Durban's Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Conference Centre is the venue for World Economic Forum's annual Africa gathering where the continent's leaders from all spheres will meet. Picture: Supplied

KZN's premier Willie Mchunu welcomes conventioneers to the World Economic Forum's annual meeting on Africa being held in Durban this week

A very warm welcome heads of states, ministers, captains of industry to the World Economic Forum on Africa this week. It is an honour to welcome you on behalf of the people of KwaZulu-Natal.

We are aware that many of you have travelled a great distance to be in Durban. We are excited you are here and will do everything to make you feel home away from home.

This is the land of the revered Madiba. Nelson Mandela was not only the first president of a democratic South Africa but a world icon who has inspired multitudes in and outside our borders.

As we welcome you to KZN, it may surprise you how a kingdom exists in a republic. This is the old kingdom of the Zulu people, fashioned by its founder and military genius King Shaka more than two centuries ago, and has survived the onslaught of colonisation.

It is a home of a proud history and heritage of the people of South Africa in the fight against dispossession. Having defeated the top generals of the British military forces, one of unchallengeable might at the time, having put an end to the Napoleonic dynasty one of the best known in European history.

To this history, add the history of Mahatma Gandhi where the doctrine of Satyagraha was originated and refined before it was employed to successfully attain the liberation of India, and influence the peaceful resistance of Martin Luther King Jr and the US civil rights movement.

Many sites of historic importance reside in this province. With the best of the wildlife, the Big Five, and a plethora of fauna and flora, KwaZulu-Natal has everything a tourist may wish for. Starting with the warm beaches in which the pleasant weather ensures that bathing can be pleasant at any part of the day and any time of the year.

For the hikers, provides the best in the Drakensberg, the highest range of mountains with the footprints of prehistoric paintings of the San and Khoi people. This and the Saint Lucia Wetlands Park have given the province two World Heritage Sites.

I can only leave you to wander around and sample the warmth and the smiles of the people. I am sure you will find time to experience the diversity of our cultures, cuisine, religion and languages that make us known as the Rainbow Nation.

We are privileged to host the WEF on Africa. The province has positioned itself as the home of important venues for high profile national and international events that are hosted in South Africa.

The Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre has in the past hosted the inaugural and founding conference for the formation of the AU. The ICC is named after the first African recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, Inkosi Albert Mvumbi Luthuli.

Many other conferences of note such as the Non-Aligned Movement Summit, the largest Aids International Conference in 2000 and 2016, Commonwealth Conference, 17th Conference of the Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, and Brics (Brazil, India, China and South Africa) have been successfully hosted in this city.

We highlight these to contextualise the importance we attach in portraying this province as a site for the exchange of ideas, and finding solutions to problems of different parts of the globe. The province is being developed as a centre for cultural and sporting excellence, attracting events on a regular basis, making it the leader in domestic tourism and premier destination for international visitors.

Every year, we welcome many guests and delegates from different parts of the globe. We look forward to welcoming you back as tourists. You must bring your families and friends to enjoy this beautiful province. We request you extend an invitation on behalf of the provincial government to chief executives of companies in your countries – ask them to come and explore business opportunities here in KZN.

We acknowledge the presence of business community and other key role-players. We are looking forward to your deliberations on the issue of ensuring inclusive economic growth. The current growth path of the province is still far from being inclusive.

Serious challenges are also being experienced in achieving the objective of enhancing decent employment, especially given the work conditions of those in informal employment.

Both the 2015 KwaZulu-Natal Citizen Satisfaction Survey and the 2016 Community Survey, conducted by Stats SA, confirmed that although substantial progress has been made in addressing poverty in the province, the gains made are not adequate or at a pace to meet the expectations of its communities.

Job creation remains central to achieving the government’s objectives of inclusive growth, radical structural economic transformation, distributing the benefits of growth more widely and consequently reducing dependency on the welfare system, by broadening economic participation.

The pattern and pace of economic growth needs to be adjusted and accelerated to achieve this outcome. It continues to require investment and interventions by both the public and private sectors to enable a conducive environment to further stimulate the generation of employment opportunities and inclusive economic growth.

The government needs to be increasingly efficient and innovative, in view of increasingly limited financial and human resources, relative to what is required to achieve its development goals. Thus the imperative of radical economic transformation.

As the province with the second-largest contribution to the national economy, there is a need to ensure that the call for radical economic transformation does not only remain a slogan, but that it should find practical expression in our government and private sector programmes.

I announced recently that the radical economic transformation will be the main focus for all government departments and all municipalities. It is for these reasons that the Provincial Treasury launched the revised Regulations of the Preferential Procurement Policy Framework Act of 2017 to transform the economy of this province.

These revised regulations are meant to address the wide economic gap through a carefully skewed government procurement process, taking into account the plight of black-owned enterprises who have not been benefiting properly from the government tenders.

The revised regulations prescribe new progressive changes that increase the threshold for the application of preference points during the tender process. For tenders between R30 000 and R50 million, an 80/20 principle applies, while the 90/10 principle applies in tenders valued above R50m.

Importantly, the regulations allow the government to enforce partnerships between big and emerging businesses through sub-contracting. They prescribe that 30% of the value of a particular contract has to be given to the designated group as mentioned in the procurement regulations.

Critically, they enforce localisation as government departments will have to procure goods and services within the area where the project is, and not transport goods and services from outside that particular locality when it could be sourced within.

We want enterprises such as mall, medium and micro enterprises and co-operatives, owned by Africans in particular, women and the youth to benefit as they remain excluded from the mainstream economy.

When Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana in the 1950s spoke about the need for Africans to achieve economic independence, his ideas were rooted in creating and developing successful and viable-owned small enterprises as a way of achieving the economic freedom he propagated. In one of his addresses, Nkrumah pointed out: “Thought without practice is empty: and action without thought is blind."

The Office of the Premier, therefore, will monitor and evaluate on a regular basis all provincial government departments, public entities and municipalities in relation to their spending of procurement budgets in line with our radical economic transformation imperatives.

Critically, it is against this context that we are expecting the Provincial Planning Commission to monitor our progress, not only to the extent that we are able to grow the economy of this province, but even more importantly, the extent to which we are succeeding in growing a shared economy with broader participation in a diversified economy.

Mchunu is the Premier of the province of KwaZulu-Natal and ANC provincial deputy chairperson. He is also the member of the central committee of the SACP.