New US consul general hails Nelson Mandela Bay’s resilience
Haskell’s itinerary in city includes Coca-Cola, business chamber, Ford, NMU and Transnet
US consul general Todd Haskell is impressed by the partnerships, passion and steadfastness of Nelson Mandela Bay’s business people and says the US will continue to support progressive initiatives in the Eastern Cape and elsewhere in SA.
Speaking at Coca-Cola Beverages Africa (CCBA) in Humerail on Tuesday, Haskell said he had started the day by visiting Gqeberha’s Ford depot and the Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber.
“Talking to people here at CCBA and also this morning I’ve been impressed by a real recognition of the challenges but also a belief in this city, a resilience.”
He said his impressions chimed with what he had learnt in December when he visited the Bay as charge d’ affaires of the US embassy in Pretoria to see the Covid-19 vaccination production project at Aspen Pharmacare.
“I believe it is emblematic of the advanced level of scientific and industrial ability here that needs to be tapped.
“These and other companies in Nelson Mandela Bay generate thousands of jobs and this is something we need to build on.”
Haskell said despite the turbulence caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, 2021 had been a great year for Southern African exports to the US.
“For example, exports to the US from Lesotho and SA totalled $310m (R5.22bn) and $2.7bn (R45.48bn), respectively.”
He said SA was the US’s largest trade partner in Africa, with a total two-way goods trade of $17.8bn (R300.6bn) in 2019.
“About 600 American businesses operate in SA, and many of those use SA as a regional headquarters.
“SA qualifies for preferential trade benefits under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa) as well as the US generalised System of Preferences trade preference programme.”
Haskell said the US was proud of its historic support for health projects in SA and had donated no less than $450m (R7.58bn) a year to this country for the past five years.
He was particularly proud of the US involvement in Project Last Mile, which used CCBA’s huge beverage distribution network through Africa to channel medicines to needy communities in far-flung areas.
“Looking back at how severe Aids once was, I am very proud of the role we played in distributing antiretrovirals and bringing that crisis under control.
“But we are not done and we are now committed to Project Last Mile.”
Haskell said he had been impressed by President Cyril Ramaphosa’s speech on Monday night on upcoming major changes to the energy sector.
Ramaphosa said Eskom would now be allowed to buy excess power from businesses and households, restrictions would be removed to allow approved “window 5” renewable power projects to go ahead, the next bid window would be enlarged and further bid rounds would be expedited.
“From what I have learnt today, local folk are also heartened by the president’s presentation and business and community are already working together on alternative energy projects.
“The key is not just a transition from fossil fuels but to make energy abundant and we are committed to supporting that process.
“Green energy electricity prices are increasingly competitive when compared to electricity produced by fossil fuels so why wouldn’t you go this route?
“The e-vehicles we heard about at Ford this morning are part of the same picture.
“So there’s a real change under way.”
Asked about the SA government’s renewed intention to explore fracking in the Karoo for underground gas deposits, he said some decisionmakers argued that natural gas was a “transition fuel” ideal to bridge energy needs in the face of climate change.
“But the US supports the creation of non-fossil fuels, and in our view, natural gas is a fossil fuel.”
Besides Coca-Cola, the business chamber and Ford, Haskell’s itinerary has included meetings at Nelson Mandela University and the Transnet National Ports Authority and attending an event to view US government-donated chest X-ray mobile vans.
He has also engaged with Project Last Mile managers and Eastern Cape health officials and on Tuesday night spoke at the Southern Africa Regional Exporters Awards, which is a collaboration between the US government and the Eastern Cape Development Corporation.
Asked about the problems facing the Bay and similar situations in the US, he said it reminded him of New York in the 1970s, when crime and decay had been rampant.
“Today, I can walk through Times Square with my children at night.
“What turned New York around was better policing but also because the citizens started believing the system running their city was fair and creating opportunities for people from all walks of life.
“With those things in place, cities have the ability to regenerate.”
Would you like to comment on this article?
Register (it's quick and free) or sign in now.
Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.