Dimitri Panayotopoulos, Procter & Gamble vice-chairman in charge of global business units. Picture: MARTIN RHODES
Dimitri Panayotopoulos, Procter & Gamble vice-chairman in charge of global business units. Picture: MARTIN RHODES

SOUTH Africa is at the heart of Procter & Gamble’s (P&G’s) plans for expansion in Africa, Dimitri Panayotopoulos, the company’s vice-chairman in charge of global business units, said on Friday.

The global consumer goods group said it would invest about R1.6bn to build a multicategory manufacturing plant in South Africa, in line with its aim of making the country P&G’s manufacturing hub for the southern and East African markets.

The new plant is expected to create more than 500 additional jobs at P&G.

The Economist Intelligence Unit predicts that by 2030‚ Africa’s top 18 cities could have a combined spending power of $1.3-trillion, making Africa a target for companies seeking growth opportunities outside developed countries.

"South Africa is the most advanced economy in Africa and represents an attractive investment destination with good infrastructure," Mr Panayotopoulos said at a press conference held jointly with the Department of Trade and Industry on Friday. "We’ve seen our business grow in leaps and bounds in Africa. In the last decade, we’ve grown the African business more than tenfold.

"People here are living in fast-growing economies, the long-term business opportunities are huge, the African population is growing and consumers are becoming more affluent and demanding high-quality brands that weren’t previously available here," he said.

Construction of the new plant‚ which will be one of the largest P&G facilities in Europe‚ the Middle East and Africa‚ is expected to commence next year, with production targeted for 2016 or early 2017.

"We have authorised the search for a suitable site, which is currently taking place: it’s likely to be in Gauteng," Mr Panayotopoulos said.

"Also, when we build a big plant … we attract a lot of our global suppliers who also come and build plants. This has happened in India and China and we expect the same here," he said.

In 2009‚ the company invested R500m in a manufacturing plant for Pampers nappies in Kempton Park‚ Johannesburg. It has two facilities in Ibadan, Nigeria, and is building a manufacturing plant in Lagos.

"There are brands and innovations we don’t have here yet, and so obviously we want to get them here as fast as possible," Mr Panayotopoulos said.

Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies said the government was working "energetically" to promote greater trade within Africa.

"We are working to make it more attractive for head offices and operations that seek to serve the African continent to locate themselves in South Africa. We realise South Africa is a convenient gateway … we have … a business environment that many regard as familiar," Mr Davies said.