Open for business: How South Africa is delivering on its potential

A trip to South Africa can be life-changing. Every year, millions of people visit the vibrant country to enjoy its unique natural beauty and experience its rich cultural diversity. South Africa’s reputation as a world-leading tourist destination is firmly established, and the nation is increasingly an exciting proposition for investors from across the globe. In the 21st century, South Africa is firmly open for business.

Today, South Africa accounts for a fifth of all foreign direct investment in the region, and its strategic location, abundance of opportunities and solid infrastructure make it the gateway to the entire continent and its 1.2 billion people. The country ranks high for investor protection and security according to World Bank data, and it boasts a burgeoning reputation for ease of doing business.

Foreign investment in the country is strong, and while economies across the world are still feeling the effects of the global recession, South Africa has become something of a beacon to investors. The country’s ICT and electronics sector for example, has the twin attraction of being both sophisticated and developing. Major players in the technology world, including Microsoft, Intel and Dell operate subsidiaries from the country and South Africa is considered an innovator in the fields of mobile and security software. A tech-savvy population is fuelling a demand for wireless connectivity, providing an opportunity to invest in technology and services that will allow more South Africans to connect and take control of their own prosperity.

The story of the country’s openness and readiness for visitors and investors has seen South Africa earn a place as a finalist in the prestigious City Nation Place Awards, competing in the category of Best Expression of Place Identity Through Design. This recognition of the nation’s maturity and potential is not only deserved, it also serves to highlight South Africa’s meteoric rise on the world stage.

On becoming President in 1994, Nelson Mandela toured the world, spreading his message of a new and open South Africa. Renowned for his role as peacemaker in international disputes, Mandela also worked to boost trade, actively welcoming foreign interest in his country via the twin routes of tourism and investment.

Mandela’s efforts came to fruition with two landmark events in the country’s history, both occurring in 2010. In June and July South Africa played host to the FIFA World Cup, the first time the tournament had been played on African soil. It drew the eyes of the world to South Africa in what became a riotous carnival of football, fun and vuvuzelas. It also provided a huge boost to the economy through the work of the Tourism Enterprise Partnership, an initiative set up ahead of the World Cup to encourage and support small and medium size enterprises in the tourism sector.

South Africa’s tourism industry hasn’t looked back since, and the country now boasts a wealth of boutique hotels, restaurants and entertainment facilities. While the growth in tourism is significant – more than 10 million people visited the country in 2016 – the government is keen to ensure that the growth is also sustainable. The sector retains a strong entrepreneurial spirit and opportunities exist for investors in everything from travel experience companies to holiday lets.

In December of 2010, South Africa was inducted into BRICS, an association of major emerging national economies alongside Brazil, Russia, India and China. The invitation to join the group was recognition of South Africa’s large and blossoming economy and its significant influence on regional affairs. It’s an influence that continues to this day, particularly in the agriculture sector. No longer just a way of life, agriculture in South Africa is very much a business. Investment in the sector has lifted many out of poverty and the country is at the forefront of ambitious plans to ensure not only the continent’s food security, but to see it become the world’s leading food exporter. According to recent research, 65% of Africa’s uncultivated land is available. Long-term sustained investment could potentially see an agribusiness worth billions, ultimately feeding the rest of the world.

In recent years, South Africa has used the events of 2010 as a springboard for viable ongoing growth and development. The government and the private sector recognised that raised education standards could improve the country’s overall international competitiveness. As a result, money has flowed in to build and run vocational education centres in a bid to create a new generation of skilled and educated citizens.

Environmental responsibility is also key, and efforts to green its economy are best observed in South Africa’s emerging green energy sector, an exciting mix of established major power companies and emerging entrepreneurs. Wind farms, solar plants and biomass systems are appearing across the country and feeding clean energy into South Africa’s demanding electrical grid. Local jobs are being created and rural communities are quietly transforming as South Africa embarks on one of the world’s most progressive and ambitious sustainable energy plans.

As we approach a new decade, the country’s momentum appears irresistible. For investors looking to share in its prosperity, the opportunities are plentiful. From filmmakers taking advantage of lower production costs (around 50% less compared to Europe and the US) to supermarket buyers snapping up some of the finest wines on the planet, South Africa is an enticing proposition.

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