High Commissioner for South Africa, Dr Zola Skweyiya writes that 27 April is celebrated as ‘Freedom Day’ in South Africa and this April marks the eighteenth anniversary of South Africa’s freedom and democracy.
The South African government and people of South Africa are steadily building a better life for all. The contract between government and the people remains geared towards pursuing service-delivery programmes to restore the lives and dignity of our people.
Thus far there have been many notable highlights in our nationhood. Most recently we have celebrated South Africa’s inclusion into the BRICS economic grouping, the successful hosting of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, and Cape Town being voted as World Design Capital 2014. Our involvement with BRICS has positioned South Africa as one of the top emerging markets to invest in; hosting the World Cup saw massive infrastructure investment in South Africa and boosted tourism in the country, while our new status as a future World Design Capital adds to South Africa’s growing credentials as a major international lifestyle destination.
We have learned to be proudly South African in all we do, from wholeheartedly supporting our national sports teams to pulling together to build our strong growth economy which has more than weathered the global recession. We take pride in our strongly independent and vocal civil society and media. Without losing sight of what we still need to achieve, our future looks bright and we are enjoying the fruits of our freedom.
The following are just some of the changes transforming the lives of millions of our people:
• In 1994, only 62 per cent of households had access to running water; today, 93 per cent of households have access to running water.
• In 1994, only 50 per cent of households had access to decent sanitation; today, 77 per cent of households have access to decent sanitation.
• In 1994, only 36 per cent of households had access to electricity; today, 84 per cent of households have access to electricity.
• By 2010, close to 15 million people were receiving social grants, mostly orphans and vulnerable children, older persons and veterans, as well as persons with a disability.
• To fight poverty and inequality and to keep learners in school, over eight million learners attend no-fee schools, while over eight million also benefit from the government’s National School Nutrition Programme.
Today, our struggle is the fight to end poverty, striving to close the gap between rich and poor. To do this we must provide the necessary skills for all our youth, to provide all our people with productive lives in the service of national and continental economic development and in pursuit of a golden age for Africa and the developing world.
One area where we would like to see even more commitment to partnership with South Africa is in foreign investment. Our sophisticated infrastructural base, political stability and huge emergent market economy have given rise to a strong entrepreneurial and dynamic investment environment. The World Economic Forum’s Competitiveness Report 2010/11 ranked South Africa 54th out of 139 global nations.
South Africa’s macro-economic performance over the past 15 years has been characterised by a remarkable improvement in stability, resulting in a considerably improved economic growth rate. In 2010, the country’s economy grew by 2.8 per cent; in 2011 it grew by 3.1 per cent and it is expected to grow 3.4 per cent in 2012. The country leads the continent in industrial output (40 per cent of Africa’s total output) and mineral production (45 per cent of total mineral production) and generates most of Africa’s electricity (over 50 per cent). South Africa is a good place to do business in and the world’s gateway to doing business with the growing markets of Africa.
As South Africa celebrates 18 years of post-apartheid democracy, we will never forget the solidarity shown to us by the international community in working with us to bring about the end of apartheid. Our challenge is to mobilise this bedrock of goodwill to provide support for South Africa’s goals and also for the goals of the continent of Africa.