ECDC opens new opportunities

Outgoing NMU vice-chancellor Professor Derrick Swartz, left, signed a memorandum of understanding with ECDC chief executive Ndzondelelo Dlulane

Deals signed for foreign trade, oceans economy

The Eastern Cape Development Agency (ECDC) will kick off next year in high gear after establishing two significant platforms to create international trade opportunities for business in the province, while ramping up the province’s participation in the national oceans economy programme.

The two initiatives include an agreement signed with the Botswana Investment and Trade Centre (BITC) and a memorandum of understanding with Nelson Mandela University (NMU) in Port Elizabeth, which is set to play a strong role in the development of Operation Phakisa.

In a move expected to give business access to a number of foreign markets, the ECDC has signed a co-operation agreement with the BITC which, in effect, opens up official trade relations for Eastern Cape companies with Botswana, Central Africa and the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC).

As a result, the ECDC will host a Botswana business delegation in April which is expected to conclude business-to-business agreements with Eastern Cape companies with common trading interests.

The ECDC said the Botswana delegation was interested in meeting companies in sectors such as agricultural products, dairy farming, ostrich farming, piggery, floriculture, processed food, crops, business process outsourcing, information and communication technology, energy (solar), textiles, processed meat, manufactured products and tyre recycling.

“The ECDC views Botswana as a gateway into SADC and Central Africa. The Eastern Cape chose Botswana for three reasons,” ECDC head of trade and investment promotion Thabo Shenxane said.

“The Eastern Cape is a net importer of goods and commodities from Botswana and therefore an opportunity exists for Eastern Cape businesses to improve trade with Botswana.

“Secondly, Botswana plays host to the seat of the SADC Secretariat, a regional body coordinating political and economic relations among all the 15 SADC member states.”

Shenxane said the ECDC’s main interest was to promote trade, tourism and investments in all the 15 SADC member countries for the Eastern Cape, meaning the province should also start producing commodities needed by the SADC member states.

He said Botswana was positioning itself as an entry into Central Africa by virtue of its location.

“This is a potentially profitable opportunity for businesses to trade directly in the continent and we need entrepreneurs in the province to step up and see the continent as a platform for business.

“The ECDC will host a range of seminars next year on how to trade with the continent.”

Meanwhile, NMU and the ECDC have entered into a three-year partnership agreement aimed at stimulating the provincial economy in line with Operation Phakisa objectives.

In the MoU signed at NMU yesterday, the parties committed to exploring possible areas of collaboration; with NMU acting mainly as the knowledge hub for oceans economy projects, while the ECDC assists with the localisation of the project with respect to procurement and other related support services.

ECDC chief executive Ndzondelelo Dlulane said with the corporation charged with facilitating the development and growth of the province and with Operation Phakisa identified as the next great economic injector, they would be driving the stimulation of the oceans economy in the Eastern Cape.

“At the centre of that development is the SMME sector, so we drive that sector and help establish and develop it. By doing so, they create jobs.”

Also speaking at the signing, outgoing vice-chancellor Professor Derrick Swartz said the partnership was a natural progression.

“We share a number of common areas of concern regarding the development of the province,” he said.

“The ECDC’s core mandate is economic and social development of provincial citizens. Ours is to serve the public and that includes, at its core, the development of the human capacity of the 5.6 million people in our province and, of course, the country and continent.”

Among others, the areas identified for collaboration include aquaculture, fish farming and mariculture, ship building, small harbour development and bunkering services.

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