The Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry, Mr Fikile Majola says Special Economic Zones (SEZs) stimulate industrialisation, promote investments and exports, and create jobs. Majola was speaking on the first day of the national Special Economic Zones strategy and policy dialogue that was hosted by the Department of Trade and Industry (the dti) in Port Elizabeth today. The purpose of the dialogue is to engage all SEZs and strategic partners on the SEZ Strategy and the implementation of the SEZ programme in the next 10 years.

The dialogue, which ends tomorrow, brought together senior representatives of the SEZs, as well as national, provincial and local government. It provided a multi-stakeholder platform to engage on the SEZs, and share ideas he challenges and opportunities provided by the SEZs.

The South African government recognises the SEZ programme as one of the strategic tools for industrialisation, promotion of investments and exports, as well as creation of the much-needed jobs, especially for our youth. As government, we have adopted the SEZ programme as a tool to create new industrial hubs in the country, focusing strongly on regions and sectors that are capable of accelerating economic growth and development. We also see the SEZ programme as our tool to drive the revitalisation and expansion of industrial and historic towns and creation of new cities, said Majola.

Majola added that in order to achieve the objectives of the SEZ programme, concerted and collaborative efforts would be required from all stakeholders, and a coherent plan would be critical for all stakeholders to have a focused approach to the implementation of the SEZ programme.

As part of the collaborative efforts we must use this platform to learn from the experiences of all South African SEZs and to share ideas and engage in constructive dialogue on the challenges and opportunities confronting SEZs. Cabinet has already approved the new approach towards the SEZ programme allowing the national government to be actively involved in the planning and development of the zone, added Majola.

Majola announced that the dti would no longer just be a regulator and adjudicator of the applications for SEZ licences, but an active participant in the planning, development and management of the zones, especially the new and struggling zones.

In addition, the dti will also take up equity or ownership in the SEZs in order to provide full support for implementation. This model is already being tested in Gauteng through the implementation of the proposed Tshwane Automotive SEZ. The proposed SEZ will be owned by the dti (33.3%), Gauteng (33.4%) and the Tshwane (33.3%). I want to urge all government spheres, entities and agencies to work together in the implementation of the programme in the spirit of the new district development model, he added.

Majola also said that the review of the SEZ Programme, should take into consideration the international and national context.

In this regard and among other things, we must explore the possibilities of establishing the cross border SEZs in partnership with our neighbouring countries. We must also strengthen economic partnerships with other African countries through the SEZ programme. This will help us with, amongst others, unlocking the untapped expansion opportunities for the SA companies, access to raw material for companies located in SEZs and strengthen the integration of industrial value chains between countries, emphasised Majola.

Source: Department of Trade and Industry