On Monday, I was fortunate enough to be invited to a South African Development Community cocktail function held at South Africa House on Trafalgar Square. If you’re unawares, the Southern African Development Community comprises 13 Southern African countries, representing a population of 203 million people, and in 2003 a GDP of US$169 billion. The purpose of the event was to deliver short presentations on the SADC, upcoming trade agreements, and various investment and trade initiatives that are underway. There were also exhibitions of exports to the British market, which was pretty interesting.
This is all well and good, and illustrates the Proactivity of the SADC to develop its memberâ€™s economies, but for me there were two main take home points to consider.
1. The SADC is making a concerted effort to create opportunities for foreign trade and investment.
2. The South African economy is stable, and enjoying positive growth, however future growth and stability of South Africa is intimately tied to its neighbors.
I found the talk by South Africa’s Minister of Trade and Industry, Minister Mandisi Mpahlwa, quite interesting and ultimately hopeful. Interesting because he talked about how stability in the region is as important as growth of the South African economy, how they are intertwined, and how all members of the SADC stand to benefit from growth and development. Hopeful because if he can get it right, South Africa will start to benefit from the goodwill that has been generated over the last ten years or so.
And this is the key really, there has been a tremendous amount of goodwill towards South Africa, but we’re past that “giving kudos for our achievements automatically” stage now. The rest of the world has cast its eye on other more pressing matters, and unless we can deliver on our democratic promise, and at the same time manage to keep the economy stable and thus attractive as an investment opportunity , we’re going to carry on being regarded as the “poor cousins on the Dark Continent”.
Bottom line: There’s a lot to be positive about and it seems the powers that be are on the right track.