The Rt. Hon. Sir John Major KG CH

Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland 1990-1997

1996Prime Minister (1990-1997)

Mr Major’s Speech to the CBI/RIIA/COSAT Invesment Conference on South Africa – 10 July 1996

Below is the text of Mr Major’s speech to the CBI/RIIA/COSAT Investment Conference in South Africa, held on 10th July 1996.


My visit to South Africa nearly two years ago was unforgettable : unforgettable for the reconciliation and hope which I encountered in all whom I met; unforgettable for the knowledge that South Africa had just crossed the threshold of a new beginning.

I had the chance to meet young South Africans in the township of Alexandria. They face immense challenges – the challenges of getting educated, finding a job, making a living. But their enthusiasm and hope in their future was obvious.

No British Prime Minister had visited South Africa for 34 years. When I addressed the National Assembly, I spoke of a fellowship for the future between Britain and South Africa.

Since then, we have been putting that fellowship into practice in practical ways:

– by increasing development cooperation, working with South Africa in education, health, agriculture, local governments and in helping South Africans to set up and run small business. Under the Soweto Skills Initiative captains of industry agreed to train young South African entrepreneurs from Soweto township in business skills.

We are also making progress:

– by increasing cooperation in science, in technology, in engineering;
– by helping with integrating South Africa’s armed forces;
– and – particularly relevant for this audience – by working together to promote trade and investment.

And with some success.

Trade between us has leapt. British exports rose 25 per cent in 1994 and a further 30 per cent in 1995.

South Africa has a substantial investment in Britain. And Britain is the biggest foreign investor in South Africa.

I am very keen that British business should continue to lead the way.

It is important they do so, because investment from overseas will be one of the keys to South Africa’s future prosperity. Investment flows will dwarf any government-to-government assistance.

South Africa can look to Britain as a channel for investment, through the City of London, with all the unique facilities that the City has to offer.

And South Africa can also look to Britain as a friend in Europe, arguing for the widest possible access for South African products to the EU market, under the EU/South Africa free trade agreement now being negotiated.

When I visited South Africa in 1994, I said that, “South Africa is open for business and we look forward to doing business with you”.

That business is being done. And I have every confidence you will go on doing it.

– A British company is by far South Africa’s largest foreign employer.
– Nine of the top twenty foreign employers in South Africa, are British.

Today, South Africa is an important political and economic force.

Politically, her transition has been an inspiration around the world.

Economically, she has the potential not only to attain the growth rate she needs, but also to lead the way to greater growth throughout Southern Africa.

A great deal of the credit for bringing about the successful transformation of South Africa lies with our guest today.

A man who has overseen and in many ways made possible South Africa’s transition to democracy.

A man who, it can truly be said, needs no introduction.

He needed no introduction yesterday for the thousands who lined the Mall and packed the stands on Horseguards Parade to welcome him at the start of his State Visit – a larger crowd than for any State visitor I can remember.

And he needs no further introduction today.

Mr Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen, Nelson Mandela, President of the Republic of South Africa.