In Conversation With Ernest Mahlaule
In Conversation With Ernest Mahlaule

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In Conversation With Ernest Mahlaule


Johannesburg Chamber of Commerce and Industry's (JCCI) immediate Past President, Ernest Mahlaule, has been appointed chairperson for the Gauteng Growth and Development Agency (GGDA).

Congratulations on your appointment as Group Chairman at the GGDA
Much obliged. I believe that each one of us has a responsibility not only to be of significance but also to rise up and serve our nation even more so now in the prevailing spirit of "Thuma mina" as spearheaded by President Cyril Ramaphosa. The position is a perfect fit to my previous role as the president at the JCCI. This relates more specially when it comes to issues of governance, enhancing international trade and stakeholder partnerships such as organised business and the private sector in general, organised labour, academic institutions as well as civil society.

What is the main goal of the agency - what would you like to achieve?
The GGDA is the implementation arm of the Gauteng Department of Economic Development, which is led by MEC Lebogang Maile. Our key mandate is to assist the department to lead, facilitate and manage sustainable job creation and inclusive economic growth and development in the Gauteng City-Region.

The GGDA's main goal is to create an enabling environment for investment facilitation, strategic infrastructure development and social transformation, thus positioning Gauteng as a leading global City-Region.

It is important to underscore that most of the trade and investment facilitation work is done through InvestSA, the one-stop-shop in Sandton, in partnership with the Department of Trade and Industry (the dti).

What should people know about doing business in Gauteng?
The Gauteng City-Region is home to a quarter of South Africa's population. It is the country's economic powerhouse generating 35% of the country's GDP. Even though Gauteng is only a province in South Africa, it is ranked in the top seven economies on the continent; roughly the same size as Morocco, surpassing heavyweights such as Kenya and Tanzania.

What are the region's advantages?
They are many and include the fact that the Gauteng City-Region is a gateway to Africa and the world with a high number of:
  • Global companies
  • Diversity of economic sectors
  • Leading universities and research institutions,
  • Diplomatic missions
Amongst other factors its infrastructure and democratic governance are also assets.

The concentration of national population and growth makes it pivotal to the current drive for transformation, modernisation and re- industrialisation spearheaded by the premier of Gauteng, Mr David Makhura.

What projects are currently underway?
The GGDA comprises subsidiary entities, such as the Innovation Hub, Gauteng Industrial Development Zone (GIDZ), Automotive Industry Development Centre (AIDC) and Constitution Hill. All the subsidiaries have different projects such as: the development of the automotive manufacturing sector to globally competitive standards of excellence; innovation and commercialisation support for companies at the Innovation Hub. The GIDZ identifies, designs, packages and enables export-driven manufacturing and beneficiation programmes for location at the OR Tambo International Airport. The township economy focuses on interventions for growth, including industrial parks refurbishments, Ekasilabs etc.

What are the current challenges?
The key challenges include constrained economic growth due to different micro- and macroeconomic factors.

Over and above the ongoing BRICS intra-trade and trade with the rest of the world, the current low levels of Africa intra-trade are estimated at a 17%. Although this is an improvement from the recent 15% estimates, it is still low for example in comparison to Europe's 67% estimation. It must however be emphasised that the huge deficit provides an opportunity as it represents the potential for scale with the continent accelerating its efforts towards enhancing Africa intratrade.

For example, Gauteng hosted the inaugural Africa Investment Forum (AIF) in partnership with the African Development Bank from 7 - 9 November. The province concurrently co-hosted the SME and Finance African Forum on the margins of the Africa Investment Forum. These are some of the ongoing interventions geared towards eliminating the constraints associated with Africa intratrade such as lack of funding for critical projects.

The low levels of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and Domestic Direct Investment (DDI) remain a short-term challenge. Team SA is currently hard at work trying to reverse this negative trajectory and increase the FDIs and DDI. President Ramaphosa has set a target to raise 100 billion dollars over the next five years, and one is quite optimistic that this target would not only be reached but even exceeded judging by
evidence at our disposal.

It is important that we use our collective wisdom to resolve the challenges as we want the sustainability and inclusive growth of big business increased, SMME sector growth, enhanced women and youth dividend, increased job opportunities and sustainable growth of the middle class. We yearn for peace and stability that can only flow from solving such challenges.

What projects/ plans have significance for yourself?
The projects address different aspects of the economy all of which have significance for us. The GGDA should be the go-to platform for everyone who wants to do business in Gauteng and ultimately should facilitate at least 90% of the deal flow in the province. The fact that Gauteng constitutes 35% of the national GDP tells a story - we need to be ready for the anticipated investments and gear our capacity to be able to process the majority of these opportunities.

In Conversation With Ernest Mahlaule

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