‘Hope for economic growth’

Moves on corruption and unemployment encouraging, says business chamber’s Schaefer

Thomas Schaefer delivers the chamber’s president’s address
Thomas Schaefer delivers the chamber’s president’s address

While South Africa’s economy has been characterised by a slow growth rate for some time, the recent positive outlook as a result of “Ramaphoria” has been welcomed, with Cyril Ramaphosa’s election to the presidency having brought a certain level of credibility and hope.

This was said by Thomas Schaefer, who delivered the president’s address at the eighth annual general meeting of the Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber at the Radisson Blu hotel in Port Elizabeth yesterday.

This year’s AGM presented a watershed moment for the chamber, with Schaefer – who is also Volkswagen Group South Africa’s chairman and managing director – presenting his first president’s address, and new chamber chief executive Nomkhita Mona, addressing the AGM for the first time in her new role.

Mona is also rolling out the chamber’s new strategic focuses, plans and direction for the organisation, which also yesterday voted in favour of minor changes to the members of its board.

It was reported that the chamber is not only on a very sound financial footing, but has also accrued a substantial revenue surplus which is being invested towards chamber operations.

“While it remains to be seen whether this hope [around Ramaphosa] does indeed translate into acceptable levels of economic growth, first indications are that moves in dealing with allegations of corruption and addressing unemployment are encouraging,” Schaefer said.

“In some instances, the pace seems slow, but we remain optimistic.”

The audience included mayor Athol Trollip and the guest speaker – media, marketing and communications expert and personality Jeremy Maggs.

Maggs brought more laughter to the congenial meeting when, with reference to a recent, widely publicised assault in the Bay’s council chambers, he quipped that he had strongly resisted coming to the city as he feared being hit on the head with a water jug.

Of Moody’s recent upgrade of the Nelson Mandela Bay metro’s rating of AA1.ZA to AAA.ZA, Schaefer said: “This augurs well for the strategy of trade and investment which the business chamber, together with the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality and other partners, will be implementing going forward.
“We expect the metro to do more to continue receiving improved ratings.

“At the last AGM, my predecessor, Ian Nicholls said: ‘To remain relevant, we as a chamber have moved from our more traditional approach to being more innovative, dynamic and responsive’.

“In my first year as the president, I am pleased to report that we have continued to do all that – and more.”

Among other actions, he was referring to a study commissioned by the chamber, last year, from which a new strategic direction had been crafted for the organisation

“The strategy is based on the Triple Helix model.

“This incorporates a partnership between three stakeholders, the private sector, the public sector and the university (NMU).

“This has enabled the chamber to engage meaningfully with these stakeholders on a number of mutually beneficial matters.

“It became clear that the Nelson Mandela Bay region needs to be bolder about its trade and investment promotion. “Taking no action was not an option. “The business chamber then approached the metro within its metro collaboration task team to partner in setting up a one-stop-shop for investment promotion into the region.

“The investment promotion element incorporates research, cluster development, ease of doing business and marketing the city to various cities and countries for investment.”

He also announced a ground-breaking project concerning the proposed trade and investment strategy for the city, saying, among other actions, that a research and development hub, incorporating a one-stop-shop to disseminate all the relevant information to potential investors, would be established.