DURBAN - KwaZulu-Natal and South Africa as a whole cannot achieve sustainable, inclusive economic growth and development goals if there is no investment, if the country is uncompetitive and if we do not encourage trade.
This past week at the second South African Investment Conference hosted by President Cyril Ramaphosa, the organised business community indicated that it is still confident in the South African economy through the R363 billion in investment commitments made, which would create 412000 jobs over the next five years. This was added to last year’s conference where nearly R280bn was pledged by many local and foreign corporates for infrastructure and job creation projects as the government seeks to raise R1.2 trillion from international and local investors over the next five years.
eThekwini and KwaZulu-Natal stand to benefit from a sizable chunk of that financial commitment with Durban Chamber members such as Sappi committing R14bn over five years to create new plants in KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga and Toyota Motors South Africa investing R2.4bn to create 1500 new jobs assembling new vehicles in its Durban plant.
Additionally, key local stakeholder, Transnet pledged R22.6bn over five years, with the potential to create 20000 direct and 25 000 indirect jobs, aimed at renovating the port infrastructure and equipment in both provincial ports. It is significant that organised business continues to view KwaZulu-Natal as a viable investment destination and as a province we need to collectively capitalise on this inherent goodwill.
Both the public and private sector needs to play their respective roles and ensure that there are clear goals and action plans in place to ensure that eThekwini and KwaZulu-Natal remain economically efficient, sustainable and attractive to potential foreign and local investment. The government needs to address the main concerns of business which is unclear policies and regulation and the cost and ease of doing business. Additionally,the government needs to guarantee a conducive environment to attract investment by prioritising policy reforms, policy certainty, so that foreign and domestic investors can have renewed confidence in our economy by creating a sense of consistency and predictability.
Additionally, the government, working with the private sector,needs to prioritise growth in important labour-intensive industries such as agriculture, automotive, hospitality and tourism, manufacturing, information and communications technology as well as the oceans economy.
This will go a long way to addressing the socio-economic development goals of our country,which are to reduce historical inequality and poverty and\ high unemployment levels by creating sustainable and inclusive jobs and opportunities.
The Durban Chamber can play a crucial role here by creating platforms, initiatives and programmes between larger corporates and entrepreneurs, start-ups and small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs).
Corporates need to actively integrate these SMMEs into their respective value chains and supply chains, especially with regards to these new investment projects. These new projects represent a unique opportunity for these SMMEs to gain the relevant industry-specific business experience and skills to actively participate in sustainable economic activity.
Being ‘untested” and ‘inexperienced” have always been significant barriers to entry for SMMEs so by engaging them within the framework of these projects we can actively equip them with knowledge and skills that will empower them to fulfil their vital role in our economy, especially in terms of job, opportunity and wealth creation. Together, we can build our economy and collaborate to be “in business for a better world”.
Palesa Phili is the chief executive of the Durban CFhamber of Commerce and Industry.
BUSINESS REPORT ONLINE