I also very much want to express appreciation to our ministers from the Government of South Africa. They both are well known to anyone who understands the importance of the role that government plays in what we call economic statecraft. There has to be a partnership, a public-private partnership. And both the ministers are very committed to making that partnership work inside South Africa and then, on behalf of South Africa, with the rest of the world. So Minister Davies and Minister Peters, thank you so much for taking your time to address this group.
I also want to thank Scott Eisner, Vice President of American Affairs at the U.S. Chamber. We’ve worked very closely with the Chamber over the last several years to really give substance to the economic statecraft agenda. And I’m grateful for the partnership that we have developed.
I also want to acknowledge my colleagues in government, some of whom you, I’m sure, already met, probably you have heard from or will hear from: first and foremost, the Under Secretary that works with me every single day, Under Secretary for economics and business issues in the State Department Bob Hormats; the Under Secretary of the Commerce Department, Under Secretary Sanchez; the head of the Ex-IM Bank, Fred Hochberg; the CEO of OPIC, Elizabeth Littlefield; the USTDA Director, Leocadia Zak; and others who are on their teams.
We’ve really tried to forge a U.S. Government team and get over some of the barriers that sometimes stand in the way of doing that between various agencies because I think it’s important that we all be pulling in the same direction, kind of like that winning South Africa rowing team. It would’ve been hard if they’d been pulling in different directions. We’ve enjoyed watching your athletes. We were not happy about the outcome in the race beating Michael Phelps, but other than that – (laughter) – we give you a lot of credit for the showing.
I know I’ll see some of you tomorrow as part of our Strategic Dialogue between Foreign Minister Mashabane and myself, but I want to thank each and every one of you for your partnership and your participation. We are working closely together because we think in the global economy as we see it today, it’s imperative to do so. It’s not a nice thing to do; it is absolutely required if we’re going to be creating jobs and opportunities for people in both of our countries. There are many examples here of the opportunities that do exist. Some of you already do business in South Africa. Others are looking to start or expand.
I particularly want to emphasize the role of small and medium-sized businesses because all too often it’s just easier to deal with the large companies in both of our countries. They’re organized, they’re focused on exporting, and really the small and medium-sized businesses need extra attention as part of this public-private partnership. So I commend you for looking in that direction as well.
This is the sixth country I have visited on this trip. And though each country in this fabulous continent is unique, I have delivered one consistent message, and that is we want sustainable partnerships in Africa that add value rather than extract it. And one of the ways we are building those partnerships is to look to enhancing and strengthening the ties between American businesses and African businesses because, as we look across Sub-Saharan Africa, we see enormous economic growth even as the global economy continues to struggle. Seven of the world’s 10 fastest-growing economies are in this region. And these emerging markets present enormous opportunities not only for the people themselves, who we hope will benefit because of inclusive, broad-based prosperity arising from growth, but also for American businesses who have a lot to offer.
And there’s no place that illustrates that more than here in South Africa. Our countries enjoy a $22 billion annual trade relationship, by far the largest across the region. And over the next two decades, South Africa will be – as you just learned from the prior session – making big investments in infrastructure, which will create massive new opportunities for American businesses in energy, transportation, and communications technology, which means more jobs here and more jobs back in the United States.
I particularly want to highlight an initiative we announced at Rio+20 to focus on, through OPIC, assisting the development of energy capacity in Africa. It’s a special fund that we are really intent upon using, and we invite you to speak with the OPIC representatives who are here to learn more about it.
I think it’s important to place our relationship on the business side into the broader context. We believe strongly in working with the Government and the people of South Africa on a broad range of issues. We think that this country’s potential is truly unlimited. And some of what you’re doing here is already serving as a model elsewhere. It’s important that we continue to engage in this dialogue, not once a year but on an ongoing basis. And we stand ready to do that.
I look forward to learning more about the outcomes of your discussions at this gathering because what I think we have to look to is not only helping our own businesses and yours be more competitive, grow, create jobs, but then how we translate economic growth into opportunities for people, particularly those who still need to be given a chance to work themselves and their families out of poverty. Economic growth is a great and important necessary goal, but it also needs to be linked to the kind of progress we want to see not only across our nations but truly across continents and the world. That’s what we have the potential to do because we are learning how to not only do government better, being held more accountable, more responsible for what we do, producing more and better results, but that’s what businesses are going through as well. We can’t just expect that what we did yesterday is going to work today, let alone tomorrow. And as we go through this process, we have a tremendous opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of literally millions of people.
So thank you for participating in this first-ever U.S.-South Africa Business Partnership Summit. I hope out of it comes not only some specific ideas we can work with you on following up with individual companies between government agencies, but also relationships, because I think that is the way that we not only have to grow trust and understanding, but it truly is the foundation for whatever we can expect to see as positive outcomes of meetings like this.
So again to the ministers, thank you very much. To our colleagues in government, to representatives from both South Africa and American businesses, thank you for attending this very timely and important meeting.
Thank you all. (Applause.)