The government was committed to creating favourable conditions for investment and trade, President Jacob Zuma said yesterday.
“We hope that we can expand our areas of co-operation and take our partnership to a higher level,” Zuma said in Belgium during a gala dinner held in his honour.
He said the relationship between South Africa and Belgium continued to grow despite the global recession in 2009.
“Trade between our countries has increased in the past six months. Belgium is our fourth-largest trade partner in the European Union, with total trade amounting to €2.1 billion.”
He said the two countries had seen new areas of co-operation in the fields of education, rural development, customs co-operation, renewable energy, and science and technology.
“For South Africa, international trade is an instrument to help us achieve economic growth so that we can deal with the challenges of unemployment, inequality and poverty.”
Zuma said South Africa needed to achieve a growth rate of 7% a year to eradicate unemployment and poverty.
To achieve this, South Africa was currently developing a new growth path that was part of implementing economic policy that was adopted in 2007.
“The new growth path recognises that while we have had economic growth for a sustained period since the advent of democracy, with particularly high growth since the early 2000s, poverty remains high, inequalities have remained, and the jobs created often brought low wages and poor conditions.”
He said research showed that the South African economy had the potential to create employment through a few sectors, such as infrastructure development, mining and agricultural value chains, the services, construction and tourism, the green economy and knowledge-based sectors.
“Europe remains the investor in key sectors of our economy, such as automobile infrastructure and financial services,” he said, adding that South Africa was well-placed to take full advantage of these improving prospects.