MEC Sihle Zikalala: Launch of SEZ Conference

Welcoming remarks by the leader of government business on the occasion of the launch of SEZ Conference held at Inkosi Albert International Convention Centre

Programme Director;

Mayor of eThekwini Municipality Cllr Zandile Gumede and other Mayors present;

Minister of Trade and Industry Rob Davies;

Heads of the Departments;

CEO of entities;

Members of the KZN Economic Council;

Captains of Industry;

Honoured Guests;

All categories of staff;

Members of the media;

Good Morning

On behalf of the Provincial Government and the people of KwaZulu-Natal, it is a special privilege to welcome all of you to this Special Economic Zones Conference.

We want to express our appreciation to the national government for choosing this province for this important gathering which we believe we help our economy to integrate with economies of the world.

We cannot underscore enough the point that South Africa today faces enormous challenges that require comprehensive and targeted responses if we must reverse inequality, poverty and underdevelopment.

We are heartened by the fact that the South African government under the leadership of President Cyril Ramaphosa has been focusing on facilitating foreign direct investments throughout the corners of this country including KwaZulu-Natal.

Over the years we have hosted, successfully, international conferences and sporting events that have generated huge interests in this province.

The World Economic Forum on Africa, the BRICS Business Council and the the Indian Ocean Rim Association Conference are some of the few events that have positioned this province firmly as a destination for foreign direct investments.

Foreign investors are keen to invest in this province due to a conducive economic environment. We are saying this because KZN is an important hub of industrial development in sub-Saharan Africa, thanks to our rich natural resources and well-developed infrastructure.

Economic activities in the province are mainly concentrated in Durban and Pietermaritzburg, with significant contributions in the Richards Bay, the Ladysmith, Newcastle and Port Shepstone.

As the province, we have identified nine prime targets for inward investment. These are textiles, clothing, plastic products, chemicals (oil and gas), fabricated metal products, automotive components, wood and wood products, footwear, machinery and appliances.

In this province we have primary and processed aluminium at world competitive prices from local suppliers. This is something that provide a real opportunity for investors in these sectors.

Our special economic zones – the Dube Trade Port and Richards Bay Industrial Development Zones – have also generated an interest that is beyond our imagination.

Programme Director, we welcome the fact that the meeting of the national cabinet held on the 27th March discussed the expansion at our Dube Trade Port.

Indeed, we are excited that the R18 billion investment brings an additional 45 hectares into the Zone. We are projecting over R20 billion worth of investment over the next five years.

Since we launched Dube Trade Port in March 2012, this economic zone has signed investments exceeding R12 billion. These include a R1.3bn pharmaceuticals investment agreement which was concluded on the margins of the BRICS Summit, held in Goa, India, few years ago. During the International Aids Conference we also launched a condom manufacturing plant.

We must hasten to point out that there is also a huge interest in the Richards Bay Industrial Development Zone, particularly because Richards Bay is the centre of operations for South Africa’s aluminium industry.

I also wish the report to you Minister that since you launched RBIDZ few years ago, this economic zone has also signed investments of more than R11.9 billion representing different key sectors of the economy.

I am highlighting these Minister as a way of paying tribute to you for your bold and visionary leadership. We thank you and the national cabinet for establishing the two economic zones which have become catalysts for foreign direct investment.

People living in far flung areas that were neglected by the apartheid government are already benefitting from investments in these economic zones. Areas include King Cetshwayo, ILembe, Zululand, UMkhanyakude and to a lesser extent UMzinyathi district where many families live in squalor and abject poverty.

There is no shadow of a doubt that the addition of One-Stop-Shops in the economic zones is fast-tracking more investments for the benefit of our people.

This is also boosting our manufacturing sector which is geared for export. As you all know, the third of South Africa’s manufactured exports is produced in KwaZulu-Natal.

Programme Director and Honoured Guests, we want to use this SEZ Conference as a platform to discuss bottlenecks that make it difficult for foreign direct investors to inject that much needed investment.

Let us be honest in our discussions because there are indeed challenges that relates to incentives, environmental impact assessments and general compliance issues.

Notwithstanding these challenges, we undertake to use this conference to attract more investments into this province. We further undertake to continue to seek mutual trade and investment cooperation with our sister provinces from other countries using 27 consulate general offices which are located in this provinces.

