The intolerance of foreign nationals threatens the prospects of South Africa’s economy, says Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel.
Minister Patel said the economic benefits from the rest of the African continent were real as it was estimated that 885,000 direct and indirect jobs were created in South Africa through exports.
He was speaking during the Africa Day Symposium in Johannesburg on Monday. The symposium brought a group of about 60 people who discussed the economic links between South Africa and the rest of Africa.
The symposium took place in the context of the recent attacks on foreign nationals by some community members in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal.
“If economic integration, of which migration is an element has economic benefits for South Africans too, then it’s not only an act of solidarity but also a source of economic development,” Minister Patel said.
He said the one of the five Ford Ranger bakkies that are manufactured in Pretoria was sold to the rest of the continent, helping to create decent job opportunities.
“The largest export market for South African manufacturing plastic products is Zimbabwe. The biggest market exporter for televisions that are assembled and made in South Africa is Zambia,” Minister Patel said.
The biggest market for clothing that South Africa sells outside its own boarders was to Mozambique.
“Each of these export markets with these South African made products are bigger than Germany, China and the United States. We import a large quantity of water use in Gauteng from Lesotho, half of water consumed by households and industry in Gauteng is in fact imported from a neighbouring country,” he said.
South Africa also imports gas for Sasol from Mozambique. Minister Patel said the attacks on foreign nationals was often not based on a true understanding of how the South African economy, workers and communities benefit from the greater integration of African countries.
“We need to have a dialogue that goes beyond only the leadership of key institutions. The reality is if we benefit from being part of Africa’s economic story then we must have a wider consciousness among all South Africans,” he said.
Minister Patel said he was optimistic about the future for Africa because of the deepening democracy on the continent, the growing economies and the evidence of a growing determination for Africa to steer its own future.