Premier of KwaZulu-Natal, Mr Sihle Zikalala,
MEC of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs, Ms Nomusa Dube-Ncube,
Chairperson of the Dube TradePort Corporation, Ms Bridgette Gasa,
CEO of the Dube TradePort Corporation, Mr Hamish Erskine,
CEO of Mara Phones, Mr Ashish Thakkar,
Distinguished international and local guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure to be here at Dube Trade Port and at the facilities of Mara Phones to witness a great moment in South Africa’s drive to be a producer of advanced goods.
Our visit here to the Dube Trade Port provides valuable insight into how a special economic zone should work in real life.
It enables us to appreciate the immense transformative potential of these zones for our economy.
We are here witness to a thriving collection of industries and businesses that are seizing the opportunities which this model of economic development provides.
In the State of the Nation Address, I emphasised that special economic zones are important instruments and mediums for attracting foreign and domestic investment, building targeted industrial capabilities and establishing new industrial hubs.
International best practice supports the catalytic role of SEZ’s. For example in 1978 China established the Shenzhen Economic Zone in Guangdong province.
The area was formerly an ancient rural village- and today it is a metropolis and a leading business, innovation and financial center.
This Special Economic Zone has been established in an existing metro, where all the 978 facilities and capabilities are in place.
And it is here that Mara has found fertile ground to establish this factory.
These zones are also one of the key strategic interventions to drive economic development in our country but particularly in local areas.
As one of the top investment opportunities in the country, with R3.2 billion in private investment and 12,000 job opportunities created in its first phase, the Dube Trade Port is central to our efforts to attract investment in this province, and indeed throughout the country.
We are now looking forward to the second phase of the Dube Trade Port, which involves a large focus on electronics and a range of aeronautical services.
Special economic zones are important for our economic strategy, particularly if they optimise their strategic position, as this one in the sea port of Durban does.
Studies reveal that sea port cities grow faster than inland cities due to their strategic location.
Durban has a number of strategic advantages, not least of all owing to its geographic positioning along one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes. Being home to a Special Economic Zone is in itself is a very good foundation to catapult this part of our country to higher levels of growth.
Their development is fuelled by port efficiency, handling of cargo, warehousing, storing, manufacturing and other economic activities, such as tourism.
Durban is a melting pot of commerce, tourism and industry, an important economic hub that holds great potential for the country.
Our visit here is an opportunity to learn how our focused investment in infrastructure helps our economy grow and expand beyond our shores.
Special economic zones are part of a broader national effort to attract investment, grow the economy and confront our unemployment crisis, particularly amongst the youth.
This effort includes the mobilisation of more resources for infrastructure, improving the business environment, removing regulatory and other obstacles to investment, and working together with business on growth plans for specific industries.
A highlight of my visit this morning is the launch of the Mara Smart Phones.
Today we are giving practical effect to our investment drive.
The CEO of Mara is clear, articulate, visionary, and knows exactly what his company wants to achieve. When we met I immediately knew I was talking to someone who is serious about investing.
In early 2018, we announced our intention to mobilise over R1.2 trillion in new investment over a 5 year period.
In our inaugural conference in October last year, companies made 31 investment announcements with a total value of R300 billion to be invested in South Africa.
One such announcement is the one that we celebrate today, the launch of the Mara Smart Phone facility.
At the Investment Conference, Mara was willing and prepared to set up a factory and invest here. They have delivered in less than 12 months, an outstanding world class facility. The facilities we have here are equal if not better.
The South African people are grateful to Mara for having employed over 200 youth. Of them 67% are women and 94% of them were unemployed but skilled. Today we have made history, there aren’t many type of firms like this, and possibly in the world, where you have 67% of the workers being women.
We are now seeing the fruits of our investment drive.
Throughout the year there have been a number of projects completed and launched.
Last week here in eThekwini, Toyota launched a R454 million investment in additional capacity for its Hiace plant in Prospecton.
A number of projects are currently in implementation phase and will be launched soon.
