‘SA firms are blazing trails in Africa’

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Tim Harris. Photo: David Ritchie

Cape Town - South Africa must use its position as Africa’s manufacturing and financial powerhouse to supply goods to the continent and so boost economic growth, said former DA MP Tim Harris this week.

Harris joined the City of Cape Town as head of investment promotion earlier in the week, leaving Parliament where he was the party’s finance spokesman.

Mayor Patricia de Lille said Harris, 34, would “play a central role in ensuring that our city fulfils its economic potential”, by implementing many of the DA economic policies he helped craft in Parliament.

Harris was speaking at an event to celebrate and raise funds for Partners for Possibility, an organisation that pairs business people with school principals from poor schools. The business people help the principals to manage finances and staff better.

There are over 170 such pairs countrywide.

South African businesses were trailblazers in Africa, said Harris, a former investment banker.

“Shoprite is rolling out a network of stores across Africa, working in difficult conditions and they are making money hand over fist,” he said. “We have incredible dynamism in our corporate sector.”

South Africa’s location let it supply goods to African consumers.

“We are the only (African) country with a manufacturing base and a deep and sophisticated financial market.”

Harris said the at-times-wary relationship between the government and business could improve, if both sides had the right incentives. “When government and business work together, incredible things happen. We saw in 2010… we hosted the best World Cup that has ever been hosted.”

The country’s mineral wealth would also attract investors.

“It is estimated we have $2.5 trillion worth of mineral resources.”

He said the institutions of government and democracy were strong, citing the independence of Public Protector Thuli Madonsela, a strong and free press and successful elections.

In a light-hearted take on his sudden departure from Parliament, Harris said, “I am still a member of the DA and I didn’t leave because Lindiwe Mazibuko left,” to laughter from the audience.

He spoke of some of the best heckles he had heard in his five years in the National Assembly.

“One of the DA members was speaking and one of the ANC members said: ‘The DA is so negative, if they saw Jesus walking on water they would accuse him of not being able to swim.’”

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