Chi­nese firms open for busi­ness

Har­ris seeks sec­ond wave of in­vestors look­ing for ‘a door­way to Africa’

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - JAN CRONJE

CHI­NESE busi­nesses in the Western Cape are act­ing as “am­bas­sadors” to at­tract fur­ther in­vest­ment, the prov­ince’s trade pro­mo­tion agency Wes­gro said this week.

Wes­gro mem­bers re­turned from a re­cent week- long provin­cial trade mis­sion to China, vis­it­ing Hong Kong, Shang­hai and Beijing to drum up in­vest­ment.

James Milne, Wes­gro’s in­vest­ment port­fo­lio man­ager, said one of the main aims of the trip was to iden­tify firms look­ing to ex­pand and “sway their de­ci­sion to in­vest”.

He said the trip had been suc­cess­ful, with a num­ber of com­pa­nies com­mit­ted to vis­it­ing South Africa and the Western Cape next year.

With trade mis­sions from around the world making pil­grim­ages to China in the hope of se­cur­ing in­vest­ment, it was dif­fi­cult to stand out from the crowd.

But Wes­gro chief ex­ec­u­tive Tim Har­ris said the prov­ince had strong sell­ing points: the suc­cess of es­tab­lished Chi­nese com­pa­nies such as Hisense, which has a fac­tory in At­lantis; Jinco- So­lar, which pro­duces so­lar pan­els in Ep­ping; and wind­power pro­ducer China Longyuan, which has es­tab­lished its South African head­quar­ters in Cape Town.

Har­ris said the suc­cess of th­ese “first wave” firms could ease the en­trance of “sec­ond wave” Chi­nese in­vest­ment.

He de­scribed the sec­ond wave as com­pa­nies that waited to hear from their col­leagues al­ready do­ing busi­ness in the prov­ince, be­fore de­cid­ing to dip their toes into in­vest­ment wa­ters.

Milne said the Wes­gro team, which was part of a larger del­e­ga­tion that also in­cluded Premier He­len Zille and Eco­nomic Op­por­tu­ni­ties MEC Alan Winde, held a meet­ing with heads of Hisense, Jinko So­lar and China Longyuan Power Cor­po­ra­tion to get feed­back on their South African oper­a­tions.

Af­ter meet­ing Hisense in Beijing, Milne said their feed­back had been “very pos­i­tive”.

“They in­formed us that pro­duc­tion rates in At­lantis were sim­i­lar to those in China.”

The fac­tory in At­lantis was es­tab­lished in 2013, cre­at­ing 300 jobs.

It cur­rently pro­duces 400 000 fridges and tele­vi­sions for the South African and African mar­kets, and is con­sid­er­ing pro­duc­ing smart­phones.

For Har­ris, the im­por­tance ar­ranged for other com­pa­nies to visit South Africa, act­ing as a tour guide.

“In Oc­to­ber this year they fa­cil­i­tated the visit of seven com­pa­nies from Wei­hei prov­ince in China.

The com­pa­nies were in­ter­ested in join­ing Hisense in in­vest­ing in Cape Town, and the gov­ern­ment of Wei­hei prov­ince signed a co-op­er­a­tion agree­ment with Wes­gro,” said Har­ris.

Wes­gro may not have come back from its trade del­e­ga­tion with or­der books brim­ming with new in­vest­ment, but for Har­ris this wasn’t the point.

“Part of the trip was to man­age re­la­tion­ships,” he said. “The trip was about re­as­sur­ance.”

Get­ting big names such as Zille to China in per­son showed com­mit­ment and, im­por­tantly, that po­lit­i­cal and pri­vate sec­tors were on the same page.

The re­cent trip was the sec­ond by top of­fi­cials from the prov­ince in the past two months.

In Septem­ber, Cape Town mayor Pa­tri­cia de Lille and her team also vis­ited to lobby for in­vest­ment.

When pitch­ing the Western Cape, Har­ris said the prov­ince sold it­self as a nat­u­ral “door­way” to Africa, a place where firms could es­tab­lish their head­quar­ters for later ex­pan­sion.

He said Wes­gro worked closely with the Trade and In­dus­try depart­ment when lob­by­ing for in­vest­ment.

jan.cronje@inl.co.za

PIC­TURE: JA­SON BOUD

BIG IN­VEST­MENT: The Hisense fac­tory in At­lantis, which opened in 2013. It pro­duces 400 000 TVs and fridges a year.

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