International Entrepreneurship and Investment Conference


Remarks by the KwaZulu-Natal MEC for Economic Development and Tourism, the Honourable Michael Mabuyakhulu on the occasion of the cocktail function for the international entrepreneurship and investment conference

1 Jun 2011

Programme director
Esteemed delegates
Dignitaries present
Ladies and gentlemen

All protocol observed.

On behalf of the province of KwaZulu-Natal and the people of this province, we wish to welcome all the delegates who have taken their time off from their busy schedule to attend the inaugural International Entrepreneurship and Investment Conference, which no doubt heralds the opening of a new chapter in our province's quest to be a truly regional economic powerhouse.

To the delegates who come from other parts of the country and beyond, we say welcome to the province which is on the cusp of big achievements, the province that bristles with a confluence of endless economic opportunities.

Indeed, we strongly believe that you would have shortchanged yourself if you had given this conference a miss because; tonight KwaZulu-Natal is taking a giant leap into the future, by mapping out a new economic trajectory that will propel the province into a new era of economic prosperity.

While Programme director, cocktail functions are by their nature occasions where we meet to network, get to know one another better and ease ourselves into the swing of things ahead of the big day tomorrow, we believe that it will be remiss of us if we do not take this opportunity to touch on why we have called this conference.

Programme director, it was French Writer, Victor Hugo, who once said "all the powerful forces of the world are not as powerful as an idea whose time has come."

As many us you are aware, KwaZulu-Natal has always been a province, which while brimming with endless economic opportunities, has not been able to seize them with both hands. It is a province whose economic greatness and prospects, although widely recognised, have not been able to shine through.

In short, Programme director, we are the first to admit that we are yet to fully exploit our competitive and comparative advantages.

As many of us know, our province is unique in many ways owing to the fact that it is the only province which has the two of the biggest ports in the country. We are also the only province which boasts an aetropolis, the site of the Dube Trade Port incorporating the spanking new King Shaka International Airport.

All these logistical platforms make KwaZulu-Natal the logical gateway to the African continent.

With the world moving towards regional integration, it has become an undeniable fact that our progress as a province and indeed as a country is indirectly linked with that of our region. Already, we know that all the countries within the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region have agreed that by 2015 we will have a single market and that by 2018 we will have a single currency.

This means that as we map out our economic trajectory we need to locate our future economic fortunes within the context of the development in the SADC region.

While regional integration has its own perils as evidenced by the implosion of other European economies, however it is our contention that the benefits far outweigh the risks.

While we all know that regional integration erodes the sense of pure sovereignty by exposing the country to the socio-economic and political vagaries of the region, it also help to foster a feeling of unity that transcends the frontiers of individual countries within that region. It creates trading blocks that are able to speak and act in unison for their region, resulting in the benefits trickling down to all the people of the region.

And more importantly reduces a sense of social exclusion, creating a collective sense of ownership for the future and a sense of shared destiny.

It is for this reason that we have called this conference because we believe that any serious investor into the African continent needs to begin to look at our province as the entry point into the African continent.

The events of the past few years which were occasioned by the recent economic meltdown, which shook the very foundation of the global financial system as we know it, have shown that it is countries which have a clear economic outlook that will be able to succeed in the future.

Long term planning coupled with the ability to utilise comparative and competitive advantages have become essential ingredients for future economic prosperity.

But more importantly, no matter how noble your economic plans are there will not be able to yield the desired results if you don't create an enabling environment for the nurturing of a cadre of businesspeople who are innovative. One of the greatest ironies about America today is that while its economy is on the skids it remains one of the most innovative societies on earth.

It is the United States (US) which has given us the latest communication fad, known as social networking which include among others, Twitter and Facebook. But more importantly, it is instructive to note that American brands such as Apple, Microsoft, Google are ranked among the most valuable in the world.

This testifies to the country's indomitable entrepreneurial spirit, an attribute that we have to emulate as a country and as a province if we are to place our province on the global economic map.

It is because of this reason that we believe that in our overall strategy to grow the economy of KwaZulu-Natal and to position it within the context of regional economic integration, entrepreneurship remains a critical pillar. More than ever before KwaZulu-Natal needs a new breed of entrepreneurs who will have a canny eye for new investment opportunities that will catapult the province into another level.

But equally we need financial institutions that will, while ensuring that they remain financially sound, also ensure that they do not allow good business ideas to flounder at the altar of conservative lending practices. All good ideas can only flourish when there are financial institutions out there which are willing to support them.

Just yesterday we heard the good news that the country had posted an economic growth of 4.8 percent in the first three months of this year, in what has given confidence that our economy is now out of the doldrums. In order to retain this robust economic showing we need to generate more economic activities which will propel our economy to the much needed double digit growth.

Programme director, tonight is not a night for long speeches. We still have two days of deliberations during which we will exchange ideas and ingest in our collective well of wisdom for the benefit of our province. On behalf of the province of KwaZulu-Natal we welcome you to this province and hope that you will be able to contribute in our collective efforts of opening a new economic outlook for the province of KwaZulu-Natal.

I thank you.

Source: KwaZulu-Natal Department of Economic Development and Tourism

Issued by: KwaZulu-Natal Economic Development and Tourism
1 Jun 2011