Zuma: South Africa is open for business

Washington - South Africa is a profitable place to invest, President Jacob Zuma told a United States Chamber of Commerce forum on Monday.

"Our country is also a great location for growing your business in other parts of the African continent," he said at a US-South African Business and Investment Forum in Washington.

"US business is an important partner in the journey towards growth and prosperity."

Zuma said politicians could not grow the economy alone and business was central to the process.

Zuma was in the US capital attending a three-day US-Africa summit initiated by President Barack Obama.

The president and a delegation of ministers would focus on pushing for the renewal of the African Growth Opportunity Act (Agoa) and advocate for South Africa's continued inclusion. South Africa wants Agoa renewed for another 15 years.

Zuma said Agoa would help with extending trade relations between the US and South Africa.

Agoa is a non-reciprocal prefer trial scheme, which applies only to US imports from eligible Sub-Saharan Africa countries. It was signed into law on May 18 2000.

"It is the cornerstone of trade relations between the US and Sub Saharan Africa."

Almost 95% of South African exports received preferential treatment under Agoa.

"We strongly believe that by endorsing the extension of Agoa, the US will be promoting African integration, industrialisation and infrastructure development," Zuma said.

The Agoa is an act of the US Congress and the decision to renew it would be made by congress.

Zuma was expected to meet members of congress during his visit in Washington.

There had been some concern about how some of South Africa's legislation would affect meat and poultry and the private security industry regulatory amendment bill, which is sitting on Zuma's desk waiting to be signed.

According to a section of the bill, foreign-owned security firms would need to sell 51% of their businesses to South Africans.

Business people from South Africa and the US attended the breakfast on Monday.

Mining magnate Patrice Motsepe was among those in attendance, as well as Transport Minister Dipuo Peters and Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor.

Companies such as Sasol, Standard Bank, Investec, SA Airways, Microsoft, Coca Cola and Pfizer, among others, were also represented.

Zuma pressed home his point about how important US investment was for South Africa.

Since South Africa achieved democracy in 1994, the US had been a major trade and investment partner for the country, he said.

The US had around 600 companies already trading in South Africa which provided around 150 000 full time jobs and 75 000 indirect jobs.

"The increase in new projects proves that South Africa is a profitable place to invest in.

"We have set a growth target of 5% by 2019. Moving towards that target we have instituted measures to boost economic activity and expand access to improve socio-economic services to improve the standard of living."

The president spoke about some of the country's projects which included the more than R840bn investment in infrastructure development over the next three years. The bulk of the spend was going to energy and transport-related infrastructure, as well as social infrastructure in the form of schools, universities and clinics.

"We are pleased that US companies are already taking advantage of our infrastructure build programme," he told the forum.

"We also invite companies in the energy sector to explore our energy generation programme."

Zuma said South Africa was the most diverse destination for investment ranging from renewable, conventional, shale gas, nuclear and unconventional sources.

The country was also broadening industrial development, focusing on labour-absorbing manufacturing and putting money into agro-processing.

He said South Africa was going through "strong economic renewal".

"South Africa is open for business, open for tourism and open for partnerships in many sectors," Zuma said.

"There are many opportunities to be explored in our country and beyond, in the African continent."

He pledged to work with members of the US chamber of commerce to harness economic relations between the two countries.

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