The theme of the two-day conference, which starts on April 3, is Moving Towards Excellence.
KwaZulu-Natal Premier Willies Mchunu, Minister of Trade and Industry Dr Rob Davies, MEC for Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs in KZN, Sihle Zikalala, and eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede are scheduled to address the conference.
About 500 delegates representing national, provincial and local government, state-owned entities, SEZs, industry associations, industry experts and academics, international investment communities, local businesses and multinational corporations are expected to attend.
The conference comes after Zikalala announced last week that the expansion of one of two KZN Special Economic Zones, Dube TradePort, is set to create hundreds of jobs.
Zikalala said phase one had been a resounding success as it created more than 12 000 job opportunities while attracting R3.2 billion in private sector investment.
The second phase is expected to generate R18 billion the next five years.
According to Davies, the aim of the conference is to provide a platform to engage national stakeholders working on or with an interest in the SEZs.
The conference will bring together high-level leaders from diverse sectors to explore how to shape SEZ policies for a globally competitive South African economy.
“One of the strategic initiatives that the government, through the DTI, has embarked upon for accelerating the country’s industrial development agenda is the SEZ Programme. This is based on our belief that SEZs can provide the country with the necessary impetus for promoting industrial development, building the required industrial infrastructure, and promoting co-ordinated planning among key government agencies and the private sector,” said Davies.
He added that the conference will also be used as a platform to launch the South African SEZ Programme, where the department will outline the country’s achievements in attracting investments, generating exports and creating employment opportunities through SEZs, and their contribution in growing the economy.
Zikalala said: “For South Africa to have vibrant SEZs and competitive regional economies, it is necessary to engage in regular dialogues among key stakeholders such as this national conference. The SEZ Programme was specifically developed to promote the creation of a regionally diversified industrial economy by establishing new industrial hubs in underdeveloped regions of our country.”
Durban-based economist Bonke Dumisa said SEZs were vital to accelerate the country’s industrial development agenda.
“The involvement of top international companies like Samsung at the Dube Tradeport bears testimony to this,” he said.
SEZs were best suited for businesses who need special tax incentives for them to be internationally cost-competitive.
“For example, businesses that rely on the just-in-time processes, like fresh flowers that are sent from King Shaka airport for sales in France and other international destinations,” said Dumisa.