Last month, members of the special economic zone (SEZ) advisory board from the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) visited Beijing, in China, for a week-long study tour.
The main aim of the study tour was to learn from the Chinese experience and expertise in the planning, development and management of SEZs.
The group gained insight into the implementation and impact of the SEZ model in China, which included lessons on SEZ infrastructure, funding, policy, sustainability, investment promotion strategies and SEZ management structures in all spheres of government.
Trade and Industry Deputy Minister Bulelani Magwanishe says the study tour was one of the capacity-building programmes designed for the board, with the aim of equipping the members with diverse and complex approaches to SEZ planning and development.
“The tour assisted in building capacity to develop proper strategies and policies for SEZs in South Africa.”
He adds that one of the strategic initiatives that government, through the DTI, has earmarked for accelerating the country’s industrial development agenda is the SEZ Programme.
The programme’s premise is that SEZs can provide the country with the necessary impetus for promoting industrial development, building the required industrial infrastructure, promoting coordinated planning among key government agencies and the private sector, and using the zones to guide the deployment of other necessary development tools, says Magwanishe.
He further points out that China’s SEZ model is the most appropriate for South Africa to learn from as the country has gone through radical economic development, and has had to deal with similar development challenges that South Africa faces, such as unemployment and poverty.
“China is the second-biggest economy globally, and South Africa’s biggest trading partner. China’s market remains a key strategic priority for South Africa’s raw material and value-added products.”
Further, China has about 141 zones, with a yearly industrial output of over Rmb1.2-trillion. China is the most successful country in terms of planning, development and management of SEZs, stresses Magwanishe.
The 15-member SEZ advisory board is an independent body established by Trade and Industry Minister Dr Rob Davies through the SEZ Act to advise him on policy and strategy for SEZs, as well as on applications for designation.