This investment evidences commitment that has gone beyond pledging to implementation. This plant is here today because an investor came in our country and said: ” I am going to invest in this country, create jobs and a product that will be sold throughout the Continent.” And they did so. We want to encourage others to honour their commitments and deliver on what they promised in terms of investing.
We have also seen an increase in investment from overseas.
In 2018, inward direct investment increased from only R26.8 billion in 2017 to R70.7 billion in 2018.
The World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index indicates South Africa’s overall ranking improved from 67 in 2018 to 60 out 141 nations in 2019.
Earlier this year, I announced our ambition to be within the top 50 cohort of countries featured in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing business index. Though our work to achieve that ranking is nascent, we expect to see improvements over the next three years.
We are working in partnership with business, labour and civil society to unlock growth, create jobs and build an inclusive economy.
Investment in infrastructure is a catalyst for economic development and this morning we received a briefing on the Aerotropolis Masterplan.
Dube Trade Port is an impressive world-class facility that has the potential to be a key driver of South Africa’s trade relations with the rest of the continent.
The fastest growing economies are in Africa, and its population is expected to reach 2.5 billion by 2050.
The establishment of the African Continental Free Trade Area will open up enormous opportunities for companies located in South Africa.
Our vision is that the mobile phones we produce here should be distributed throughout our country.
South Africa and Rwanda have been pioneers in this endeavour and should therefore identify the African Continental Free Trade Area agreement as an enabler for innovation and more intra-African trade.
This continent will have an even more youthful population in future, a larger labour force and higher disposable incomes, and will also undergo rapid urbanisation.
We are witnessing a telecom mobile revolution on the African Continent. In Africa, 3G will overtake 2G as 4G also gains traction.
In South Africa we are already piloting and rolling out 5G.
This creates enormous opportunities in South Africa and in the Continent.
I would like to congratulate the CEO of Mara, Mr Ashish Thakkar, for having the foresight and faith in this country, and deciding to locate this plant in South Africa.
The plant is technologically advanced and the phone is of high quality � and now it is ‘Made in South Africa’.
As a local business venture, as a result of the investment they have made in South Africa to help contribute in the growth of our economy and creation of the much-needed jobs, Mara Phones is already firmly ensconced in the Proudly South African stable.
As part of the spirited buy local campaign driven by Proudly South African, we urge all individuals and companies to support and promote this local brand.
While the company has its sights set on the continental market, the primary market is domestic.
We welcome the Mara Smart Phones investment in South Africa and the introduction of a new smart phone in the South African market.
It advances our plan to make this country a hub of innovation and enterprise which will open opportunities for our young people.
It is significant that young South Africans from surrounding areas are employed on the production line.
Thanks to its value, quality and range of services, the Mara Phone holds promise for our dream of access and connectivity for the marginalised people of our country and the continent.
It will advance our goal of bridging the technological divide in our country.
Mara phones is a proudly African venture, which is set to put the continent on the map with regard to mobile cell phone technology.
The company’s efforts represent a great advance in the technological and electronic manufacturing sector, fulfilling our aspiration of becoming producers, not importers of technology.
Technology is key to economic change and it is high time that Africa rides its own information highway.
We must appreciate the potential that we have as a continent, exploit our competitive advantage � in areas such as natural resources � improve our bargaining position with international investors, and steadily turn the tide through our solid commitment to import substitution.
Skills are an essential investment consideration, as are a culture of entrepreneurship, developed infrastructure and a supportive regulatory environment.
We are therefore encouraged that Mara Phones has found a home at Dube Trade Port and are looking forward to Phase 2 of the Mara project.
As the company rolls out in South Africa, we would like opportunities for retail stores and Mara Experience Stores to be extended to young black people in townships.
They should be considered in other subsidiary opportunities in the value chain.
This is an investment whose benefits should radiate far beyond the walls of this factory.
We congratulate Mara for seizing this opportunity and wish them well in their future endeavours.
I thank you.
Source: The Presidency Republic of South Africa