The Southern African Development Community (SADC) is an important investment destination not only for multi-national companies but for companies within the region. Therefore, focus on promoting investment and entrepreneurship challenges in the region were brought to the forefront at the inaugural International Entrepreneurship and Investment Conference, being held in the coastal city this week.
Government and business leaders were on hand to lend their expertise to tackle the two key issues, the state BuaNews agency reported. “This conference aims at providing a platform to discuss how a regional economy such as KwaZulu-Natal, in a developing country context, can effectively promote innovative entrepreneurship,” said KZN Economic Development and Tourism MEC Mike Mabuyakhulu.
Profiling investment opportunities within the province, South Africa and the entire SADC region are also a part of the agenda. The region boasts minerals, oil, abundant raw materials for manufacturing and value addition. And with a combined population of about 257 million, with a GDP of about US$465 billion (in 2009), the region’s potential to claim its share of the world market can’t be underestimated.
“We recognise strong partnerships among provinces and the entire countries within the SADC region as key to building the economies of both the country and the region. The SADC region presents vast investment opportunities for all of us in key sectors of infrastructural development and services, tourism as well as trade and industry,” said Mabuyakhulu. He added, the SADC has already decided, in pursuit of regional economic integration, to have a single market by 2015 and by 2018 a single currency.
Mabuyakhulu said the recent global economic recession had taught the world’s new economics lessons especially about the indispensable role of government in stimulating economic activity in times of economic downturns. He highlighted the private sector’s importance in developing the region so that it becomes more competitive and can hold its own in the world economic arena.
“We recognise that the private sector remains a crucial driver of economic activity in the country through its investment in the real economy to generate economic value and create jobs,” said Mabuyakhulu. The private sector in South Africa contributes more than 78% to GDP. “This shows that our economy is driven to a large extent by the private sector. As such government recognises the importance of the private sector in our productive economy,” he said.
In addition, government recognises that innovation is key to the creation of wealth in an economy such as South Africa. Therefore, the aim of this conference is also to discuss strategies the government can use to promote innovative entrepreneurship in the economy. “We further believe that innovative entrepreneurship is the key to the attainment of our developmental goal of growing an economy that creates sustainable jobs,” said Mabuyakhulu.
South Africa’s “stability and predictability” of its institutions, free press and transparent Constitution and government, gives it an advantage over many developing countries to attract investment.
However, government must continue in its efforts to stamp out corruption, which does not bode well for investment, according to Goldman Sachs International Managing Director, Colin Coleman.
Coleman addressed the International Entrepreneurship and Investment Conference on Thursday on the challenges and opportunities facing African countries in terms of economic development. Africa, despite challenges like infrastructure shortages, political instability and health issues, is attracting foreign investment. According to Coleman, Brazilian investors are active in West African countries and the Chinese are involved in economic projects all over Africa. India and some large South African companies are also making their presence felt in African countries to boost economic growth.
Indian companies are active in the manufacturing, tourism and property development sectors, while China’s investment lies in infrastructure and resource extraction across Africa. Coleman drew attention to the positive economic impact by South African companies MTN, Standard Bank and Shoprite in other parts of the continent. He said for now, South Africa was one of the leading economies on the continent, given its admission into BRICS and other important international institutions.
CEO of BJM Securities, Andile Mazwai, added that South Africa, in comparison to other emerging markets, is an easier place to conduct business. He also warned however that corruption, health and safety issues must be death with immediately. He pointed out that countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo have rich natural resources, but lack the technical know-how to maximise opportunities to attract investment.
Meanwhile, South African leaders President Jacob Zuma, Minister in the Presidency in charge of the National Planning Commission, Trevor Manuel, and Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan were applauded for their efforts to push the agenda of Africa as a whole on the world economic stage.