JOHANNESBURG – Last week we travelled with our “cousins” Brand South Africa and Tourism South Africa to KwaZulu-Natal, celebrating investment into our economy, heritage and tourism.

I am no stranger to the province, but on this trip we enjoyed a number of experiences that were completely new to me, and we learnt some amazing facts and figures about KZN and the country.

Our two-day trip started with a visit to Dube TradePort, of which King Shaka International Airport comprises a part.

It is an impressive 3000-hectare development and a designated Special Economic Zone (SEZ), designed to attract domestic and foreign direct investment into the area.

Said to be one of the top 10 investment opportunities in the country, Dube TradePort is capacitating local manufacturing and assisting in the beneficiation of domestic resources.

It is the only facility on the continent that combines an international airport, dedicated cargo terminal, manufacturing, warehousing, offices, retail, a hotel and an agricultural estate in one location.

Dube iConnect offers world-class, state-of-the-art information technology and telecoms support to businesses in the precinct. With local and national government’s financial and advisory support to private sector companies operating there, it is making a significant contribution to job creation and economic growth in the area and in the country.

We toured just a small section of the Dube AgriZone, the most technologically advanced future farming platform on the continent, and saw how one farmer is maximising the space for growing cucumbers by going vertical.

And if that wasn’t enough to impress, we later learnt, thanks to a presentation by Brand South Africa, that the country has climbed nine spots in the World Bank’s Africa Competitiveness Report, and was now ranked second.

We are the top foreign direct investment (FD) destination in sub-Saharan Africa, taking 20.6percent of all FDI projects destined for the continent, ahead of Morocco, Egypt and Nigeria, making us number 25 globally.

We rank six out of 137 countries for our world-class infrastructure.

Dube TradePort is surely one of the shining examples of an infrastructure project contributing to this ranking.

According to the Group of Eight countries, among the factors driving our improvement is our production of high-quality products and services, and this is the message that Brand South Africa overseas, and Proudly South African, here at home, are constantly pushing.

Part of Dube TradePort’s objectives, with the manufacturing companies they have attracted into the SEZ including Samsung and the world’s largest manufacturing plant of fibre optic cables, Yangtze Optical Fibre and Cable, is import replacement through identifying locally produced and manufactured components, machinery and parts that can replace imported items.

Identifying our top 100 imports by value and finding local alternatives is something which Proudly South African is working on and about which we will write in a future column.

The rest of the short trip to KZN was taken up with visits to the Albert Luthuli Museum, and strawberry picking at a Ballito farm owned by entrepreneurs who have ventured into this challenging sector.

They now supply some of our large retailers, in a Proudly South African initiative which is creating much needed jobs in the community.

South Africans’ resourcefulness is always something to marvel at, and we must find ways of exploiting our skills and resources, which from the educational trip shows we apparently have in abundance.

We know that bad news sells better than feel-good stories, but if any country has a surfeit of bad news, it is South Africa and we surely deserve to hear about the progress we are making and the standing we have internationally as a country open for business.

In his hit song Mthande, Musa fondly sings about loving your own, so South Africans, if you don’t already, believe in yourselves, believe in us as a country and know that we are doing amazing things.

And on your next holiday to the Zulu kingdom, when you land at the airport, just look around and know that the most innovative things are happening there.

Eustace Mashimbye is the chief executive of Proudly South African.

The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

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– BUSINESS REPORT