The African National Congress (ANC, South Africa’s ruling party, is confident that the country will achieve a decent economic growth rate this year despite the slow recovery in the global economy, says party and national president Jacob Zuma.

Addressing supporters at the ANC’s 105th birthday celebrations at Orlando Stadium in Soweto, Johannesburg, Sunday, he added that South Africa’s economy had created jobs and made rapid strides in eradicating poverty, joblessness, and inequality when it was growing at an average of nearly 4.0 per cent per annum prior to the 2008 global financial crisis. However, the global economic recovery had been very unstable since then, he noted.

Consequently, as we are connected into the global economic system, we have been impacted negatively. Investment by the private sector is, particularly in the developing countries, low. Trade between countries has fallen. Growth in sub-Saharan Africa is estimated to have slowed to 1.4 per cent in 2016 from 3.4 per cent in 2015. The ANC is optimistic that the 2017 growth forecast of 2.9 per cent will be achieved.

Zuma said the ANC was encouraged by the recent rise in commodity prices and was relatively confident that the vital South African mining sector would begin to show an improvement in the near future.

The ANC expects to see an increase in production and growth in job creation. We shall remain vigilant in ensuring that mining communities benefit from mining activities in their areas and the ANC proposes that all stakeholders engage on how to utilise beneficiation more effectively to ensure economic growth and job creation.

Education and skills were fundamental requirements for creating a prosperous society, and the ANC government had made great strides in providing quality basic education, Zuma said.

He commended school pupils, parents, and teachers for their dedication and congratulated the matriculation class of 2016 for achieving a 76.2 per cent pass rate.

We are proud of the fact that we are making gradual but steady progress in areas such as learner retention, performance in mathematics and science, the number of bachelors degree passes, and the performance of learners in rural and township school, Zuma said.

He decried the higher education funding crisis, saying the university system was grossly under-funded, small in size, and increasingly sold as a commodity.

Our successes in basic education add to the legitimate demands for quality and affordable post-school education. We agree, on a fundamental level, that we must achieve our goal of the progressive realisation of free education for the poor and working class, as per the prescripts of the Freedom Charter.

Zuma said South Africans had shown tremendous spirit and patriotism in all endeavours to maintain the country’s sovereign credit ratings and commended every person who contributed to avoiding a credit downgrade recently.

The ANC reiterates that our economic strategy must be aimed at finding an appropriate balance between meeting our developmental objectives and promoting inclusive growth. We make a call on all South Africans to contribute constructively to discussions about our future economic trajectory, keeping in mind our goals of radical socio-economic transformation, meeting basic needs, attaining more inclusive growth, and reducing public debt, he said.

The ANC remained committed to putting in place a decent and living wage for all and the party was encouraged by the deliberations currently underway between social partners on the proposed minimum wage of 3,500 (about 255 US dollars) a month, he added.

This is not a living wage, but is a starting point below which no employer should pay workers. We encourage South Africans to participate in the discussions aimed at reaching consensus about the eventual figure of the national minimum wage.”