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The IDC in Limpopo is committed to transform the economy

Mashweu Matsiela, Regional Manager, IDC Limpopo

Mashweu Matsiela completed his undergraduate studies in Biological Sciences at the University of Stirling in Scotland. He holds an MBA qualification from the University of Pretoria, including a Post Graduate Diploma in Company Direction (GIMT) and an Executive Development Programme (GIBS) which he obtained with distinction. Within the IDC he has been account manager for Metals SBU, Agro-Industries and Franchising SBU. He was also Senior Post Investment Associate (PIMD) and Manager: Equity Investments. He was Regional Manager (Mpumalanga) until 2019.

Do you have offices outside Polokwane?

In more remote areas of Lephalale, the Vhembe district or Burgersfort, we work through our sister company, the Small Enterprise Development Agency (Seda).

What are the main sectors that you operate in?

Agriculture, mining and tourism.

Are there limits to how big a project can be?

Overall, the IDC is not limited by the size of projects. However, as the Small Business Finance and Regions (SBF Limpopo), we have a threshold of R20-million. Accordingly, we mainly look at providing funding support for SMEs. When bigger deals come in, we work together with a sector-specific unit at head office, for example, the Tourism Unit, which might support something like a hotel project in northern Limpopo.

Are you able to tell me more about that tourism project?

We are busy with the initial assessment of a hotel in Musina, a development node because of mining activities there. De Beers has started producing from their revamped mine, there is a coal mine there and it is the home of the Musina-Makhado SEZ. The project came through the Venetia Mine Enterprise Development Programme (EDP). The entrepreneur was previously managing a mine accommodation facility; now she wants to put up a boutique hotel.

Would this project fall under SME Connect?

Indeed. SME Connect is a collaborative initiative which is anchored on three levers. Marketing is the apex of a triangle, with the other legs being finance and business support.

A corporate will develop people who are providing services under its Supplier Development Programme (SDP) or they will help develop a business through the EDP. Through SME Connect, the IDC can plug in any leg of the triangle that needs support and the corporates can do the same. The main thing we ask from the corporates is for them to provide the market at the apex of the triangle.

Like an offtake agreement?

Exactly. On the back of that contract with the corporate we can be comfortable as a funder because the small business has a guaranteed market. It is tangible, it is not a gamble in the dark.

It is a collaborative model in that the IDC provides funding and business support and the corporate provides the market. However, because it is also interactive the corporates will sometimes have business support or funding available from their own ESD funds so we are able to exploit the synergies between us.

Does the IDC mainly do loans or does it take equity in ventures in which it invests?

The IDC mainly provides loans to businesses. The equity is an exception but since we are a development institution, we would from time to time assist the client in terms of cash flow. With a BEE, youth or women project we might give a loan for a portion of the amount and take another portion of the amount as equity. In the end, when the business is on its feet, then the IDC would be repaid the equity portion. That makes it more manageable in terms of the cash flow of the business.

The IDC takes equity in strategic projects, so for example in Sasol or Columbus Stainless, the steel company. In Limpopo we have board representation at Westfalia and a stake in Merensky Timber.

These stakes in strategic projects ensure that the IDC remains sustainable. When these companies pay dividends, it goes back into the pot and then we can continue to fund new projects.

Is beneficiation of Limpopo’s resources a priority?

That’s our space. We want more value-add projects so we will fund any processing relating to agriculture. For instance, macadamia and avocado processing, de-husking, packaging and cold rooms – we will fund all of those things. There’s a mining project that we’re looking at up north which involves the mining of gold and it will be processed up to a level.

Which sector has recovered best after Covid?

Tourism went from the extreme of being hit hard to now having quite a big recovery. Mining is the other one. Coincidentally the accommodation space in Musina is driven mainly by the mining activities in the area because when people fly in, they want to stay somewhere. New products are coming to market as in the example I gave. When I had a meeting in Burgersfort recently, I struggled for accommodation. The closest I could find was in Mashishing so there is a need. The IDC has had an approach about a hotel investment in Burgersfort. We have also been approached by a mine through SME Connect relating to two lodges that want to expand.

In last year’s journal we had a story on the four-star Premier Inn being built in Thohoyandou.

Indeed. That project is well advanced. IDC teams are in that area now because of a glamping project for which we have approved funding. They want people to camp near the river; it is something for the adventurous tourist.

Please tell us about programmes that empower youth, women and black-owned businesses.

That is really something that defines us. We are there for the transformation of the economy in terms of bringing on previously disadvantaged people, mainly youth, women and black industrialists in general and people with disabilities. Some of our products are earmarked for that purpose. We have the Youth Fund where the IDC has put aside R1-billion and loans are priced at prime minus three. That hotel in Musina is 100% women owned. We really pride ourselves on this sort of thing.

