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Conference on

Stability, Poverty Reduction, and South African trade and investment in Southern Africa

29-30 March, 2004

HSRC Conference Facility (Forum 150)

134 Pretorius Street, Pretoria

SARPN would like to acknowledge the financial support from the EU's CWCI fund in holding this conference.
[Background]     [Programme]     [Papers]     [Conference summary]

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Table of contents

  • Preface
    - Richard Humphries
  • Introduction
    - Sanusha Naidu
  • Stability, Poverty Reduction, and South African Trade and Investment in Southern Africa
    - Jeff Radebe
  • Understanding South Africa’s Engagement in the Region: Has the Leopard Changed its Spots?
    - Sanusha Naidu and Jessica Lutchman
  • Mapping South Africa’s Trade and Investment in the Region
    - Reg Rumney and Michelle Pingo
  • A Trade and Investment Perspective on the Region
    - Richard Kamidza
  • What is the Experience and Impact of South African Trade and Investment on the Growth and Development of Host Economies? A View from Mozambique
    - Carlos Nuno Castel-Branco
  • Do South African Corporations Play By The Rules? Selected Case Studies from Zambia and Kenya
    - Frywell Shaba Ghirwa
  • South African Corporate Expansion and Zimbabwe’s Economic Regeneration
    - E G Cross
  • Doing Business in Southern Africa: Opportunities and Constraints
    - Iraj Abedian
  • Vodacom’s Regional Activities
    - Niezaam Davids
  • African Social Observatory Synthesis Report
    - Devan Pillay
  • South Africa’s Foreign Policy and a Realistic Vision of an African Century
    - Adam Habib and Nthakeng Selinyane
  • Harmonising Trade Relations Between Regional Economic Communities: the case of SADC and COMESA
    - Chawe Mpande-Chuulu


Since South Africa's return to the international fold in the early 1990s, South African business has made great strides into Africa, and particularly into southern Africa where it is regarded by many as the engine for regional economic growth, as well as an agent furthering political stability and democracy. That the ending of apartheid would open up the African market to South African capital was never in doubt, though few predicted the rapidity with which it would seek to exploit this new market or the sheer volume of its flow into Africa. One recent report (from Liquid Africa) argued that during the last decade South Africa had become the 'largest foreign direct investor in Africa.'

In this view, the expansion of South African corporate activity into African markets displays a pragmatic approach optimising opportunities offered by the continent. The latter has also been aided by the fact that most of these markets are virtually virgin terrain as a result of years of de-commercialisation under state socialism. As a result this has led to a mushrooming a South African business presence throughout Africa in the form of joint ventures, greenfield investments, and mergers and acquisitions. In this regard, the expansion of South Africa's private and public sector has been applauded often for providing much needed employment, facilitating the rehabilitation of infrastructure, building the capacity of indigenous personnel, and providing liquidity to cash strapped markets in Africa.

The case for South Africa's business interests in the continent extends beyond President Mbeki's Africa policy. Although the official view is that such expansion provides the necessary mobilisation of inward capital flows, which is seen as an important resource for President Thabo Mbeki's realisation of the Africa Renaissance and New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), the expansion of corporate activity in Africa is generated by the reality that it offers good business prospects, and certainly not for altruistic reasons associated with regional development. South African business is truly competitive in the continent, as compared with other parts of the world.

This has often been a sensitive issue amongst African leaders who have expressed concerns over the 'hegemonic' influx of South African investment, which is compounded by the huge trade imbalance in South Africa's favour. The latter is reinforced by the head of the South African Foundation (an affiliation of businesses), Neil van Heerden, who notes that the rest of Africa offers 'huge potential' for South African companies and that South African top business leaders must open their eyes to these opportunities.

Against this backdrop, the Southern African Regional Poverty Network (SARPN), a regional poverty network based in the Integrated Rural and Regional Development research programme at the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) with financial assistance from the Cultural Workshop Cultural Initiatives Fund (CWCI), a joint initiative of the National Treasury and the European Union in South Africa, hosted the Stability, Poverty reduction and South African trade and investment in Southern Africa conference in Pretoria on 29 and 30 March 2004. The purpose of the conference was to provide a platform for government, business, and civil society partners in South Africa and from the region to engage, discuss and interrogate whether the above discussion sketches an accurate assessment of South Africa's trade and investment expansion into the region. It did this by responding to the following questions:

  • Is South African expansion promoting development in the economies that it invests in?
  • Is it promoting skills development and training of locals to occupy managerial positions in their African operations?
  • How has the expansion of South African business affected local industries, producers, and small and medium enterprises in the region?
  • Is this expansion just another way of opening up a market of consumers who are thirsty for the latest cell phones, fashion, and multimedia devices?
The conference was designed to illustrate valuable lessons learnt from the experiences of business, government and the general populace on:

  • What they see as the positive and negative impacts of business expansion into respective economies;
  • The viability of current trade policies and practices, which can help shape future trade policy decisions for regional authorities; and
  • An honest discussion of South Africa's role in the region, whether it is a hegemon or a partner.
[Download papers - 647Kb ~ 4 min (99 pages)]

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