Speech by the Minister in the Presidency, Collins Chabane at the KwaZulu-Natal Tourism Activation Excursion, Isimangaliso Wetlands Park, KwaZulu-Natal province
24 Oct 2011
Masters of Ceremonies
Mayor of Umkhanyakude District, Councillor Vilane
MEC for Economic Development and Tourism in Kwazulu-Natal, Mr Mike Mabuyakhulu
Minister of Tourism in Mozambique, Minister Sumbana
Minister of Tourism and Environmental Affairs in Swaziland, Minister Sibandze
Traditional Leaders present
Members of the media
It gives me a great pleasure to be part of this august event, the tourism activation excursion between our beloved country South Africa and Mozambique and Swaziland. Let me also, on behalf of President Jacob Zuma, who would have wanted to be with us today, our government and the people of our country, extend our warmest welcome to our Mozambican and Swaziland guests to South Africa.
I am particularly excited to be in this region of our country, the Isimangaliso Wetlands Park. MEC, my last visit to this region was the most pleasurable experience I have ever had in any tourist destination of the same kind. I have travelled extensively both on duty and for leisure but I can tell you that the experience here was phenomenal. The Isimangaliso because of its peaceful, tranquility offers a relaxing experience and has made me vow to come back some years ago but unfortunately I have not been able to do so yet.
It really offered me what people in tourism calls a uniquely South African tourism experience.
I am sure that my story resonates with many South Africans who fail for one reason or the other to experience their own country, appreciate it more and explore it further. Our country's best natural offerings are explored more by those from out of our shores than ourselves. I am particularly pleased that we are beginning to make a concerted effort to make the people of our region and our country tour our region before they think of a holiday out of Africa.
This initiative is a giant step towards achieving regional integration as spearheaded by the South African Development Community (SADC). Regional integration is about breaking the barriers between countries of the region to encourage interstate trade and investment and more importantly to encourage free movement of people and encouraging cultural diversity. Tourism is one of the key drivers to unleash the regional potential for investment and economic growth through attracting new markets to the region and offering them easier movement between countries.
The SADC region, in its resolve towards regional integration, has abolished the visa system as a commitment towards encouraging free movement between member states. This was a significant step among other steps towards the realisation of the regional integration project. The region has also launched the Free Trade Area which also allows low tariffs for free movement of goods among member states. These efforts and many other efforts are all intended to ensure that our people are allowed to explore and embrace each other's existence and cultural diversity that makes us who we are.
The history, relationship and the interdependency of South Africa, Mozambique and Swaziland cannot be over-emphasised. It was only last week that President Jacob Zuma and President Armando Gwebuza of Mozambique paid tribute and commemorated the selfless life of President Samora Machel in Mbuzini in Mpumalanga. President Zuma said on that occasion and I quote:
"A nation that is at peace with itself creates a climate that is conducive to productive economic and social activity and contributes positively to improvement of the standard of living for its citizens and its neighbours.”
President Zuma made this remark in recognition of progress by both countries in creating a climate for productive economic and social activity which makes our countries prosper. Of course that applies to the rest of the region which, despite the challenges of poverty and underdevelopment, strive towards better living standards and peace in their communities.
South Africa has many people of Swazi and Mozambican origin enjoying prosperous lives in our country, as there are many South Africans in Swaziland and Mozambique doing the same. This demonstrates the history and dependency of the three countries on each other, as relatives, friends and family members, travel between the three countries daily, which ultimately contribute to our tourism revenue. Our economies are interconnected and trade between the three countries vary from daily necessities and commodities. There are also similarities in the languages spoken in the three countries which are critical in breaking the social barriers among our people.
These are some of the realities that compel us to cooperate fully in the number of areas and also make a compelling case for us not to ignore our tourism potential and its ability to create jobs and economic growth in our countries. Tourism is one of the most fundamental economic growth factors we can further promote to create much needed jobs for our people.
Ladies and gentlemen, South Africa has declared this year the year of job creation and has put in place measures to achieve economic growth and create employment opportunities. Government has introduced the New Growth Path which its primary aim is to grow the economy and create jobs targeting different sectors. The New Growth Path sets a target of five million jobs over the next ten years. This can only be achieved through consistent economic growth and tourism has a significant role to contribute to this growth.
