Africa must focus on oceans, power and ICTs - Zuma

Cape Town – A focus on oceans, power generation and ICTs will move Africa towards a new era of inclusive growth, President Jacob Zuma said in New York on Sunday.

Zuma told the Pan African Students Association at Princeton University that the growth of the information and communications technology (ICT) sector in Africa “has been phenomenal”.

“The number of mobile phone users has multiplied 33 times to 316 million users since the year 2000,” he said. “The internet is spreading around Africa at an even faster pace. These trends have strong positive effects on growth.”

He said for every 10 new mobile phones per 100 people a country adds, the gross domestic product (GDP) is likely to increase by 0.8 percentage points.

“Due to the lack of fixed line internet infrastructure, roughly 39% of mobile users access the internet via mobile,” he said. “This has opened an entire new portal for assistance in health and education, in especially the most rural areas.”

Focus on blue economy, power generation

Moving to the oceans, he said the blue economy remains relatively unexplored.

“In 2010, the ocean contributed approximately R54bn to South Africa's GDP and accounted for approximately 316 000 jobs,” he said.

“The ocean has a potential to contribute to the GDP up to R177bn,” he said. “The ocean also has a potential to contribute between 801 million direct jobs.”

“These growth levers reflect at least 4% annual growth in both GDP contribution and job creation.”

Power generation is another major opportunity for Africa.

Zuma said South Africa’s Energy Security Master Plan calls for a radical change in the energy sector. “We are looking at an energy mix that comprises coal, solar, wind, hydro, gas and nuclear energy,” he said.

“Energy generation is a focus area for most African countries as well, which provides many opportunities in the continent.”

Africa’s infrastructure needs boost

He said Africa’s infrastructure needed to be vastly improved too. “It is widely known that Africa's inadequate infrastructure is one of the main factors inhibiting trade, integration and economic development,” he said

“It has been calculated that if the continent continues to narrow its infrastructure gap, economic growth will receive a further large boost - perhaps by as much as two percentage points a year.”

South Africa was “on course to spend billions of rand on infrastructure in the coming years, focusing on rail, roads, energy, water, sanitation and the communication sectors throughout the country”, said Zuma.

“The programme will change the South African landscape,” he said. “It will boost job creation, improve access to basic services and boost the competitiveness of our economy.”

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