Air Products announces Managing Director succession plan

The Board of Air Products South Africa (Pty) Ltd is pleased to announce that effective 1st February 2024 Charles Dos Santos will succeed Rob Rob Richardson as Managing Director of the company. Rob has led the company since 2016 but has announced his intention to retire at the end of March 2024, which will allow for a smooth leadership transition. 

Charles joined Air Products in 1994 and has served the company in various senior management positions. Since 2016 he has held the position of General Manager On-sites. In this role Charles has successfully led Air Products’ largest business division which comprises the ASU, Hydrogen and CO2 production operations. 

This division supplies tonnage gases by pipeline to major industrial consumers and also supplies liquefied gases into Air Products’ downstream Bulk and Packaged Gases businesses. Prior to 2016, Charles held the position of Sales Manager On-sites, where he was instrumental in the development of various key projects and strategic initiatives, resulting in the company’s successful growth in the Platinum Group Metals (PGM) and Petrochemical Sectors.

Charles has a B.Sc. degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of the Witwatersrand and a B.Com degree from the University of South Africa. With his deep knowledge of the industry and the local market we are confident that Air Products South Africa will continue to flourish under Charles’ leadership.

For more information on Air Products, visit www.airproducts.co.za

Building opportunities for corporate South Africa

In August 2023, Zamlim Investments entered into a partnership with the South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SACCI). The purpose of this partnership is to develop an Economic Development Unit, to be embedded in SACCI.

Although SACCI is a non-profit company (NPC), it is at the forefront of engagements with big business. It is an inevitable evolution of its offering to corporate South Africa to be in a position to develop a pipeline of bankable opportunities that companies, commercial funders, development-finance institutions (DFIs) and OEMs can participate in that generate jobs, contribute to our growing Green Economy, increase skills transfer and generate community upliftment in both developed and underdeveloped parts of the country’s economy.

Zamlim is a management consulting firm with interests in traditional consulting capabilities such as strategy, operations, implementation and investment promotion. Zamlim also has a wholly owned renewable-energy commercial and industrial (C&I) capability called Zamlim Power. Zamlim Power is serving industrial clients with a variety of solar solutions that incorporate a funding solution.

The newly established Economic Development Unit, which is managed by Zamlim, has already generated several wins. A 12-month e-micromobility pilot has been launched in Gauteng, alongside one of the Big Four banks.

The aim of this pilot is to reduce last-mile-delivery CO² emissions by over 300 metric tons per annum and employ hundreds of individuals from Alexandra township with the right skills to enter the rapidly expanding e-commerce market, while deploying a renewable-energy ecosystem that will include over 1.7MW hours of green energy per annum that will be used for the e-bikes.

The final details are being in put in place of an arrangement with a DFI and another Big Four bank for a C&I renewable power solution. The product is known as “Power for You” and will be offered exclusively to SACCI’s 20 000 members nationally. The aim is to alleviate business dependence on grid power, while offering PPAs and lease-to-own options that will eliminate the need for SACCI members to deploy scarce capex.

The Economic Development Unit played an active role in engaging senior stakeholders during the BRICS Summit held in Johannesburg and has influential relationships with the likes of the Confederation of Indian Industrialists (CII) as well as the Agency for Strategic Initiatives (Russia). Engagements are also ongoing with the European Union and the European Investment Bank, positioning the SACCI Economic Development Unit as a multi-polar, multilateral player that is able to bring opportunities, FDI and outbound investment opportunities for corporate South Africa.

These relationships are also being developed to expand into the SADC region, with Botswana and Zimbabwe being the initial pilot areas of cooperation.

Zamlim Investments is led by its CEO, Dzingira Matenga, a former management consultant and industry executive who has led business units at the likes of McKinsey & Co and Ernst & Young, and also sat on the Exco of a Kazakhstan-based mining company with African interests in copper, cobalt, bauxite and platinum. The Zamlim team includes economists, actuaries, engineers and customer-value-proposition experts who are passionate about growing SADC economies, giving our youth a fighting chance to meaningfully participate in our economies, while also bringing the right level of rigour to engage local and foreign investors, partners and OEMs and encourage their participation in growth.

The pilot is part of a disaggregated R1-billion upstream and downstream opportunity for South Africa…

…and would meet several UNDP and NDP objectives.

2024 Shop Stewards Conference

“The Department of Employment and Labour has warned that businesses that do not comply with the country’s labour laws could face prosecution. The department’s inspector General Aggy Moiloa led her team on a blitz drive at Southern Sun Hotels in Gauteng as the department embarks on a compliance drive at all Southern Sun facilities countrywide.” – SABC News¹

With the above in mind, Intelligence Transfer Centre (ITC) have organised the 14th Annual Shop Steward Conference, taking place from the 21 to 23 February 2024 at Indaba Hotel, Fourways, Johannesburg, focusing on reaching collaboration through strong leadership between the employer, union and the workforce.

