TWELVE of the Chinese city of Ningbo’s most influential business delegates were given an introduction to Nelson Mandela Bay’s 2020 vision behind closed doors at City Hall yesterday.
The Ningbo delegation was invited by the municipality to explore possible trade investments between Ningbo, which is the economic centre of the southern part of the Yangtze River Delta, and the Port of Ngqura.
“Port Elizabeth has huge potential in terms of trade,” Ningbo’s vice-mayor, Jia Xiang Hong, said. “We are here because our cities have more in common than one realises. We are both port cities with a rich cultural heritage, and I look forward to a partnership in the future.”
The enthusiastic atmosphere in the room kept a smile on the face of Bay mayor Ben Fihla as he described the meeting as an opportunity to grow the metro, both economically and socio-economically.
“China is the biggest international trader, and they have effectively zero unemployment. We intend to learn all we can from them in terms of structures and tactics in boosting South Africa, and more specifically Port Elizabeth, in that same direction.
“The partnership will improve the state of the Bay both economically and culturally,” Fihla said.
Ningbo foreign affairs deputy director Rongzhong Ye echoed Fihla, saying the Bay had the potential to become a global trading force.
“The resources are here and so is the manpower. We are confident in this venture between the twin cities.
“We would like to invite your city delegation to attend the 12th China International Consumer Goods Fair from June 8 to 11 at the Ningbo International Convention Centre,” Ye said.
Hong said meetings would be arranged between the Bay and Ningbo commerce chambers to discuss a more concrete means of progression. The meetings would take place in June.
He also stated that China would provide assistance to its sister cities, including the Bay, in training workers and with other aspects involved with economic development, free of charge.
The statement was welcomed with applause from all present.
Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber chief executive Kevin Hustler said the partnership could bring in potentially billions of rands and decrease the 28% unemployment figure in the region.
“We are an automotive city, so our focus will be there. But there are many other support industries that should be explored, such as petrochemical products, renewable energy, light manufacturing and tourism.
“The problem is not so much in securing investment as it is being prepared for when the investment does come. If we don’t skill our workforce, the Chinese will bring their own labour and we won’t gain much from this venture,” he said.