British firms say SA still good place to invest

Friday, October 12, 2012

Cape Town - UK companies based in South Africa have not been shaken by the ongoing strikes and the recent Marikana tragedy because they believe the country in the long-term is still a good place to invest, UK Secretary of Business, Innovation and Skills, Vince Cable says.

British companies make up over half the foreign direct investment (FDI) in South Africa.

Briefing the media in Parliament on Thursday, following a meeting with the Minister of Trade and Industry Rob Davies, Cable said British companies based in South Africa were "not fazed" by mining sector strikes, but rather considered the long-term perspective when they considered whether or not to remain in the country, adding that the country had a lot of "fundamentals that are attractive to investors".

"I think the assessment of serious investors here is that South Africa is an open economy and approaches foreign investment in a positive and welcoming way... the regime is a good one," he said.

Cable was accompanied by a delegation of UK small and medium-sized firms and had visited UK company, Bombardier - which supplied Gautrain - while in the country.

He believed there may be some developments for UK investments in the area of skills and apprentice training.

Although value on inward investment had slowed, the number of projects had risen and Cable said there had been rapid growth in trade in recent months.

Although trade has been more or less balanced between the countries, SA exports to the UK have recently declined, but Cable said the aim was to achieve a balanced trade between the two countries.

Davies said UK companies were considering a number of projects, including a number in business process outsourcing (BPO), which could potentially create 4 000 jobs, as well as investments in the hospitality sector and a plastic manufacturing project.

He said the 2015 target of doubling trade, looked unlikely to be met before 2016 and 2017, adding that his department would soon promote a list of value-added products to the UK.

Commenting about the bulk wine issue - which has cost South Africa about a 1 000 jobs in its bottling sector because wine destined for the UK is placed in plastic containers rather than bottles - Davies added that there were not environmental regulations in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) that stipulated that made it mandatory for countries to ensure that carbon emissions were kept at the lowest possible level when goods shipped between two countries.

He said flying or shipping goods from one part of the earth to another did not necessary mean that the product necessarily had a higher carbon footprint than those manufactured locally.

At times more emissions were emitted in manufacturing a product locally or when consumers had to drive many long distances to buy the product from retailers, he said. -