South Africa Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown at Port of Durban talking about Transnet infrastructure and expansion programmes into Africa. Picture:Siphelele Dludla/ANA
Durban – Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown on Wednesday said that South Africa was well-placed to grow the continent's economy and boost intra-African trade through infrastructure investment and development of smart ports.

Speaking at the Transnet Learning Journey during the opening day of the World Economic Forum on Africa 2017 in Durban, Brown said the South African freight and rail company had the capability to be the key driver to Africa's development.

"If we can address Africa's logistics infrastructure deficit, we can change the quality of lives of all Africans and we look to Africa as a key, under-developed market," Brown said.

"In 2015, intra-African trade accounted for less than 18 percent of total continental exports. Among the key factors underpinning these numbers is Africa's logistics infrastructure deficit."

Transnet adopted an Africa Strategy exactly two years ago and went on the drive to develop and pursue commercial opportunities on the rest of the continent more actively, in conjunction with other state-owned companies and the private sector. The freight and logistics company also contracted German and Chinese engineering companies to help it manufacture 1 064 locomotives in South Africa.

Brown said Transnet needed to diversify revenue sources in response to the economic slowdown in the country and the world. Transnet initiatives for diversifying revenue included possible joint ventures in areas such as rail and port opportunities, the development of infrastructure at ports and establishing transport corridors in those countries.

Africa has 15 landlocked countries requiring access to ports.

Brown said, as the Port of Durban was becoming more computerised and adopting new technologies, such as the use of drones, it would remain one of the busiest ports in Africa, handling cargo, automobiles and containers. She also said Transnet was not only committed to developing infrastructure, but their presence also needed to change the socio-economic conditions of those living close to these projects.

Brown said the company should also as far as possible procure locally and develop small, medium and micro enterprises in those countries.

Transnet chief executive Siyabonga Gama said the company was committed to the African continent and thanked government and staff for support

Currently, Transnet is pursuing opportunities in Senegal, Liberia, Nigeria, Ghana, Togo, Benin, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Kenya. "We would like to thank everyone who has been with us on this journey to expand through the African continent. We would like to thank Minister Lynne Brown for her continued support and always available to us," Gama said.