The South African government has lowered its economic growth projection for 2014 by almost half, but vowed to work on improving the country's export performance.

"Honorable Speaker, when we tabled the 2014 budget in February we expected the economy to grow by 2.7 percent this year," Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene told parliament on Wednesday while delivering his medium term budget policy statement.

"The revised estimate is 1.4 percent," he said.

Nene, the country's first black finance minister, said the downward revision is partly because of a weak global environment, including the slowdown in Europe, China and other emerging economies, which are South Africa's main trading partners.

"But it also reflects obstacles to our own development ranging from energy constraints, labor market disruptions, skills shortages, administrative shortcomings and difficulties in our industrial transformation," he added.

This year South Africa suffered a prolonged strike in the platinum mines sector as well as another in the metals and engineering sector.

"As emphasized by President [Jacob] Zuma in opening the fifth Parliament, we need economic growth of around 5 percent a year to decisively reduce unemployment and poverty, and to transform our social and economic order," said the finance minister.

He asserted that the budget framework he was tabling is focused on restoring balance to the nation's finances, bolstering investment and achieving better value for money in public expenditure.

"We want to improve our export performance and shift away from consumption-led, debt-reliant expansion," Nene told MPs.

"We import considerably more than we export," he noted.

According to South Africa's Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), the country imported goods from China worth 15.4 billion rand in 2013 while exporting to it only 10.2 billion rand worth of goods.

Over the same period, South Africa imported goods from Germany to the tune of 11 billion rand while exporting to it goods worth only 3.8 billion rand.

South African imports include oil, capital goods and consumer goods.

The mineral-rich country's exports include platinum, gold, diamonds and coal, among other items.

The finance minister said there are structural shifts underway in the economy that need to be accelerated.

"In manufacturing, we are helping companies to enhance their competitiveness and upgrade equipment through the Industrial Policy Action Plan," he noted.

Nene asserted that a new framework for special economic zones has been introduced.

He said the plan allows for targeted incentives, logistics improvements and active partnerships between businesses, municipalities and development agencies.

Nene, a member of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) who previously served as deputy finance minister, was named finance minister in May after the party won the general elections.

At the time, many observers believed the appointment came after lobbyists insisted on seeing a black African running the finance portfolio.

Some believed such an appointment might give confidence to the majority black population, while some argue it might create fear among investors.

Anadolu Agency