As guided by Bilateral Relations between South Africa and specific countries, we have signed Memorandum of Understanding with a number of provinces and cities. We see our two SEZs as playing a complimentary role instead of competing with one other SEZ in other provinces and countries.

Over the years, the diplomatic corps have been encouraging entrepreneurs and multi-nationals in their respective countries to participate in sector specific joint business programmes including regular business seminars and forums hosted in KZN.

In addition, the KZN government has ongoing interactions with European Ambassadors. All of them have affirmed their commitment to promote people to people contacts and create business-to-business relations involving KZN based entrepreneurs and those in their respective countries.

Ladies and gentlemen, as I draw towards conclusion, we wish to reiterate as KZN Government that we are still committed to using the RBIDZ a site for energy infrastructure.

Last year, we were afforded the opportunity to host on behalf of the South African government the Ocean Rim Association � a forum of countries that are strategically located along the Indian Ocean.

We were particularly inspired by the theme: IORA uniting the peoples of Africa, Asia, Australasia, and the Middle East through enhanced cooperation for peace, stability and sustainable development.

Accordingly, we committed the provincial government to work with member countries to facilitate twinning of cities, provinces and academic institutions and partnership amongst the business fraternity.

Given the fact that IORA is sharply focusing on the oceans economy, we took a decision as the KZN Government to pursue interests in Oil and Gas industry.

The Richards Bay Industrial Development Zones which is located in the Port of Richards Bay is being developed as a site and an anchor for energy infrastructure � especially Gas

Programme Director, as we move forward, we want to use our Black Industrialists Programme to drive radical economic transformation within the energy sector. We are determined to ensure that our people benefits from natural resources.

This province is blessed with natural resources too many to mention. We must work together to convert such resources into wealth that builds rural economies for the benefit of all the people of this province.

We have reiterated in many platforms that the economic hubs such as Richards Bay, inherited from colonialism, were geared to serve the interests of the imperial metropolis and the selected few individuals at the expense of ordinary surrounding communities.

As we rebuild these areas, as engines of national and provincial economic development, we want to ensure inclusive economic growth, redistribution of wealth and the creation of an equal society.

We speak here of new South Africa where there is equal access to opportunities. A new South Africa whose development is not founded on the exploitation of the many by the few.

We say we must work together to defeat poverty as poverty creates a vicious cycle of hunger across different generations. It contributes to social instability such as crime and moral decay, and compounds the impact of under-development.

This government is therefore focusing on the elimination of all the root causes of poverty and under-development.

The Oil and Gas industry presents many opportunities for partnerships in this province. Statistics show that the Oil and Gas industry is employing an estimated 7 500 people and has an estimated annual turnover of over R196 billion, with the refining segment of the industry contribution almost 99% to the total industry’s turnover.

Moreover, the industry apparently accounts for approximately more than 90 000 indirect jobs in the distribution and marketing segment of the industry value chain.

Programme Director, we want the energy infrastructure programmes to focus extensively in rural areas and labour intensive approach to be used for massive job creation purposes.

We have set an ambitious target of increasing total employment to 4.5 million in 2035. This means that an annual growth rate of 5.43% is required in order to achieve the job creation targets.

We are using both investments in energy infrastructure and environmental sustainability as a driving force towards our targets. Energy costs and the sustainable generation thereof has in recent times become more important than ever before.

In other words, the pursuit of alternative energy options is both an economic and environmental concern. I am saying this because of climate change, the rapid loss of non-renewable resources such as coal and the pressures on Eskom to provide increasing supply.

In conclusion ladies and gentlemen, we are grateful as the provincial government that we are playing host to this SEZ Conference. We welcome all our brothers and sisters from other provinces and neighbouring countries.

In this province we have the headquarters of the African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD). We continue to count on such institutions in advancing the African and progressive agenda towards a better Africa, in a better world.

Within this context, we are committed to make our contribution as the people of KwaZulu-Natal to ensure that there is co-operation within Special Economic Zones in Africa for the benefits of all people.

We thank the Department of Trade and Industry for the co-operation. Equally, we thank all other government departments and entities that have made our SEZ successful.

We are inviting captains of industry and foreign governments to join us in a journey to create an equitable and prosperous province. This is the vision of our former president Nelson Mandela – who voted for the first time in this province on the 27th April 1994.

I thank you.

Source: Government of South Africa