countries again to the rest of humanity.
We emerge with great resolve from the three waves of infections which cost lives and had devastating consequences for our economy.
In the meantime, we gather here under the Adjusted Level-2 restrictions as laid out by our government, which provide greater freedom of association and open a window of opportunity and hope for our economy.
IATF 2021 IS A SHOT IN THE ARM FOR KZN
We therefore take a moment to celebrate the prospect of hosting the Intra-African Trade Fair in our warm and hospitable province. This is a welcome shot-in-the-arm for KwaZulu-Natal as we embark on resetting and growing our economy under the Economic Reconstruction and Transformation Plan.
In its first edition held in Cairo in December 2018, the event attracted over 1000 exhibitors from 45 countries. This resulted in over US$32 billion worth of trade and investment deals closed at the event.
As of 31 January 2021, an amount of about US$ 27 billion has been implemented or is under implementation. We look forward to welcoming the companies, exhibitors and country representatives to KZN.
Hosting IATF in KZN is expected to yield the some of the following economic benefits:
The signing of billions of dollars’ worth of deals;
Direct spend of R235 million;
A contribution of close to R600milion to the GDP; and,
1200 jobs created during the seven days;
Positive spin offs for informal cross-border trade which in itself is a global phenomenon, but already widespread in Africa.
It will be a memorable, enriching African experience whose legacy will be an Africa better than we know it today.
We thank all your Excellencies and His Excellency Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, former President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
We also wish to thank members of the IATF2021 Advisory Council including the African Union (AU), Government of the Republic of Rwanda, AfCFTA Secretariat, African Development
Bank (AfDB), African Trade Policy Centre/United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ATPC/UNECA), African Electronic Trade Group (AeTrade), AfroChampions Initiative,
International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation (subsidiary of the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB)), Ministry of Trade and Industry of Egypt, Pan-African Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PACCI), the World Trade Center-Miami (WTC-M), and our very own Department of Trade and Industry led by Minister Patel.
We look forward to welcoming you to KwaZulu-Natal in November 2021.
Together Building and Growing African Trade!
And Together Growing KwaZulu-Natal!
I thank you!