The conference will feature 4 panel discussions:

  • Profit sharing and Share Ownership for transformation of lives of mine workers and how development of mining communities can be implemented
  • Championing women in the Trade Union movement
  • Labour Migration for Africa and how it has contributed to economic growth and skills transfer
  • Sexual Harassment and GBV in the workplace – how to unblur the lines

Other key strategies and topics that will be discussed include: Collective bargaining in the metals and engineering industry, the Benefits of Collective Bargaining Agreements that are based on current cost of living and Consumer Price Index (CPI), the Future of Work and Implications for Trade Union, discussing the importance of observing labour rights, and fair treatment in the workplace and internal disciplinary case review.

Some speaker organisations include: Transnet, Eskom Holdings Soc Limited, Steel And Engineering Industries Federation Of South Africa, South African Municipal Workers Union (SAMWU), National Union Of Metalworkers Of South Africa (NUMSA), Botswana Mineworkers Union, Solidarity, South Africa Police Union (SAPU), Zimbabwe Diamond Allied Mineral Workers Union, National Education, Health And Allied Workers’ Union (NEHAWU), Mineworkers Union Of Namibia, Anglo American Platinum, Gold Fields Ghana Limited.

To register for the conference, contact Amrita on 0113262501, amrita@intelligencetransferc.co.za or www.intelligencetransferc.co.za

Venue: Indaba Hotel, Johannesburg
Dates: 21, 22 & 23 February 2024


Adair Mable Zizhou, Senior Research and Development Project Manager
Tel: 011 326 2501

¹ https://www.sabcnews.com/sabcnews/businesses-warned-to-comply-with-labour-laws-or-risk-prosecution/

2024 Women In Mining Conference & Career Expo

ITC is proud to host the 15th Annual Women In Mining Conference & Career Expo on 21, 22 & 23 February 2024. This gathering will feature women from around world who have made visible contributions above and beyond their daily responsibilities in the mining industry.

What you can expect:

With a total of 22 speakers who will be presenting at this conference, it promises to be one of the most informative conferences we’ve hosted to date. We are very excited to have Women in Mining South Africa (WiMSA), International Women in Mining (IWiM), Women in Mining India, Goldfields Ghana, Department Of Mineral Resources & Energy (DMRE), Anglo American, Tronox and IvanPlats just to name a few.

We will unpack topics surrounding whether we are reaching the desired targets in achieving inclusivity, Investing in meaningful and progressive change within mining in combating the challenges faced by WiM; looking at transformation as not only a regulatory requirement but a business imperative that the industry needs to fulfil, minimizing accidents and dangerous incidents in line with investing in the Health & Safety of WiM, leadership in a rapidly changing world, looking at inclusion as one of the greatest assets in ensuring long term sustainability and The Role of Digital Innovation in the Mining Industry just to name a few.

WIMSA in partnership with ITC is excited to launch our Adopt A University initiative at this conference. Organisations who register a group of 10 or more delegates to attend the conference will automatically qualify to adopt a University. ITC will make contact with your desired University and provide the necessary support to access the stream. Organisations will also have a chance to access these students to offer bursaries, opportunities & experience that fits within their companies’ Social & Labour Plan (SLP).

Attend this conference and get an opportunity to reflect on how far women in mining have come over the past 15 years. Join other women to trade skills, get solutions, and inspire one another to become exceptional leaders in this industry.

Should you be interested in attending or sponsoring this conference email: amrita@intelligencetransferc.co.za

The Inaugural South African Future Trust Summit launches to acclaim from entrepreneurs

The inaugural South African Future Trust Summit, a transformative two-day event crafted to support and enable entrepreneurs, has been launched to acclaim from delegates. The summit, which is being held at Gallagher Convention Centre, Midrand, features more than 20 experts from different fields and has been designed as an accelerator to assist entrepreneurs on their journeys to success.

The opening address was delivered by Jonathan Oppenheimer of the Oppenheimer Generations Foundation, which donated R1-billion to establish the SA Future Trust in 2020. Initially set up to champion, support and enable small, medium and micro enterprises during the pandemic, it is now focusing its resources on empowering and enabling SMMEs on an ongoing basis.

“Everything on the agenda of this first summit is designed to foster a profound understanding of the dynamic local business landscape and empower delegates to harness its potential,” he said. “Our aim in establishing this platform is to catalyse change by facilitating insightful interactions with people who are actively shaping and contributing to the local ecosystem – and to inspire entrepreneurs to embark on transformative journeys that will have a tangible impact on their businesses and the economy as a whole.”

