At a time when investor confidence is low, investment and trade promotion agency Wesgro has secured its biggest investment for the Western Cape and the biggest investment in renewable energy in the country.
The investment has created an opportunity for the Western Cape to position itself at the forefront of renewable energy production. “We unfortunately cannot divulge details of the investment yet but can confirm that the company is going ahead with the R3-billion investment because it recognises the value with respect to its return of investment,” reports Wesgro CEO Angelo Manzoni.
Wesgro’s mandate to promote the Western Cape for domestic and foreign direct investment, facilitate global access for Western Cape-based exporters, as well as position the city and region as a sustainable business desti- nation rather than only a tourist destination is seeing results. The agency has secured a R60-million photovoltaic solar power produc- tion plant in Epping. There is potential expansion in the pipeline for the 15-MW Darling wind farm. The Minster of Minerals and Energy, Buyelwa Sonjica, together with the Danish government, has formalised a R60-million package for the measurement of wind data mapping to identify optimal locations on the west coast of the Western Cape suitable for wind farm generation.
The Western Cape province has also invested R489-million into industry development, which has benefited 26 600 small, medium-sized and microenterprises, of which 24 400 were black economic-empowerment companies. About 34 000 individuals wanting to start businesses and 23 000 workers were trained. The province’s tourism development programme benefited about 2 800 citizens. The province’s boat building academy was relaunched after capital to continue the training facility started to dry up. While the region attracted two large boat-building operations in Atlantis, the region lacked the training platform it needed to remain competitive. This need was identified and the academy was relaunched.
Manzoni notes that the Western Cape is well positioned to continue growing but is likely to proceed at a slower pace than last year. The province has a services-based economy and, as a result, it is not seeing the balance sheet devastation that some of the manufacturing- reliant provinces are seeing. Manzoni adds, “ The Western Cape has consistently outperformed the national gross domestic product growth but, being part of an integrated global economy, it is likely to be affected as companies look to tighten costs.”
Manzoni believes that this will lead to signi- ficant job losses, and although the Western Cape has the lowest unemployment rate in the country, one of the challenges the province will continue to face is reducing poverty. He comments that other challenges facing the province include the drug epidemic, which has an impact on the workforce, as well as market access and investor confidence.
The volatile global financial crisis will result in countries adopting a quasi-protectionism position on market access. Manzoni stresses that the Western Cape has to conti- nue to reposition itself and start selling its value, infrastructure and labour pool if it is to continue to see growth. It is for this reason that Wesgro has become more proactive in targeting specific companies instead of markets.
“Wesgro’s aim is to grow the economy of the Western Cape through trade and investment opportunities that benefit the people of the Western Cape by getting them into the main stream economy,” concludes Manzo.