“The countries that have been dealing with us before, particularly old economies, they’ve dealt with us as former subjects, as former colonial subjects. The Chinese don’t deal with us from that point of view. They deal with us as people that you must do business [with], at an equal level so to speak. It’s not the Chinese only, there are many other countries,” Zuma told CNBC Africa.
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“We’ve taken money from Germany, from the UK, from the United States – why was it not a story? Why is it a story when the Chinese do so? We welcome foreign direct investment. Those who can, should. Part of the reason Africa, as much as it [was] decolonised many years ago, has never developed is because the relationships are not equal. China has come to do business, not to try to tell you what to do, what not to do. Others do.”
Zuma, speaking after the presentation of South Africa’s 2014 National Budget, also indicated that the country must focus on changing any negative perceptions held by foreign investors in order to attract further investment.
“We need to talk to them more because headlines are not accurate; they’re not accurate in many respects. We have companies here who have done scientific research of how far we have gone and they’re very clear we’ve made a lot of progress, which the [media] headlines don’t talk about. If we are able to communicate and have them listening to us, then I’m sure it will make sense,” he said.
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“Beyond the headlines, there is the real story of South Africa. This is what we need to be doing in order to convey that message effectively to foreign direct investors.”
The rand has seen turbulence in recent months, reaching 11 rand against the US dollar towards the beginning of 2014. This has also cast doubt over the country’s market stability and investment potential.
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“It’s difficult to predict. It’s not because of our currency, it’s because of the dollar – the key controlling currency in the world. We had the economic meltdown because of the dollar. We are trying our best to ensure that we handle the currency but, as I said, it’s not totally in our control because it has to be a part of the global, volatile situation,” Zuma said.
He added that the labour unrest, which affected the country’s gold and platinum sectors, was also a direct result of the economic meltdown.
“That’s where the relationship has to be understood because if we don’t understand that, we could think it’s a separate matter. Because of the economic meltdown, the markets were no longer able to buy platinum and gold, and once that happened, it affected mining. It was not the strikes that affected what the mines were doing, it was the economic meltdown. It cannot be viewed in isolation,” Zuma explained.
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“As the economies of the world that we trade with begin to come back, that means our commodities are going to be bought, and that will make us come back to where we were before. Also, addressed from the interaction that we make between government, business and labour in particular, wherein we discuss these matters, if the economy is at this state, how do we balance that with our interests? Could we further erode the economy and therefore cause more problems or should we have measures that must bear in mind that the situation we are dealing with is abnormal.”
As the South African economy recovers, countries such as Nigeria are growing at a rapid pace and aiming to become the largest economies on the continent. Zuma welcomed the development of these countries.
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“We are working together in Africa. We are working together with Nigeria. There are a number of countries in Africa that have [been] said to be sizeable economies. We work together, there’s absolutely no problem. The more South Africa grows, I’m sure Nigeria is happy. The more Nigeria grows, I’m sure South Africa is happy,” he said.
“We would want more countries on this continent to develop, to become big economies. I don’t think it’s an issue that could be looked at as if there’s a competition. We all want the countries in Africa to develop, those that have the means.”