The Rt. Hon. Sir John Major KG CH

Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland 1990-1997

1994Prime Minister (1990-1997)

Mr Major’s Speech to a Business Seminar in Johannesburg – 21 September 1994

Below is the text of Mr Major’s speech to a business seminar in Johannesburg on Wednesday 21st September 1994


Firstly, Mr. Director General, I have some good news for you and that is that I am not going to repeat all that I have just said at luncheon [Laughter] I will be very brief. In a few moments, I will ask Tony Nelson to invite the British team to introduce themselves so that everyone is aware of precisely the strength of the delegation that is here.

May I just say that Tony Nelson and I and Lynda Chalker, who is also with me today, are very grateful indeed to the South African Chamber of Business for organising this round table meeting.

Yesterday, the distinguished business group with me met Deputy President Mbeke and Finance Minister Lebemburg[phon] and our businessmen and our scientists indicated a whole range of sectors where they saw prospects for partnership between Britain and South Africa. Deputy President Mbeke in turn assured us that his government’s commitment to the private sector was continuing and of his wish to continue discussions about a range of specific points that were raised by the businessmen. Those discussions are continuing and a detailed response will be available in due course.

This afternoon, it is the turn of the businessmen to speak directly to the businessmen. Despite the impact of politicians and others, that is how business is really done. Business must talk to business and that can happen this afternoon. I hope this meeting that you have this afternoon will be but the first of many.

The second thing I want to say is just to stress the scale of the opportunities. I know that the British business team have a number of things they want to discuss, trade both to and from South Africa, investment, perhaps especially through joint partnerships and the contribution that our business can make to South African reconstruction and development programmes especially through training and infrastructure projects and perhaps crucially important in so many respects – not only economic but far beyond that – the proposals to see what British business can do to help the emerging black business sector.

Finally, Mr. Director-General, I stressed at lunchtime how well the British economy was now performing – steady growth, low inflation, record exports and healthy consumer demand. I know that our team in their turn will be happy to answer South African questions about the opportunities for exports and investment in Britain and in turn I know they will have many questions about the economy here in South Africa. There will be considerable interest also in the prospects of further liberalisation particularly perhaps in the area of tariffs and exchange controls.

I have asked at the end of this discussion this afternoon our team to give me a full report of your discussions and I look forward very much to hearing the outcome and seeing how the Government might be able to play a role in carrying forward that relationship in the future.

What I would like to do now is not take your time for this is an afternoon for you to talk to one another and I will ask Tony Nelson to commence and then introduce himself and invite the British business team to introduce themselves as well and I hope you have a very productive afternoon and after that I think it would be appropriate to ask Julian Ogilvie-Thompson to lead the discussion and then I hope it will follow quite freely from there so I trust you will have a very worthwhile and successful afternoon. [Applause].