Three key areas crucial to the success of our republics: health, education and jobs.
Fundamentally, jobs, trade and economic policy are drivers of these other metrics and will be the prism through which leaders on both sides of the Atlantic will assess the success of the relationship between the United States and South Africa in the first half of this century. Presidents Obama and Zuma also both dwelled on the crisis in economic inequality and the emergency obligation of both of our societies to close that deepening divide.
Jobs. Is that not what we all want? Good jobs, in growing fields, with a solid workforce driving this economy. I’m particularly heartened by the role that American companies have played in the development of South Africa’s economy and the creation of stable, quality, sustainable jobs here in South Africa that pay good wages and provide good benefits.
The American Chamber of Commerce in South Africa surveyed 78 of its biggest firms last year. These 78 firms directly employ nearly 70,000 South Africans, and indirectly employ another 75,000 people throughout the economy. These companies spend over 320 million Rand on training every year, and spent 500 million Rand in 2011 alone on skills development – that is far above and beyond the mandatory 1.5% of their total payroll taxes on training that the government requires of them.
Increasing exports and attracting investment is critical for job creation. The U. S. economy has added 8 million new jobs since Barack Obama became president. That sounds like a lot, but it is still not quite enough. Job creation, increasing exports and attracting investment are just as important to us as they are to you here in South Africa.
But these are areas where I think South Africa has some unique challenges and I’d love to be able to address some of them here.
One key way the United States supports jobs and prosperity here in South Africa is through the African Growth and Opportunity Act, or AGOA. Since 2000, under AGOA, African countries can export duty free to the United States. In 2012, South Africa exported $2.1 billion, more than 20 billion Rand, to the U. S. under AGOA. Many industries, including automobile manufacturers, have told us AGOA was critical to their decisions to invest here in South Africa
And South Africa exports more manufactured products to the United States under AGOA than any other country. In 2012, South Africa’s largest exports to the United States were the 60,000 cars made by companies like BMW and Mercedes, along with $70 million dollars’ worth of South Africa’s wine. Overall, Americans bought $250 million worth of South Africa agricultural products last year, which was an historic high mark for us.
Extracted from: U.S. and South Africa: Facing Today’s Challenges for Tomorrow’s Opportunities—Ambassador Patrick Gaspard’s remarks at the University of South Africa Pretoria, South Africa February 20, 2014.