The New Growth Path identifies keys sectors with potential to create jobs such as infrastructure, agricultural and mining value chain, the green economy, manufacturing sectors, and tourism among others. In tourism we intend to strengthen measures to expand the tourism infrastructure services, improve training and identify employment and entrepreneurial opportunities for the youth in particular in business services such as finance and communications, developing a comprehensive programme to support cultural industries and promote targeted marketing campaigns.
The New Growth Path also sees tourism as an important jobs driver which is a sector that can create employment at a large scale. The target is to create about 225 000 new employment opportunities by 2015.
We commend the tourism initiative we are launching today which is primarily aimed at increasing tourism arrivals and coordination between the three countries. It is also aimed at creating interest for people to visit each other's region. It also seeks to increase investment in tourism in the whole tourism value chain especially from the private sector investors' perspectives. Most importantly which is critical for our regional integration efforts, it seeks to promote various elements of heritage and celebrate the commonalities which makes us who we are and bringing people together.
The initiative we are launching today is perfectly in line with our New Growth Path efforts, our countries and region needs initiatives such as these to break the cultural and xenophobic stereotypes fellow Africans have about each other.
I am of the firm believe that there is no better way to achieve that than through tourism among others. Tourism provides an opportunity for people to interact and experience other cultures in a relaxed environment; it also makes it easier to learn the local languages which are critical for breaking the barriers for integration.
I was hesitant to raise issues related to xenophobia but the recent events in some parts of South Africa where people were harassed, presumed to be from elsewhere on the continent, are to say the very least unacceptable. We condemn such acts in the strongest possible terms and reject any justification for such acts or any suggestion that the South African people are xenophobic. These are criminal elements trying to take advantage of our fellow Africans given their vulnerable circumstances.
I want to state it categorically, South Africans are a loving nation and welcome every visitor into our shores with open arms and humility in the spirit of Ubuntu.
We call upon the law enforcement agencies to act decisively and do everything in their power to put these criminal elements behind bars away from our humble society. Such behaviour can only hamper our efforts to attract more visitors and investment in our country.
Tourism is an important driver of both domestic and consumer spending and foreign exchange earnings, underpinned by labour intensive activities and relatively low barriers to entry by entrepreneurs. We need to accelerate development of the tourism sector to diversify South Africa's economy and contribute towards the creation of jobs and noble initiatives in the New Growth Path.
That is why initiatives such as these should always be encouraged and should not wait for government but also give support to the private sector in its initiatives.
South Africa has just hosted the most successful Soccer World Cup ever, this prestigious event contributed to our tourism upward trend across the country. In the same year South Africa recorded 8.1 million tourist arrivals, a 15% increase as compared to 2009, which is more than double the global growth of 7%. The world cup has significantly elevated awareness of South Africa as a leisure destination across the world. This, coupled with dramatically improved tourism infrastructure, is expected to further drive tourism growth in the short to medium term. Given government's key priorities of economic growth and job creation, growing the sector remains of vital importance to the future of the country and a National Tourism Sector Strategy has been developed to significantly boost arrivals, the sector's contribution to the gross domestic product (GDP) and job creation. This however does not mean the job is done we still need to double our efforts to build on last year's success.
Ladies and gentlemen, the tourism figures between the three countries are also indeed something to celebrate. Last year over 1 million travellers from Mozambique entered our country with over 600 000 from Swaziland. This represents 3,4% of Mozambicans and 33% from Swaziland. These figures are encouraging but a lot still needs to be done to increase these numbers but also encourage South Africans to also travel to Mozambique and Swaziland.
The heritage route and South Africa's investment on liberation heritage sites stand to increase the volume of tourists from South Africa to the two countries.
I believe this initiative will go a long way in ensuring that this objective is realised and more of our country men and women participate into this inter-country initiative. As you begin this journey, you must make the loudest noises about what our countries have to offer, stop people on the streets and spread the message. Marketing is key component of people finding out about what we have to offer as a country or tourist destination. Let us not also underestimate the power of word of month.
We are a gateway to port trade and our beaches are phenomenal and the spirit of ubuntu permeates across our people. However, we need to begin to market ourselves as a region to the world so that the journey does not end in one country but further explores the region.
I wish you a safe and wonderful journey, make the loudest noises and tell our people that the Zulu Kingdom is calling. Mozambican beaches are exciting and the Swazi Kingdom awaits them.
I believe this is the beginning of a partnership which will bring prosperity and much needed jobs to our people.
I thank you.
Issued by: The Presidency
24 Oct 2011
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