London - Small businesses are more important to creating
jobs in South Africa than the government’s huge infrastructure drive, ANC treasurer general Mathews Phosa said on Thursday, adding that the country must diversify to
avoid “European flu”.
“I’m a believer in small and medium-sized businesses.
welcome the huge infrastructure project we have, but I don’t think it’s going
to create the many jobs we are dreaming of,” Mathews Phosa told Reuters in an
interview in London.
“It’s the small and medium-sized businesses that we need to
put in place,” said Phosa.
Africa’s largest economy has set out a huge infrastructure
programme to create jobs at home and increase trade on the continent, for which
South Africa is currently seeking partners.
Unemployment in the country was 25.2% in the first quarter
of 2012. Education at all levels will be a top priority at next month’s ANC
policy meeting, Phosa said, as the country seeks to reduce poverty and create a
large middle class.
Phosa, who sits on South Africa’s national executive
committee, said the mineral-rich country must seek to diversify its markets as
the debt crisis in Europe rages and said “we can only wish and pray” for
economic recovery on the continent.
“The European flu will infect Africa so we should not be
over-confident, ” he said, adding, “If we diversify our markets, find new
markets as well where there is no such crisis, it may buffer the blow.”
Phosa was in London to encourage trade between Britain and
South Africa and said the country wanted more investment from both East and West.
South Africa is a “very small player” in the Brics, the
group of high-growth countries of Brazil, Russia, India and China it joined in
early 2011 and is still trying to define its role in the club, Phosa said.
“The big strong economies could take advantage of us and eat
us for breakfast,” he said.
South Africa must work out how to get the most out of
trading relationships with countries like China, currently its biggest trading
partner with which it had a trade deficit of about $3bn in 2011.
Phosa reiterated President Jacob Zuma’s view that the ANC
will not back nationalisation of some parts of South Africa’s economy, despite
some party members calling for nationalisation of industries like mining.
“I don’t think the ANC is likely to go for nationalisation.
If people want to be populist, I will not join the choir.”
In earlier comments, Gwede Mantashe, the day-to-day head of
ANC, said South Africa was increasingly looking East to China and India for
The left-leaning ANC has been deeply suspicious of the West
and distrusting of the United States, former European colonial powers and free