Interview: Nomvula Paula Mokonyane

As other African markets target increased foreign direct investment (FDI), what can Gauteng do to remain a competitive investment destination?

PAULA MOKONYANE: We want to reaffirm our position as the gateway to Africa and act as an economic hub for the continent. It is our responsibility to develop the infrastructure, human skills and talent that investors require. We are satisfied with our performance, especially under current global conditions, but we always want to perform better and grow the economy. The way to achieve this is to open up additional investment opportunities.

We have a coherent development framework for the province and actively encourage FDI through packages and incentives in targeted industries that offer “real” value-added production, like pharmaceuticals and automotives. We no longer want to produce and export raw materials, as this does not lead to job creation and new job opportunities. Instead, we are looking to move downstream and produce more finished and assembled goods. We are working with the government on skills training, such as for engineering and project management, which is required for advanced industries.

We are neither a rural province nor a large province in terms of land size, but as the biggest consumers of food given our population numbers and incomes, it makes sense to bring agricultural products from other provinces into Gauteng where we have the capacity and strategic location to convert them into packaged goods. As a province we want to move away from heavy industry, as we are concerned about the environment. Gone are the days when it was deemed acceptable for heavily polluting factories to be near where citizens lived. We are reaching out to the international investment community to inform them of what is available in terms of tax incentives, facilities, services and transportation connectivity within our industrial development zones.

How is the province set up to cope with migration?

MOKONYANE: As a country, we lack a national urbanisation plan, and there is minimal allocation of resources for the movement of people, which is placing a huge strain on social infrastructure. As a province, because we are so heavily impacted by urban migration, 60% of our budget is spent on social rather than economic infrastructure, so we are doing all we can to support our people and provide access to public services.

Province wide, we have a spatial development plan in place and want to further develop rural areas, as this is the best solution to the urban migration issue. We have to utilise the strength of these rural areas, which is land, to provide job opportunities for people in the places from where they are moving. Urban poverty is far worse, in my opinion, than rural poverty, as people from rural areas who lack the education needed to find proper urban employment are poorly equipped to survive in a big city like Johannesburg.

We are working to create safer and more reliable public transport options so people from rural areas can more easily commute to jobs in the city rather than moving to the cities outright. The optimal solution moving forward is for greater rural development and economic opportunities whereby we create more direct employment in the places people are originally from.

What can be done to broaden the province’s appeal to domestic and international visitors?

MOKONYANE: Certainly a strength we have over other provinces lies in our ability to host and move large amounts of people through our vast existing hotel infrastructure, international airport and the Gautrain (the rapid rail and bus service for Gauteng). So, hosting large-scale meetings and exhibitions makes sense.

We have in some ways undersold ourselves in the leisure tourism area and need to promote ourselves better. And one of the things that we have finally done now is to revise our tourism strategy to better reflect what we have to offer. We are Africa’s shopping centre, with some of the top luxury outlets and fashion trends to be found in the continent, and no one can match us for the variety and quality of our cuisine and nightlife.