Continent is central to SA’s future

Malusi Gigaba writes that our socio-economic development is and must be linked with the rest of Africa for the AU’s Agenda 2063 to be realised.

Johannesburg – Africa Day presents a chance for South Africans to reflect on our great continent’s shared destiny. Our enduring Pan-African unity is based on unbreakable ties of history, culture and shared struggle, and an awareness that our socio-economic development is and must be linked for the AU’s Agenda 2063 to be realised.

Africa’s support for our struggle was steadfast, principled and costly: When the apartheid regime tightened its noose around the necks of the oppressed, and banned the national liberation movements in 1960 following the Sharpeville protests, Africa opened her arms to receive our freedom fighters as exiles. They extended their unconditional warmth, friendship, solidarity and hospitality to our freedom fighters. Even the poorest of African states gave their all in support of the South African liberation struggle.

For this support, innocent citizens of Lesotho, Botswana and Mozambique were butchered in their sleep by the apartheid army, and Zimbabwean and Angolan territories were violated by a regime that had no respect for human life, let alone the national sovereignty, territorial integrity and stability of its neighbours.

South Africa’s liberation in 1994 guaranteed Africa’s long-term stability and development. It meant the country ceased to be what Hendrik

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Verwoerd had called “a piece of Europe on the tip of the African continent”.

The struggle bore a Pan-African identity with historic responsibilities that stretched far beyond South Africa’s borders. During the past two decades, the liberated South Africa has contributed towards the new African renaissance by supplying the materials requisite towards this all-encompassing effort.

South Africa was among the foremost advocates for the development and adoption of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (Nepad). We invested time and resources towards uniting the continent, helping to forge a united global political and economic agenda at a time when imperialism and the neo-liberal globalisation was further marginalising and ruthlessly exploiting the continent.

For Africa to develop on a sustainable basis, we need to entrench peace, democracy and good governance, and advance major economic growth strategies, including infrastructure investments; beneficiation of mineral wealth; industrialising and diversifying of economies to free ourselves from the resource curse and drastically improving intra-African trade and trade with other emerging economies.

Only these programmes can radically alter Africa’s relations with itself and the world, and place it on a footing for sustained growth, job creation and enhanced political power in the global arena.

South Africa needs Africa: It has integrated itself into the continent not only through political and peace efforts, but increasingly through growing investment, trade and tourism.

While the country remains largely an exporter of primary commodities and an importer of manufactured goods, during the past 20 years sub-Saharan Africa, including Nigeria, Ghana and most of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), has emerged as the largest importer of South African-manufactured goods. It has been estimated South Africa exported about R300 billion worth of goods last year. Trade, investment and tourism with the rest of the continent has created and sustained 160 000 jobs in South Africa.

While we celebrate the growth of South African trade and investment in Africa, there is an obvious imbalance in favour of South Africa. So, if Africa is so vital for the South African economy, it should stand to reason that African integration, intra-African trade and the overall growth and development of the African economy should be equally as important.

We cannot do this alone! Our global political and economic aspirations are interconnected with, and not separate from, the continent as a whole.

We are one! We cannot fulfil our historic role and responsibility to raise Africa’s position in global affairs if the people of the continent think we have a condescending attitude towards them or want their support, but do not want to help them in their hours of need.

The recent violence against African migrants is inexcusable and has cost us. The attacks set back our African agenda. We must not take this for granted, or be naive as to the cost we incurred.

While fellow Africans may understand they have a responsibility to address the “root causes” of migration, to fix their economies and minimise the incentives for their nationals to travel to South Africa at all costs, they also know we have a responsibility, out of an African solidarity, to help build their economies because they supported our struggle to defeat apartheid.

Agenda 2063 can only be achieved by sustained, co-ordinated actions between increasingly integrated African countries.

South Africa has made critical contributions in this regard and will continue to do so in a quest for a better life for all.

* Gigaba is Minister of Home Affairs and member of the ANC NEC. A version of this article appeared in the ANC Today.


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