Cape Town - Stringent visa requirements are proving to be a “significant challenge” for the City of Cape Town’s investment goals, says head of investment Tim Harris.
“We are trying to lobby for a relaxation because we won’t make (our economic plans) work without being able to access the tops skills from around the world.”
Harris told the Cape Town Press Club at Kelvin Grove on Thursday the city was engaging with the Department of Home Affairs, via its trade and investment agency Wesgro, to get “some sort of concession” on the new regulations. But he added that there was “no easy answer” and a more open and free visa regime was integral to securing investment.
Harris left Parliament three months ago, where he acted as the DA’s shadow minister of finance until the May elections, to head up the city’s new investment portfolio.
He told the Cape Argus his was a political appointment, and as such “was completely different” to that of a permanent councillor. He was directly appointed by mayor Patricia de Lille and his contract was therefore linked to her term in office. He said the city manager would have the details of the way he was appointed.
The next local government election is in 2016.
Harris laughed off suggestions that he was deployed to the metro to keep an eye on things for the DA. “My mission is simple. We want to make sure that Cape Town is open for business.”
He said he was working in the mayor’s office to put the city’s economy at the top of the political agenda.
Harris said Cape Town had, despite being among the best-run cities in Africa, only fulfilled half of its potential. “We are on the map as a lifestyle and tourism destination. But what about our economic strengths?”
Cape Town ranked comparatively low on the list of competitiveness, partly because of its slow economic growth and poor connectivity. Harris’s plan for the city’s economic growth was to attract medium and large companies, grow existing companies and start high-growth companies.
“Cape Town is increasingly becoming a place where you can do global business,” he said, although more needed to be done to leverage its ports and airports.
Harris said that while the city did significant work with micro and small-business enterprises, not enough was being done to encourage high-growth enterprises. This could be done by making Cape Town the first digital city in Africa.
Soon there would be more than 1 000km of fibre optic cables throughout the city to improve connectivity.