NKOSIPHENDULE Kolisile is MEC for Economic Development Gauteng.
SUMMIT TV: Gauteng’s provincial government — in partnership with municipalities, the Department of Trade and Industry and the Department of Environmental Affairs — plans to launch an investment centre aimed at facilitating investments in South Africa. Nkosi, last year a commitment was made that the provincial government would look at launching a one-stop investment centre to facilitate foreign and local investment — can you take us through the latest developments?
NKOSIPHENDULE KOLISILE: The commitment made before the end of last year was that before the end of the financial year, which is at the end of March 2013, we would have a one-stop shop to be called the Gauteng Investment Centre, which would be the main window for business investment into the province and deal with a number of things. As we said, we are trying to bring in all the key role players so that the ease of doing business in this province is improved in significant ways. We are happy with the participation of not just government entities but the chambers of businesses from other countries as well — there is a lot of enthusiasm. We felt that turnaround times when businesses want to invest in Gauteng must be shortened; that there must be certainty about investment opportunities and whatever investors would want when they come to this province. We are going to be launching the Gauteng Investment Centre (GIC) before the end of this year, which is by March. The location will be around Sandton. The people that will be responsible is a new entity that’s been revealed, called the Gauteng Growth and Development Agency (GGDA) that is responsible for trade and investment. The Department of Economic Development in Gauteng has since taken the decision that we must ensure that when people come here wanting to invest in a particular kind of production they must know a municipality can help them, and the land that’s been zoned for that type of activity.
STV: What types of investments are you looking to attract and which industries do we lack as a province?
NK: The main responsibility for the Gauteng Growth and Development Agency is to facilitate trade and investment but we as the province would want to grow very big in terms of manufacturing, ICT, and the green economy. There is a whole range of other services that we are looking at — and products. For people that want to come and invest in the province it will really depend on them. What we know is that, as the Gauteng Provincial Government, we must be found to be ready to accept that kind of investment. We are going very strong on the green economy, ICT, manufacturing and all the other areas that have been identified in the New Growth Path (NGP).
STV: So the idea is to minimise red tape and maximise efficiency for a lot of companies that are doing business in the province. Given the history, particularly between the public and private sectors, whether that be a lack of trust — how confident are you that this investment centre will be a success?
NK: That’s important. With the calibre of professionals that we have in the Gauteng Growth and Development Agency, I am quite confident that this is going to be a huge success. With the commitment from the politicians and Premier Nomvula Mokonyane of Gauteng Province and the enthusiasm that this idea has generated from the private sector, we have to perfect this. We can’t falter. People must receive the kind of service they believe they should. We have spoken to other entities such as SA Revenue Services and Eskom and utility companies in the local sphere and municipalities, so when an investor comes and says they want to invest everyone must be ready. I am quite confident that it’s going to be a huge success — everyone is geared up to ensure this succeeds. By the time we get to the next financial year this will be up and running.
STV: You talk about Eskom but we know they are looking for a 16% tariff hike for the next five years — what is the likely impact of that going to be on investment? Are you worried about how this might hamper competitiveness in these sectors that we are looking to boost?
NK: Those are things we really need to continue talking about. Eskom has to be engaged on that. It is simply not sustainable that every time businesses and communities experience such hefty tariff hikes. I have said this many times so I think lasting solutions around the whole energy question have to be found. We are doing our part as Gauteng Economic Development, especially around finding alternative and renewable ways to generate energy. The green economy objectives are some of what’s being designed to mitigate the effect of this. Eskom must play an important role. The fixed view on coal to generate electricity is a bit discouraging. I know Eskom chief executive Brian Dames and I think that this is something we can engage on. As a government parastatal, they must continue to be very sensitive to the needs of investors. Many people have approached my department with serious concerns around electricity costs. For people in metal foundry industries almost everything they do is based on lots of electricity — without electricity their companies will never take off. This is a very serious concern. Even people manufacturing blankets have approached us and threatened that if this is not resolved they will move to another province, even other countries. We have to do something. There are serious reasons why Eskom is doing this and I don’t want to dismiss those but that can’t be the solution. Even the mines are threatening cutting jobs.
STV: Apart from electricity we have e-tolls planned — are you worried about the impact of e-tolls on business?
NK: E-tolls can’t be compared to electricity.
STV: It’s a big concern for consumers and manufacturers that have to use those roads.
NK: Government is handling that. That’s a lengthy consultation and I understand where government is coming from. The processes that are being undertaken by government are very important and I am sure that everyone’s views are going to be taken into account. I know there are court challenges, so that’s an important area that I hope at the end of the day we are all going to be seeing eye to eye on. There is the question of road infrastructure and sustainability and maintenance and that is very important. I think we have to be very sensitive to the needs of consumers and those who will be using those roads. Perhaps everything has not been properly explained to everyone so they can understand — there are some that might not even know how much they will be paying at the end of the day. I think proper consultation must continue in order that everyone can understand what’s in play.