“We need Africans to stop being pessimistic about their continent and to be the leading spokespersons and ambassadors,” Zuma said in a speech prepared for delivery at the fourth International Trade and Investment Conference at Sun City, in North West.
“If we do not believe what we see and experience, the rise of our beloved motherland, why should the rest of the world?” he asked.
In 2010, 42% of sub-Saharan Africa’s population was younger than 14-years-old, and by 2050, the continent would be home to one in five of the planet’s young people, he said.
Africa would by then have the demographic edge in terms of energetic, increasingly educated young people.
It was predicted that Africa would have the world’s largest work force of 1.2 billion by then, and in that year, one in four workers in the world would be African.
Zuma said this compared with one in eight from China, reversing the present balance.
He was opening the conference, which is hosted by the department of trade and industry.
Zuma said around two thirds of governments in Africa were democratically elected, compared with just eight in 1991.
Six of the world’s fastest 10 growing economies were African and in eight of the past 10 years, Africa had grown faster than East Asia.
Zuma said the continent had a long way to go in terms of sanitation and health provision, but that progress was being made economically.
This would produce the resources needed to achieve economic growth and improve the quality of life.
Many reports were predicting the rise of Africa, but some investors were still hesitant, said Zuma.
“What is left is for the business sector to grab the opportunity and reap the rewards of this growth, in a manner that promotes inclusive growth, and which creates decent work for the African people.”
The spread of good governance and peace gave entrepreneurs the environment to turn ideas into major projects.
“I challenge all Africans today, to accept the fact that their continent is changing,” Zuma said.
“They must release themselves from the shackles of self-doubt and celebrate these new developments.”