Jonathan Oppenheimer with delegates at the South African Future Trust Summit

Oppenheimer’s opening remarks were followed by the first keynote address of the day. Titled Manage Your Power and Unleash Africa’s Potential, it was presented by Siya Xuza, the founder and CEO of Galactic Energy Holdings, an investment company focused on meeting energy needs in emerging markets. A scientist, energy expert, entrepreneur and Harvard engineering graduate, Xuza was awarded the Order of Mapungubwe in 2017 for his contributions to science and is a poster child for the potential of local entrepreneurship.

After regaling the audience with the tale of how, as a youngster, he blew up his mother’s kitchen while trying to build a rocket that would take him to Jupiter, he emphasised that failures like these are learning opportunities. He said they help one to define a higher purpose that endures through good times and bad – and enable one to see opportunities even in the midst of challenges.

Our aim at this summit is to help harness the spirit of South African entrepreneurship because we know that investing in and supporting SMMEs is investing in the people of South Africa and the development of the country.

Delegates at the South African Future Trust Summit


Graça Machel and Jonathan Oppenheimer

“SMMEs have taken up their rightful place in the business landscape,” he said in an interview prior to the presentation. “Not only are they the engines of job creation worldwide and a keystone in securing socio-economic development and sustainability, they are also at the forefront of some of the most exciting innovations of our time. Our aim at this summit is to help harness the spirit of South African entrepreneurship because we know that investing in and supporting SMMEs is investing in the people of South Africa and the development of the country.”

The following session was devoted to the launch of a new initiative that is being offered in partnership with the Trust. Calvin Collett, the founder and CEO of Melon Mobile, announced the launch of Melon Business, which will offer SMMEs a range of services to manage mobile usage in their businesses. This comes just six months after Melon Mobile entered the highly competitive mobile sector with a new, consumer-centric business model.

GG Alcock, CEO of Minanawe Marketing

Next up was the second of the three keynote addresses for the day. Titled The Kasinomics Revolution, it was presented by GG Alcock, the founder and leader of Minanawe Marketing, a premium events and activations agency focused on the mass market. Alcock covered a number of inspiring case studies drawn from his deep experience of the African market as well as strategies that resonate with both local and global audiences.

“Insight into entrepreneurial success stories is both uplifting and informative,” he said. “They give local entrepreneurs examples of the potential inherent in entrepreneurship – and offer models they can draw on in their own businesses.”

Closely linked to this topic was the launch of a solution to help entrepreneurs leverage their title deeds to unlock business opportunities. Announcing the new solution, Ashleigh Fynn Munda, Head of Philanthropies at Oppenheimer Generations, said that the Trust will be partnering with the Centre for Affordable Housing Finance in Africa (CAHF), the Tenure Support Centre (TSC) and the research consultancy 71point4, to help entrepreneurs leverage the value of their fixed assets. This will, for example, enable them to build rental accommodation on their properties, unlocking as much as R546-billion in asset value.

Ashleigh Fynn Munda, Head of Philanthropies at Oppenheimer Generations at the South African Future Trust Summit

A number of breakaway, networking and discussion sessions were held during the course of the day, including two of four masterclasses on the summit’s agenda. Titled Harmony in the Hustle: Mental and Health Wellbeing in Business, presented by Richard Sutton, founder and CEO of the leading global business health and performance consultancy, Sutton Health. He noted that, whatever challenges we may face, all of us are capable of leading extraordinary lives and should not be bound by limitations, whether self-imposed or external.

The second masterclass, The Six Deadly Business Sins was presented by public speaker and author Richard Mulholland.

Richard Sutton
Richard Mulholland

The third keynote address, entitled Solar Energy and its Power in Rural Africa, was presented by Sivan Yaari. Yaari is a trailblazing entrepreneur and philanthropist who is well known for her transformative work in sustainable development across the African continent. She is the founder and CEO of an NPO called Innovation: Africa, which has completed over 900 solar energy projects in rural villages since 2008.

“Lack of access to electricity and clean water remains one of the most pressing development challenges in Africa today,” she said, “and entrepreneurs have a huge role to play in helping to change this scenario.”

Jonathan Oppenheimer and Sivan Yaari

The Trust also took the opportunity to launch the South African Future Trust Awards, which will recognise and reward the spirit of entrepreneurship in South Africa and offer prizes to the value of R3-million.

The winner of the first category – for the best implementation of the summit playbook – will receive a prize to the value of R500 000. This will consist of a cash injection of R250 000 to foster immediate business growth and a support package to the same value. The package will include mentorship from seasoned industry leaders, cutting-edge hardware and other essential resources that will enable the recipient to scale their operations and accelerate their business trajectory.

