Chinese firms open for business
Harris seeks second wave of investors looking for ‘a doorway to Africa’
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.
BIG INVESTMENT: The Hisense factory in Atlantis, which opened in 2013. It produces 400 000 TVs and fridges a year.