President Jacob Zuma speaks at the Terminal Operators Conference in Durban on Tuesday. This is the first TOC to be held on the African continent. Picture: ANA

Durban - President Jacob Zuma has said that Africa needs to develop its manufacturing capabilities, achieve industrialisation and drive intra-African trade to reverse the continental trend of exporting raw materials and importing finished goods. 

Zuma was speaking at the inaugural African Terminal Operators' Conference Africa (TOC) at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre in Durban on Tuesday.

“Due to Africa’s underdeveloped manufacturing capacity, the region’s inclination to export raw materials and import finished goods has increased," he said. 

Zuma said the Southern African Development Community (SADC) had prioritised industrialisation and it was seen as a shared responsibility to change the paradox of a rich continent endowed with natural resources that was inhabited by poor people. 

Countries such as Angola, Kenya, Nigeria and Mozambique were positioning themselves as global players in trade and logistics, he said. 

“Due to the high dependence on external trade, productive and efficient ports are critical for Africa’s growth and to maintain the 'Africa Rising' narrative,” he said.  

In order to grow intra-African trade, coastal African countries needed to invest in their ports and connect infrastructure to link with inland countries.

"Over the past few decades, the sub-Saharan Africa container market has been challenged by the slow development of quality infrastructure. This in turn has broadly resulted in underdevelopment and long ship waiting times in comparison to other port systems around the world,” said Zuma.

One of Zuma’s flagship projects during his tenure as State President, which has received widespread support, is the driving of the ocean economy under the project name Operation Phakisa.

The president believes the maritime sector will not only drive the country’s spluttering economy but also create a critical number of jobs.  

“The African people need to benefit from the wealth of the continent and it needs to improve their quality of life. For South Africa, this conference is in line with our foreign policy focus of contributing towards a prosperous continent through, among others, increase in intra-Africa trade,” he said.  

“The reality is that the movement of goods, services and means of production within the continent is hindered by the lack of sufficient infrastructure. I am leading efforts through the Presidential Infrastructure Championing Initiative to ensure that there is economic connectivity in our continent," he said.

Zuma said the ongoing policy reforms that enhanced the ease of doing business on the continent would contribute” immensely” to the competitiveness of Africa, but he said Africa must drive the development and not allow non-African companies to completely dominate the continent’s maritime space. 

He said that in 2015, the ocean economy contributed approximately R60 billion to the country’s gross GDP and employed 390 000 people.