Africa presents opportunities not risk: Shabangu

FREELY admitting that South Africa’s resources industry carries unique “baggage”, the country’s Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu has provided a realistic yet optimistic appraisal of the challenges facing the resource-rich nation at the 2013 Africa Down Under conference.
Africa presents opportunities not risk: Shabangu Africa presents opportunities not risk: Shabangu Africa presents opportunities not risk: Shabangu Africa presents opportunities not risk: Shabangu Africa presents opportunities not risk: Shabangu

South African Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu

Staff Reporter

“Last year we faced many, many challenges in the mining industry where we had a major tragedy,” Shabangu said in a press conference following her address at the conference in Perth.

“We are confident that what transpired last year will not occur in South Africa again but I must say it had a very negative impact on our economy.

“We are still challenged as a country but we are confident that we are on the right track to making sure that South Africa becomes stable once more.”

At the conference – designed to promote collaboration and investment between the two countries – Shabangu highlighted the importance of investors “managing their expectations” when investing in South African resources.

“When people make investments they expect returns but they also have to make investments with the understanding that they have a responsibility to the country instead of expecting a bottom line which has no heart or no soul at all,” Shabangu said.

“If investment is not going to improve the quality of lives and recognize that workers also need decent lives then it will not be able to bring stability within South Africa.

“Our policies are informed by the notion that ‘there can be no true democracy without a functional economy and society’.

“Consequently, our policies recognize the need to grow the economy, balanced with the importance of redressing inherited manmade inequalities that continues to torment.”

Shabangu discussed a number of inequalities, including extreme pay differentials between company workers and executives, poor living conditions and the potential for unrest but she said they were all part of the country’s development.

“The test of a functional constitutional democracy is a subject of continuous process to ensure stability,” she said.

“To date, South Africa has held four consecutive, free and fair elections under the democratic dispensation, confirming a well-entrenched constitutional democracy.”

When asked about the perception of investment in Africa as being considerably risky, Shabangu became passionate.

“The perception that there is a high risk in Africa has been there forever. But you continue to see investment coming in,” she said.

“The issue is making sure that people become partners with Africa now, not later, or else they will never be there.

“Africa is democratizing, Africa is getting better every time, it’s looking at its own governance issues and it’s looking at its own stability so if you are waiting, I don’t know for which Africa you are waiting for. It will never come.”

One of the problems facing South Africa is the inadequate supply of coal for domestic use as the coal-rich country begins to export more coal, threatening its own domestic energy supply.

“We can’t be a government that is a lame duck sitting back and realizing that as a country, our own space is threatened and not be able to clearly define that space,” Shabangu warned.

“How, as a country endowed with coal, can we be threatened with no energy in our country? That is not fair to us and as a government we have a responsibility to [find] balance.

“We can’t export at all costs. It must be done in a sustainable way, it must be done in a responsible way. It must recognize that South Africa is a country which still depends on coal for its energy generation.”

Shabangu’s strongest message was the importance of investments in Africa providing clear local benefits.

“The table has been laid in South Africa and the entire African continent and what is left is for our Australian friends to take their rightful place in African development,” she said.

“The African mining industry is indeed the best ‘real estate’, with a comprehensive set of investment opportunities.

“You are invited to explore this enduring sunrise industry.”