'Overwhelming' UK interest in South Africa

Over the past few days South African government officials and business representatives have had to be on their toes, answering British investors’ questions – especially about nationalisation and empowerment.

Anitha Soni, chairperson of the International Marketing Council, said that interest in meetings held in London this week as part of President Jacob Zuma’s state visit, had been “overwhelming”.

At the South African-British business forum held at the Chelsea Soccer Club on Wednesday, there was eventually standing room only because so many people turned up to meet South African Ministers and business representatives, Ms Soni reports.

The negative reports in the British media – and the tabloids in particular – about Mr Zuma’s wives, children, and the rape and corruption cases did not appear to dampen interest from businesses.

Ms Soni explained that British business people understand South Africa’s potential, not only for the market opportunities it offers, but also for the possibility of using South Africa as a gateway to the rest of the continent.

South African industries offering good growth potential that were presented to the British include energy (in particular the potential for private investment in the electricity industry) and mining.

Education, as well as possible collaboration and the exchange of ideas on artisan training and other skills, was also discussed.

There was also much deliberation on opportunities in trade and industry, in general, as well as the new Industrial Development Action Plan, said Ms Soni.

Questions focused on nationalisation, as well as the direction South Africa was taking in terms of black economic empowerment.

More than 200 business representatives are accompanying Mr Zuma on his visit, the biggest business delegation participating in a state visit to date.

Britain is one of South Africa’s top trading partners and the biggest investor in this country. But trade and investment have been negatively affected by the global economic crisis, with the British economy still in recession.

Source: News24.com 20100305

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