The second day of the summit will feature Bruce Whitfield, who will be talking about How to Thrive at the Edge of Chaos and Bronwyn Williams, who will deliver a keynote address entitled The Future of Us. The Trust will also be announcing the five remaining categories that will make up the SA Future Trust Awards programme.

Wrapping the masterclass series, Chairperson and founder of IDF Capital Polo Leteka led Investor Ready: Building a Business That Attracts Capital aimed to help entrepreneurs unlock the secret to scaling their businesses, while tech innovator Adam Pantanowitz will present Innovate or Stagnate: Fit For Purpose Tech sharing insights on how to leverage cutting-edge technology to transform business.

Adam Pantanowitz

The event will close with an address by globally recognised expert on disruptive technology, innovation and exponential leadership, David Roberts, who will take South African business leaders and entrepreneurs through what it takes to become an exponential leader. This will be a fitting end to what is set to become the premier business leadership and learning gathering for SMMEs in South Africa.

Find the South African Future Trust:

Website: https://southafricanfuturetrust.org

Facebook: @SAFutureTrust
LinkedIn: South African Future Trust
Twitter: @SAFutureTrust
Instagram: @SAFutureTrust

Africa’s Green Economy Summit 2024

Africa’s Green Economy Summit is a groundbreaking event that connects people and organizations, fostering knowledge sharing and collaboration, and steering the continent towards a sustainable future. This summit is a platform that unites the global investor community, project owners, and business executives, all under one roof with African governments, cities, and policy-makers.

The theme of the second edition of Africa’s Green Economy Summit is “Mobilising Investments for Green Growth”. This theme underscores the urgent need for increased investments in green initiatives across the African continent. The summit aims to catalyze these investments and create an environment where green projects can flourish.

The conference programme of this summit is structured around four key pillars of the green economy, which represent the cornerstones of sustainable development. These pillars are green transport, renewable energy, waste management, and water services. Each of these sectors plays a critical role in shaping a greener and more prosperous Africa.

Africa’s Green Economy Summit isn’t just a gathering of experts and enthusiasts; it’s a catalyst for change. It is a platform where innovative ideas, partnerships, and investment opportunities converge to drive sustainable development.

By promoting the four key pillars of the green economy, this summit sets the stage for Africa to leapfrog into a future where environmental consciousness and economic progress go hand in hand, creating a brighter and more sustainable future for all.

South African Future Trust Summit 2023

The South African Future Trust is a pioneering initiative founded by the Oppenheimer Foundation to uplift small and medium-sized businesses during challenging times. Established with a mission to empower and support entrepreneurs, the Future Trust has played a vital role in providing both financial and non-financial assistance and mentorship to businesses across the various SME sectors.

Today, we carry forward the spirit of the Future Trust, uniting towards the goal of empowerment, growth, and innovation for our country.

Introducing the SA Future Trust Summit! At the Summit, you’re not just attending an event; you’re stepping into a transformative 2-day experience crafted for your entrepreneurial journey. This inaugural summit promises to be an unmissable occasion with over 20 speakers, a convergence of innovation, knowledge from 4 different master classes hosted by industry leaders, and networking that will leave a lasting impact on your business endeavors.

The inaugural South African Future Trust Summit takes place 22-23 November at Gallagher Convention Centre in Midrand, Johannesburg.


The Future Trust Summit boasts a diverse and captivating agenda that covers a range of topics crucial to entrepreneurship and growth – from inspiring keynote addresses and practical masterclass sessions to interactive workshops and exhibitor interactions. Each session is thoughtfully curated to provide you with tangible takeaways and actionable strategies. 

By attending, you’ll gain exclusive access to thought-provoking keynotes, insightful masterclass discussions, exhibitions and networking opportunities with industry experts and like-minded individuals. 

Don’t miss this chance to be inspired, connected, and collaborate with the future shapers of South Africa.

Why Attend the Future Trust Summit?

At the SA Future Trust Summit, you’re not just attending an event; you’re stepping into a transformative experience crafted for your entrepreneurial journey. Dive deep into a world of innovation, gaining insights from over 20 distinguished local and international speakers. Engage in masterclasses tailored just for you, ensuring your business is primed for success.

Explore our expo booths, discover disruptive technologies, and navigate the ever-evolving business landscape with guidance from industry experts. And as you fuel your mind, we’ve got your body covered too – enjoy daily lunch and refreshments. With the dynamic MC Tumelo Mothotoane setting the stage, you’ll network with like-minded trailblazers, leaving inspired and empowered to take your business to the next level.

