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Remarks by President Cyril Ramaphosa at the Official Launch of the Huawei Innovation Centre, Huawei Office Park, Woodmead

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Programme Director,
Ministers and Deputy Ministers,
His Excellency Ambassador Chen of the People’s Republic of China,
President of Huawei Southern Africa, Mr Leo Chen,
Chief Executive Officer of Huawei South Africa, Mr Will Meng,
Deputy CEO of Huawei South Africa, Mr Kan Chen,
Partners from business, including the Open Lab Local SMME partners,
Winners of the ICT Competition present here today,
Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

What I have seen and heard this morning is both impressive and encouraging.

This Centre brings together Huawei’s different business units in a collaboration hub with local partners, app developers and ICT-focused SMMEs.

For South Africa, expanding digital infrastructure is one of the primary engines of economic growth. The development of information technology is key to the competitiveness of our economy.

Ambassador Chen,

In October last year, President Xi Jinping described science and technology as “a primary productive force, talent as a primary resource, and innovation as a primary driver of growth”.

This is a sentiment that we share.

Digital innovation is inextricably linked to a nation’s development.

Not only can new digital technologies such as AI, Big Data and machine learning provide a platform for economic growth, job creation and self-employment; they can also vastly improve Government service delivery.

The application of digital technologies to improve production processes spans a broad range of economic sectors from mining to ports to transportation and others.

Last year, for example, the first 5G coal mine was launched in South Africa through a partnership with Huawei, its carrier and industry partners.

This centre is a signal of Huawei’s confidence in the South African economy and its potential.

The digital technology and business services sectors are key pillars of South Africa’s investment strategy.

To stimulate investment in these sectors, we have focused on several structural reforms.

The actions we have taken include the auction of high-demand spectrum that took place last year, which – alongside digital migration – will significantly expand access to broadband and bring down data costs.

Other priorities include the development of an ICT and Digital Economy Masterplan and National Data and Cloud Policy.

South Africa has a robust and sophisticated ICT sector with expertise in data centres, cloud computing and storage, and rapidly expanding wireless and fibre infrastructure.

We have strong regulatory frameworks around cybersecurity, intellectual property, the protection of personal information and others.

According to the 2023 State of the ICT Sector in South Africa, published by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa, the sector’s revenue continues to increase, by approximately R25.5 billion over a five-year period.

This makes the ICT sector one of our most attractive industries for investment, with substantial growth potential.

As we grow the digital economy it is our expectation that this growth in revenue should be matched by an increase in the number of jobs the sector creates.

It is, therefore, encouraging that this Innovation Centre will be focusing on knowledge and skills transfer, as well as SMME development.

I congratulate Huawei for the work it is doing to cultivate local digital talent through the LEAP programme, ICT academies and DigiSchool projects.

We welcome indications by Huawei that the company plans to invest substantially in data centres and cyber security industries in Africa.

By adopting the range of cutting-edge technologies being pioneered by companies such as Huawei, South Africa and the continent will be able to leapfrog into the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

I look forward to receiving updates on the innovation and collaborative partnerships that will be forged here.

It is our hope that this Innovation Centre will be a springboard for the launch of new local ICT enterprises that create jobs. We hope it will be a springboard to new business processes that grow our economy and support our national developmental goals.

I wish Huawei and its partners every success with this Innovation Centre.

I thank you.