JOHANNESBURG - Efforts by the South African government to create an enabling environment for the private sector will be key to KwaZulu-Natal's growth and development plan, delegates to a business expo in the province have heard.

Participants at the KZN Export Week hosted by Trade & Investment KwaZulu-Natal discussed the need for the province, which is the country's second largest contributor to gross domestic product after Gauteng, to position itself as the gateway to Africa.

"We need to increase our links to Africa," said Frikkie Brooks, deputy director-general for strategic management at the KZN Provincial Planning Commission.

"Inclusive economic growth, human and community development and strategic infrastructure are among the strategic priorities of the KZN PGDP (Provincial Growth and Development Plan) 2035."

Brooks said KwaZulu-Natal was aiming for 18 percent growth over the next three years and had to remove the barriers to catalytic projects.

He said the province, which has the highest number of unemployed graduates in South Africa, needed to work closely with tertiary institutions to enhance the quality and relevance of education.

There was an urgent need to develop the pipeline of skills required to meet the needs of the growing economy, he added, singling out manufacturing, tourism and freight and logistics as KZN’s competitive sectors.

Delegates said British Airways' planned introduction of a direct, non-stop flight between London’s Heathrow Airport and Durban’s King Shaka International Airport from October 30 would contribute significantly to the number of international arrivals from the United Kingdom and North America.

- African News Agency (ANA)