Innovative partnerships are changing the economic landscape in Mpumalanga

The Sand River flows through the Sabi Sand Nature Reserve before joining the Sabi River in the Kruger National Park. Credit: Julie Olivier

Partnerships are springing into being in every sector of the economy. Whether they are between government agencies, research institutes or between local and international companies, collaboration is all the rage. And the province of Mpumalanga is leading the way.

With Mpumalanga’s economy being so strongly geared towards coal (in mining and for energy generation) it makes sense that actors in a variety of sectors should be finding ways to work together to transition to a greener future.

At national level, President Ramaphosa was an invited guest in June 2023 to the Summit for a New Global Financing Pact in Paris, partly at least because South Africa is partnering with several European countries and international institutions in green financing arrangements. Various other countries are taking their lead from the Just Energy Transition Partnership whereby South Africa will get $8.5-billion in financing provided by France, Germany, the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union.

Separate to that deal, the prime ministers of the Netherlands and Denmark came to South Africa to sign an agreement to start a green hydrogen fund to be known as the SA-H2. Concession funding from the Netherlands will also be made available for water and energy infrastructure while Mpumalanga’s Grootvlei power station, earmarked for closure or conversion, will be the site of a pilot project focussed on growing food in greenhouses, hopefully providing jobs for those who lose their jobs related to coal.

Sasol is engaging in new partnerships with increasing frequency, as outlined in some detail in the Oil and Gas sector overview in the 2023/24 edition Mpumalanga Business journal. From green hydrogen to sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), South Africa’s biggest chemicals and energy company is signing agreements with Germans and Danes while cooperating with entrepreneurial technical startups out of Oxford University.

The field is ripe for innovation and partnerships are speeding up the process of discovery. MTN, Huwaei and Minetech Smart Mining are working together in a 5G pilot project at an Mpumalanga coal mine.

Even in winding down old resources, partnerships have been chosen as the preferred method. A Mine Water Coordinating Body (MWCB) has successfully been launched to help manage the after-effects of the closure of mines and power stations. Many of Mpumalanga’s coal-fired power stations are either in the process of being closed or will shortly be shut down and the same is true of some coal mines that have reached the end of their lives. Eskom, together with mining houses Exxaro, Glencore and Thungela Resources, formed the MWCB to address environmental and socio-economic challenges that might arise.

Issues such as water also fall under the ambit of a broader mine-industry related coalition known as the Impact Catalyst which has been launched in Mpumalanga.

Local green moves

The Provincial Government of Mpumalanga has established the Mpumalanga Green Cluster Agency to bring together government, academia and industry to create the environment for businesses to develop in a green economy.

The Cluster, an initiative of the Mpumalanga Department of Economic Development and Tourism with the support of GreenCape and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), has joined the International Cleantech Network, a group that has 15 000 businesses affiliated to it across the globe.

National utility Eskom is also moving into the new era, partly through a process whereby the entity will be broken into three more competitive units, but more immediately through the announcement of 18 winning bids from independent power producers (IPPs) for renewable projects on Eskom land, 4 000 ha of which the utility has made available for this first phase. Eskom owns 36 000 ha in the province. A total of 1 800 MW will become available to the grid and it will be cheaper to transmit because the solar or wind plants will be right next to the existing Eskom transmission lines.

Ten coal plants are due to be closed by 2040, with four Mpumalanga plants (Hendrina, Grootvlei, Camden and Komati) first in line. Eskom is undertaking studies to assess the potential impact on local communities of these closures. Options to get these plants producing energy again include gas, biomass and hydrogen but it is possible they might be used for something quite different. Eskom wants to be a net-zero company by 2050.

The Provincial Government of Mpumalanga has established the Mpumalanga Green Cluster Agency to bring together government, academia and industry to create the environment for businesses to develop in a green economy.

National government’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (REIPPPP) has seen the investment into this totally new sector of more than R200-billion since 2012 and South Africa is now home to 112 IPPs, whereas just 12 years ago there were fewer than 40 in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The relaxation by national government of the rules regarding setting up a power plant of 100 MW or less is well suited to the requirements of big timber-processing companies such as Sappi and PG Bison and all the large mining concerns that are active in Mpumalanga. Sappi is a partner in a 25 MW biogas energy facility at it’s Ngodwana Mill.

Sappi's Ngodwana Mill plays a big role in Mpumalanga's economy. A key part of the manufacturing sector for many years, it is also the site of a 25 MW biomass energy project. The company contributes about R5-billion to the regional economy. Credit: Sappi
Sappi’s Ngodwana Mill plays a big role in Mpumalanga’s economy. A key part of the manufacturing sector for many years, it is also the site of a 25 MW biomass energy project. The company contributes about R5-billion to the regional economy. Credit: Sappi

Investment options

Several infrastructure investment projects in the tourism sector have been put forward by the Mpumalanga Economic Growth Agency (MEGA). There is a special focus on BRICS countries and the province was glad to welcome the announcement of a new flight into Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport in 2022 by the tourist division of Lufthansa, Eurowings Discover.

