The Premier of KwaZulu-Natal, Mr Willies Mchunu,
MEC for Economic Development Tourism and Environmental Affairs, Mr Sihle Zikalala,
EThekwini Metro Municipality Mayor, Her Worship Cllr Zandile Gumede,
TOC Events Worldwide Content Director, Rachael White,
Transnet Group CEO, Mr Siyabonga Gama,
Local and international Transport, Trade and Logistics Executives present,
Captains from the maritime industry sector,
It is a singular honour for me to address this gathering of eminent dignitaries from across the globe.
We extend a warm welcome to all our international guests to the Republic of South Africa.
We are humbled to be bestowed an honour to host the inaugural Terminal Operator’s Conference Africa 2017, which is the only major international exhibition and conference in the world that focuses on how to showcase port and terminal technology and operations.
This conference is correctly being held in KwaZulu-Natal, a province with a maritime Industry that spans numerous sectors. These range from freight and logistics, ancillary maritime support services, tourism and leisure, marine energy, and fishing, aquaculture and Mariculture.
The province has two of the busiest ports in Africa and the Southern Hemisphere, hundreds of kilometres of coastline, and numerous inland waterways.
The ports of Durban and Richards Bay position the province as a trade gateway into South Africa and the entire African region. The Port of Durban is the busiest port in Africa and one of the ten largest in the world.
The Port also supports several large industries in eThekwini and beyond, including the automotive and retail sectors, petro-chemicals, and agricultural sectors through specialised export termini.
The Port of Richards Bay, with its massive coal exporting facility, handles the most cargo tonnage.
The additional infrastructure of dedicated pipelines and rail linkages assist to spread this articulation into the deeper hinterland regions of South Africa, particularly Gauteng.
You therefore chose the correct venue for this historic gathering.
Ladies and gentlemen,
You also chose the right continent for the inaugural conference. Holding this conference in Africa contributes to promoting and highlight our infrastructure development, especially our ports infrastructure.
An efficient port is very important asset for any country as it acts as a conduit for global and intra-regional trade.
Over ninety percent of trade in Africa occurs by sea. It is indeed encouraging to see many African countries taking a keen interest in developing their port capacity and efficiencies.
Countries such as Angola, Kenya, Nigeria and Mozambique are positioning themselves as global players in trade and logistics.
Due to the high dependence on external trade, productive and efficient ports are critical for Africa’s growth and to maintain the “Africa Rising” narrative.
To grow intra-Africa trade, we need to see many coastal African countries investing in their ports and connecting infrastructure to link with inland countries.
Over the past few decades, the sub-Saharan Africa container market has been challenged by the slow development of quality infrastructure.
This in turn has broadly resulted in underdevelopment and long ship waiting times in comparison to other port systems around the world.
Due to Africa’s underdeveloped manufacturing capacity, the region’s inclination to export raw materials and import finished goods has increased. To correct this anomaly, Africa needs to develop her manufacturing capabilities and achieve industrialisation.
Our region, SADC, has also prioritised industrialisation and the African Union’s Agenda 2063 also prioritises sustainable development for the continent.
We regard it as our shared responsibility to change the paradox of a rich continent which is endowed with natural resources but which is inhabited by poor people.
The African peoples need to benefit from the wealth of the continent and it needs to improve their quality of life.
For South Africa, this conference is in line with our foreign policy focus of contributing towards a prosperous continent through, among others, increase in intra-Africa trade.
The reality is that the movement of goods, services and means of production within the continent is hindered by the lack of sufficient infrastructure. I am leading efforts through the Presidential Infrastructure Championing Initiative to ensure that there is economic connectivity in our continent, and your presence complements these endeavours.
Once we get the infrastructure right, our continent will surely see the results in terms of foreign direct investment. You will agree with me that indeed the continent is an attractive destination for economic investment and remains one of the global economic growth poles with Asia. Despite the sluggish economic growth in the world, Africa has experienced a modest growth domestic product growth of two point four percent from one point three percent in 2016.
This is largely because of the recovery in global commodity prices. We are however not out of the woods yet. We are also encouraged by the fact that three out of ten fastest growing economies are in Africa.
The ongoing policy reforms that enhance the ease of doing business on the Continent will also contribute immensely to the competitiveness of Africa.
Also critical at this point is the need for Africa to derive value from her maritime industry and develop the oceans economy.
The maritime industry straddles across various sectors such as transportation, trade and logistics, tourism, oil and gas, manufacturing and aquaculture.
When compared to other forms of transportation, the shipping industry provides the lowest cost across the globe, making it the most efficient mode of transport.
Research shows that there are over fifty thousand merchant ships trading internationally, transporting every kind of cargo.
Whilst this is the case, it is disheartening to note that there is no significant share of ownership by any African nation. Foreign operators who operate and service the ships dominate the local shipping industry.
It is thus important for Africa to develop her oceans economy further.
South Africa is already going this route, and is promoting the development of our oceans economy sector through a programme called Operation Phakisa.
South Africa is surrounded by the ocean on three sides. With the inclusion of Prince Edward and Marion Islands, our coastline is some three thousand nine hundred kilometres long.
In 2015, the ocean contributed about sixty billion rand to South Africa’s gross domestic product and accounted for about three hundred and ninety seven thousand jobs.
We believe that the future potential of the ocean economy is highly concentrated within marine transport and manufacturing activities, such as coastal shipping, trans-shipment, boat building, repair and refurbishment.
The rapid focus on this area could grow the South African economy and create many jobs.
In fact, this gathering takes place at an opportune time when we have just commenced our chairing of the Indian Ocean Ream Association (IORA) in October.
Our focus is to further explore and extract marine resources for the benefit of our people. Thus the blue economy shall contribute to Africa’s development as espoused in agenda 2063.
Similarly we have assumed the Chair of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) in August. In this regard we are going to prioritise partnerships with the private sector in order to develop our industries and ensure beneficiation of natural resources.
We are also preparing to take over the chair of BRICS in 2018 with a view to further propel Africa’s development agenda.
Stronger relations with BRICS, European Union, IORA and other strategic partners will contribute to the Africa rising narrative.
It is worth noting that the unfolding digital revolution is changing the way we do business. As a continent which has a youth bulge we cannot remain behind in this development.
We have to take the opportunity presented by this revolution to create more entrepreneurs than job seekers through skills development and innovation.
It is, therefore, imperative that government, the private sector and all our stakeholders continue to work together for a better African continent.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I would like to wish you well in your deliberations during this important conference.
It is my pleasure to officially open this inaugural Terminal Operators Conference.
I thank you.