eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede said the hotels would be full and the direct spend from the conference is expected to be about R150m. File picture: Sibonelo Ngcobo/Independent Media
Durban - With more than 1 000 influential delegates expected to descend on Durban for the World Economic Forum (WEF) on Africa conference next week, the government is gearing up for a charm offensive to woo and assure investors of the stability of the country’s economy.

A high powered South African government delegation, comprising cabinet members from key portfolios and led by President Jacob Zuma, will attend the gathering and use the opportunity to charm potential investors and the international business community.

Speaking at the Freedom Day celebration in Manguzi, Northern KwaZulu-Natal, yesterday, Zuma said the summit - which starts on Wednesday and ends on Friday - would bring together a number of heads of state and government ministers, global captains of industry and influential decision-makers from all over the world.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to showcase our country. We look forward to hosting them all,” Zuma said.

The key message by the South African delegation will be that South Africa’s economy remains stable and conducive to investments.

This is despite two rating agencies having recently downgraded the country to sub-investment grade.

KwaZulu-Natal MEC for Economic Development and Tourism Sihle Zikalala, who will also be part of the delegation, said the event is a perfect opportunity to showcase not only the province but the country as a whole with a view to attracting investment.

“We will go there with the message that South Africa is open for investment, that as the government we are committed to ensuring inclusive economic growth and that we are committed to ensuring stability in labour”.

Zikalala said the economic spin-offs from the conference are expected to add about R450 million to the province’s gross domestic product (GDP).

eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede said the hotels would be full and the direct spend from the conference is expected to be about R150m.

“This is quite a lot and it will continue to sustain jobs because the hospitality industry will benefit. Small conference organisers are also going to benefit because they are going to organise side events that will be taking place during WEF Africa,” Zikalala said.

In a bid to woo investors, Zikalala said that a number of roadshows and side meetings had been planned.

During these roadshows the potential investors will be taken to dedicated special economic zones like the Dube Tradeport and to Richards Bay Industrial Development Zone “to expose them to investment opportunities”.

“We will be there as South Africa to make it clear that investing in this country is the best option given that our fiscal policies remain sound, we have banking systems that are very adequate and in terms of exportation and imports we are at a high level,” he said.

He said the conference theme resonates with the government’s shift towards radical economic transformation.

“Radical economic transformation does not mean taking from those who have wealth and giving to others but it means opening space for others.

“The theme talks about inclusive growth but it also talks about responsive and responsible leadership,” he said.

Zikalala said how much South Africa got out from the gathering would depend on the pro-activeness of government. He said cities like eThekwini, Msunduzi and Richards Bay would also be represented at the gathering.

Gumede will represent eThekwini in some of the closed sessions.

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“The city will have more than 20 representatives spread over various WEF events. This will comprise relevant exco members like the chair of Economic Development, senior officials led by the city manager and others from treasury, and economic development”, she said.

She plans to present the city as a viable investment destination and will do this by indicating the sound governance and financial standing of the municipality.

“This is important for investors since they want to know how the municipality as local government is operating in terms of its own management of finances”.

She said the city representatives would focus on the catalytic projects such as Auto Supply Park, the Point WaterFront property developments and the Centrum Site.

She said the city would also emphasise access to finance for property developers.

International funding agencies will be invited to look at the major projects and fund local initiatives by local property developers.