The TRILAND partnership with Eswatini and Mozambique is another avenue, as is the collaboration with KwaZulu-Natal, Eswatini, Mozambique and the Seychelles.

MEGA is an equity investor in a number of Mpumalanga concerns, including Afrimat, Highveld Fruit Packers, Kangwane Anthracite, Loopspruit Winery and Tekwane Lemon Farm.

In the Nkangala District Municipality, a public-private partnership is due to deliver a hotel and conference centre in the town of Middelburg in the Steve Tshwete Local Municipality. It may seem ironic that R350-million is to be spent on a Radisson-branded hotel in the aftermath of Covid-19 but conferences and tourism will return.

Elsewhere, mining and timber companies are making large investments in increased production or in extending the life of mines.

University of Mpumalanga
The University of Mpumalanga is offering degrees relevant to its citizens as it expands.

A major concern for provincial planners is to diversify the economy and to grow the manufacturing sector. The Mpumalanga Economic Growth and Development Path (MEGDP) identifies beneficiation, agro-processing and the development of value chains as priorities. Various industrial parks are planned which will focus on agriculture and forestry, mining and metals and petrochemicals. An International Fresh Produce Market in Nelspruit and the planned Nkomazi SEZ (Special Economic Zone) are other priorities.

Steel and associated manufacturing remains one of the province’s strong suits and Mpumalanga has rich and varied mineral resources and fertile soil that support diverse farming operations, agriprocessing and forestry. The province also hosts large companies in the manufacturing sector such as Middelburg Ferrochrome and the Manganese Metal Company.

The province’s rich agricultural produce is used by companies such as McCain, Nestlé and PepsiCo and there are also pulp and paper plants (Sappi and Mondi), with PG Bison set to start producing more than 1000m³/d per annum at its Mkhondo particleboard plant after two investment injections of R600-million (on a press and forming line) and R560-million (on a front-end dryer).

York Timbers is another forestry company and the sugar mills and refinery of RCL Foods (formerly TSB Sugar) along with fertiliser facilities and textile manufacturing concerns are all contributors to the provincial economy.

The southern half of the eastern limb of the platinum-rich Bushveld Igneous Complex runs south towards the towns of Lydenburg and Machadodorp. Deposits of chromite, magnetite and vanadium in this area are the basis of the ferro-alloy complex in Witbank-Middelburg and Lydenburg.

The town of eMalahleni is the centre of the coal industry. Other minerals found in the province include gold, platinum-group minerals, chromite, zinc, cobalt, copper, iron and manganese.

Middelburg is home to Columbus Stainless, South Africa’s only producer of stainless steel, and several big engineering works. It is about 130 km from Pretoria and less than three hours’ drive from the Malelane Gate of the Kruger National Park.

The Kruger National Park remains the province’s most-visited asset but the decision by UNESCO to afford World Heritage Site status to the Makhonjwa Mountains near Barberton will boost geological tourism to the province and supports the efforts of the province to diversify its offerings. Major projects to improve tourist experiences are underway at the Graskop Gorge (where a transparent lift takes tourists into the depths of the gorge), a Skywalk is to be built at God’s Window and a cable car is planned for Three Rondavels.

The international body’s decision has also had the effect of expanding the curriculum at the University of Mpumalanga. On the basis of the UNESCO ruling, UMP has a new offering in geology as part of a BSc degree.

The spectacular Blyde River Canyon in Mpumalanga Province. (Credit: MEGA)

South Africa is deepening trade ties with BRICS member states

SACCI President Advocate Mtho Xulu speaking at the 2023 meeting of the BRICS Business Council.

South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SACCI) President Advocate Mtho Xulu assumed the position of chairperson of the BRICS Working Group on Trade and Investment in May 2023 towards South Africa’s hosting of the BRICS Summit. He reflects on the importance to South African business of the international grouping and its deliberations.

South Africa proudly hosted the 15th BRICS Summit in Johannesburg in August 2023. The summit, which was held under the heading, “BRICS and Africa: Partnership for Mutually Accelerated Growth, Sustainable Development and Inclusive Multilateralism”, will be remembered as the summit where the five member states made a commitment to expand the group to include several other countries.

But another significant anniversary took place that was celebrated, it being 10 years since the BRICS Business Council (BBC) was established during the Fifth BRICS Summit held in 2013 in Durban. The idea behind the Council was to constitute a platform which will promote and strengthen business, trade and investment ties among the business communities of the five BRICS countries, ensure that there is regular dialogue between the business communities and governments of the BRICS nations and identify problems and bottlenecks to ensure greater economic, trade and investment ties.

