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Joburg opens up to international trade


The City of Johannesburg’s Economic Development cluster on Monday, 11 May, hosted delegates from other BRICS and SADC countries as well as from Italy and the United States in what is expected to be the first in a series of briefing sessions on the city’s future economic outlook and potential.
The aim of Monday’s engagement was, as will future interactions, to position Johannesburg as a major and critical player in international trade in a bid to further grow its economy and provide a better quality of life for its people.

The City was represented by Member of the Mayoral Committee for Economic Development (MMC) Councillor Ruby Mathang, Executive Director of Economic Development Ravi Naidoo and Chairman of the Section 79 Committee on Economic Development Councillor Willie van der Schyff.

MMC Mathang said the City would continue to work towards establishing a strong foothold within SADC and BRICS “as a matter of national priority”.

He emphasised the importance of such continued trade within the region. He, for instance, pointed out that for the first time ever, the largest shipments of fresh produce to the Johannesburg Fresh Food Market were now coming from Maputo in Mozambique.

The MMC also thanked the Russian Federation for its interest in partnering with local companies.

Councillor Van der Schyff said Johannesburg had as far back as 1886 been identified as the potential “economic Gibraltar” of Africa.“Today I can assure you that under the leadership of our mayor, Councillor Parks Tau, there is no doubt that that is where we as Johannesburg are headed – but in partnership with yourselves,” he said.

Naidoo acknowledged the importance of growing strong economic ties with cities in other parts of the world. He said Johannesburg was now in the process of finalising a number of city-to-city agreements that it wanted to focus on over the next year-and-a-half to two years.

He added that the City had already seen a number of investments materialise on the ground following its previous engagements with the international community. Naidoo said the City was now looking at ways to capitalise on these investments, particularly in spaces such as information and communications technology, green technology, pharmaceuticals and the financial sector. Over and above this, Johannesburg will host a major trade mission from the United States in September and will look closely at ways to support this endeavour for the benefit of both South Africa and the US.

The City also wants to engage international partners that would like to invest in Johannesburg on ways to fast-track zoning applications and access to land for economic purposes. The aim of such engagements would be to take international agreements “out of the ceremonial space and make them very practical,” Naidoo explained.

He added that Johannesburg’s focus would be on how well these agreements translated into actual wealth and job creation and how successfully these initiatives linked Johannesburg-based businesses with their international counterparts.