Chairman of the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Majid Saif Al Ghurair, firmly believes that South Africa remains the gateway to the continent. He says the country’s current low economic growth rate can be turned around very quickly if changes to legislation are made that will open up key sectors of the economy to foreign investors.
The pace of foreign direct investment (FDI) into South Africa is not at the levels it could be were the government to open up more opportunities in the economy, Al Ghurair told reporters in Johannesburg on Wednesday.
For example, Al-Ghurair suggested that government is dragging its feet in approving additional flights to Durban for Dubai-based airline Emirates, in an attempt to protect local carriers.
“Sometimes when we put a restriction we are just protecting a very small sector or business, whereas if we open that restriction other businesses will benefit,” he said.
The chamber – which has offices in Ethiopia and Ghana, and opens one in Mozambique this week – held discussions with business leaders in Johannesburg on Wednesday, following meetings with the public sector on Tuesday.
Among those present at an open session with the chamber were Nonkululeko Nyembezi-Heita, former CEO of ArcelorMittal SA and currently chief executive at IchorCoal, and Mathews Phosa, former treasurer general of the ANC and chairman of investment company Vuka Alliance.
Al Ghurair highlighted the logistics, agro-food, building materials, construction and renewable energy sectors as areas within the South African economy with opportunity for foreign investment.
The chamber’s key concerns include openness, accessing more information about different sectors, legislation and rules around ownership and taxation, he said. “We cannot halt the whole economy to wait until somebody from South Africa decides they will invest in a sector,” he commented.
“Government is acknowledging these issues. Nobody is happy with the pace of economic growth and there is huge potential to boost growth. This is the right time,” he said.
In 2015, non-oil trade between South Africa and Dubai, which is a city within the United Arab Emirates, reached $2.3 billion.
Trade with Africa peaked at $31.9 billion in 2014.
Of the 12 000 African companies that are registered with the chamber and operate in Dubai, just 106 are from South Africa.
The chamber has launched the Africa Gateway Smart Application, which seeks to boost trade and investment between Africa and Dubai by promoting ease of doing business.
Al Ghurair said there are huge opportunities for food-related businesses in Dubai, such as catering.
Local restaurant chain tashas recently opened in Dubai and has become one of the country’s most popular spots for young people, he said.
Other opportunities lie in infrastructure, ahead of the World Expo in 2020, as well as job prospects in the hotel and tourism sectors, he added.
Al Ghurair is the CEO of the Al Ghurair Group, a conglomerate with businesses in petrochemicals, manufacturing, real estate and investments, spanning 50 countries globally. The group built Dubai’s first shopping mall in 1981.
Source: Money Web