Aerospace and defence high on Gauteng Growth and Development Agency priority list


Gauteng is the aerospace and defence hub of South Africa and the Gauteng Growth and Development Agency (GGDA) is working hard to grow the sector further. The GGDA was the diamond sponsor of the exhibition that accompanied the sixth United Nations Partnership for Technology in Peacekeeping Symposium (6PTPS) that was held in Pretoria last month, and its associated UN Procurement Summit.

The GGDA highlighted to exhibitors its business incubation and development initiatives; innovation hubs; investment environment opportunities in Gauteng; and the support and incentives it provides to businesses.

Simphiwe Hamilton, Group CEO of the GGDA, told defenceWeb that it took a lot for South Africa to pull off hosting the 6PTPS and it is an achievement to be proud of. He said it was significant as South Africa is not just one of the biggest contributors to United Nations peacekeeping efforts but has a strong defence industrial base, “that although potentially weakened in the last few years, still has a lot of potential that can be offered to the UN.”

With regard to supplying the UN, Hamilton believes the industry can assist with more than aerospace and defence products and services as there is a big requirement for things like catering and ICT services.

South African companies have provided armoured vehicles, and other equipment, for UN missions and these have served well in combat conditions. “We owe it to ourselves and the world to provide solutions for peacekeeping and beyond,” he said. However, “the industry is at a point where it will require direct and deliberate political support to secure opportunities and rescue capabilities that may be ailing.”

South Africa has a lot in terms of goods and services it can offer the United Nations, but companies need access, and the types of requirements the UN has for bidders are not easily funded by local institutions, such as bid bonds and performance bonds. However, Hamilton believes there could be fruitful collaboration in this regard with entities like the Defence Industry Fund, which could fund those bonds.

As Gauteng is endowed with the biggest defence footprint in the country, it was logical for the GGDA to be the diamond sponsor of the UN Procurement Summit and Symposium, “but our economic landscape is more than just defence,” Hamilton explained. “Our support to industrial players is more than just defence. The province has an economic development strategy called Growing Gauteng Together: Our Roadmap to 2030. Aerospace and defence have been identified as one of ten high growth sectors we are working on…as it is one of the key sectorial focus areas we have as a province.

“Gauteng being the economic powerhouse didn’t happen by default or a fluke. The province has good infrastructure, brilliant research institutes, universities that are world class,” he explained. “Gauteng as a province is working quite closely with different roleplayers nationally, particularly the Department of Trade and Industry to increase investments into the province. There is a plethora of projects that are being rolled out to create investment-ready opportunities for investors that want to come into the province. We are working on various industrial hubs that we are beginning to refurbish, re-establish and revitalise.”

A success story Hamilton underlined is the Tshwane Automotive Special Economic Zone (SEZ), which has attracted billions of rands in investment from Ford, amongst others. These SEZs are a sign of Gauteng’s commitment to attract investors, and Gauteng has ambitious plans to develop multiple SEZs to grow the province’s economy. SEZs are specifically designated areas that offer incentives to attract businesses to them. Incentives can potentially include VAT and customs relief, employment tax incentives, reduced corporate income rates and building allowances.

Apart from the automotive industry, other focus areas include aerospace and defence, agri-processing, ICT, energy, tourism and hospitality, and the green economy.

“We need to go out there and grow this economy,” Hamilton said. “If Gauteng is not growing, the whole country is not growing. We need to push hard for Gauteng to grow and the province is working hard on that,” especially as Gauteng is the gateway to the rest of the continent.

After South Africa successfully hosted the United Nations symposium, Hamilton is looking forward to Gauteng hosting the 2022 edition of the Africa Aerospace and Defence (AAD) exhibition, which runs from 21 to 25 September at Air Force Base Waterkloof. “It is the biggest aerospace and defence expo on the continent,” he said, and possibly the single biggest exhibition in South Africa.

Although there will be a lot of direct benefit to the local economy through travel, accommodation, catering etc., trade deals arising from the exhibition will positively impact on Gauteng in the medium to long term. Hamilton believes the recent lifting of Covid-19 restrictions will have a positive effect on the show, with more visitors attending.