The BBC is divided into various Working Groups, and each nation has its own chapter which runs the relevant Working Groups. When a particular country hosts the BRICS Summit, the host country becomes the Chairperson of the Working Group. The SACCI President was duly appointed to that position. As Advocate Xulu says, “I was honoured to be appointed by the BRICS Business Council to chair this important Working Group that has a very specific mandate to deepen and balance trade and investment among members states and the economies and have a bearing on BRICS.”

The task of the chairperson is to maintain relations with colleagues in other chapters, but also, as Advocate Xulu explains, it entails “mobilising resources and expertise to fulfil the mandate of the working group, building synergies with the other working groups and facilitating knowledge sharing with domestic and international actors who have an interest in the trade and investment affairs of BRICS”.

The benefits to South African business of being part of such Working Groups are clear to Advocate Xulu: “It gives us access to a platform of peers where we gain access to market-access opportunities for South African goods and services, investment pools to drive industrialisation, entrepreneurship and innovation and expert exchanges that will enable South Africa to become globally competitive.”

Members of the Trade and Investment Working Group of the BRICS Business Council.

Background to Trade and Investment Working Group

The Trade and Investment Working Group is a cross-cutting Working Group, working in partnership with the other Working Groups to identify barriers to trade and investment in the targeted sectors and seeking ways to overcome these barriers.

It gives us access to a platform of peers where we gain access to market-access opportunities for South African goods and services, investment pools to drive industrialisation, entrepreneurship and innovation and expert exchanges that will enable South Africa to become globally competitive.

A key objective of the Working Group is to strengthen and promote economic, trade, business and investment ties among the business communities of the five BRICS countries.

The purpose of the Working Group is to implement a more targeted approach towards:

  • the analysis of trade between the BRICS countries
  • the fostering of regulatory harmonisation to increase trade between member countries
  • the identification of trade barriers within specific industries
  • making recommendations on how these barriers might be overcome through multilateral or bilateral solutions
  • the examination of global trade and investment measures that have a bearing on BRICS economies and evolving common positions on the same.

The various Working Groups will now follow up on these objectives, which were adopted by the 15th BRICS Summit.

Focus on trade and investment promotion

With regard to promoting trade and investment between BRICS member nations, the Working Group has identified a number of areas where specific steps can be taken to achieve these aims through data-driven decision-making.

Concrete steps can be taken to:

  • track trade statistics among the BRICS nations
  • propose solutions to identified non-tariff barrier challenges
  • enhance the complementarities and opportunities
  • promote and enhance mutual trade and investment, creating a business-friendly environment for investors and entrepreneurs in all BRICS and African countries
  • develop a BRICS calendar of trade and investment promotion events to allow for joint participation
  • develop joint statements on trade, investments and sustainable growth in coordination with the other Working Groups
  • identify key industries for focused in-depth research and best-practice sharing
  • share information among BRICS countries on exchanges and capacity-building programmes
  • identify areas where trade performance has not met expectations, understand the cause of the underperformances and develop solutions to drive trade and investment.

Regarding implementation, Advocate Xulu notes that it is up to the Working Groups to carry them out. He adds: “An annual review will be conducted at the 16th BRICS Summit in Russia 2024.”

Opportunity areas to drive trade and investment

At the Johannesburg Summit, the South African delegation particularly discussed the opportunities that the trade deficit presents. As Advocate Xulu points out, there are opportunities to use it “to grow and modernise our exports to the other member states. We also highlighted the need to take advantage of the popularity of our raw mineral and agricultural commodities, by building horizontal and vertical integration for each commodity, thus growing and strengthening the domestic industrial base.”

A goal of the Working Group is to reduce the trade deficit and improve the trade balance between members. We need to enhance solidarity between member states and to strengthen bilateral and multilateral trade and investment.

This can be achieved by focussing on four main areas:

Economic partnerships
Infrastructure development
  • Deploy expertise in infrastructure development and help African countries in sectors such as transportation, energy and communication
  • Build strong infrastructure networks to enhance regional connectivity and facilitate trade under AfCFTA
Financing cooperation
  • BRICS nations offer various financing mechanisms for infrastructure and development projects
  • Explore financial cooperation opportunities, including bilateral investment agreements, infrastructure funds and loans from the New Development Bank
Knowledge exchange and capacity building
  • BRICS nations have experts in various sectors. Organise exchange programmes, training and capacity-building initiatives to enhance skills and knowledge transfer.

As to whether there is value to be gained from the Working Group, Advocate Xulu reflects, “The unique value of this Working Group is its focussed mandate on the practicalities of economic cooperation of the real transactions regarding trade and investment among member countries.”