On-The-Air (15/09/2006)

15th September 2006

Every Friday morning, SAfm's AMLive's radio anchor John Perlman speaks to Martin Creamer, publishing editor of Engineering News and Mining Weekly. Reported here is this Friday's At the Coalface transcript:

Perlman: Martin, this looks intriguing, a whole lot of South African companies being invited to the city of New York to take a big bite out of the Big Apple. Tell us more.

Creamer: That's right, it could be Big Apple, big dollars for South African companies. The South African Chamber of Commerce America is hand-picking 100 South African companies to visit the Big Apple on October 31, where, hopefully, they will obtain wads of growth finance and technology. This is because the South African Chamber of Commerce America perceives many mid-sized South African companies to be ready to grow more strongly into the international economy and needing a hupstoot, as they say in Afrikaans. So, they are arranging this October 31 meeting where people can interface with decision makers in the United States who have the wherewithal to provide the capital that mid-sized South African companies need in order to grow internationally and domestically. It will also be an opportunity to forge technology partnerships, which are very important, and to strike up strategic alliances. Standard Bank South Africa is one of the sponsors of this, as well South African Tourism, and these 100 mid-sized South Africa companies must have a revenue base of about $250-million a year in order to be considered for this special finance, technology and strategic alliances look-in.

Perlman: Speaking of international relations in economics, something is going on at the Johannesburg International Airport. An exporters' exhibition complex, I believe.

Creamer: There are 122 South African exporters who will be showcasing their wares continuously at a new permanent exhibition complex at Johannesburg International Airport. That complex will be completed next month and 1,2 million business tourists come through our busiest airport in Johannesburg and this complex on 2 200 m2 will be just over the road from the international arrivals hall. It will be a permanent exhibition, people there continuously for either six months, 12 months or 24 months. It will reflect 14 sectors of the South African economy and the way that it will be segmented is that the biggest contributor to South Africa's gross-domestic product (GDP) will have the biggest area, so, visitors will immediately be able to see GDP contribution levels, which results in mining and capital equipment having the greatest space, followed by another 13 sectors. The idea is to promote South Africa's exports. Similar exhibitions take place in other countries, notably Canada, New Zealand, Europe and Asia and so they had an eye on those when they built this export exhibition centre, which is being run by the International Trade Bureau, an export exhibition specialist. The 122 South African companies will be pioneers in an airport-based promotion of South Africa's export offerings.

Perlman: The telecommunications sector is always interesting. You've got some news.

Creamer: Yes, we don't normally think of parastatals like Eskom and Transnet when we think of telecommunications. When we think of Eskom, we think of power generation, and when we think of Transnet, we think of transport. But, both of these have a lot of telecommunications capacity, which they have traditionally used themselves and which they also saw as potential stand-alone enterprises. South Africa's second-network operator (SNO), which is now named Neotel, has taken the metropolitan capacity that Transnet had, but Eskom has been building its telecoms capacity with an eye on the SNO, even splicing fibre-optic lines on to its large pylons and spending some R1-billion to get additional telecommunications capacity. One of the reasons why the State is now retaining a lot of this capacity for itself is that South Africa has many science projects on the horizon that are going to need broadband. Besides the South African Research Network, which will also need a lot of broadband, is the $1-billion square-kilometre array (SKA) radio-telescope project. It will be fantastic if South Africa can win the SKA bid. It is like winning an astronomy World-Cup hosting, but we must first outbid Australia, Argentina and China. But to do so, South Africa will have to have a lot of broadband, so this extra Eskom broadband and Transnet broadband is being retained in a new State enterprise called Infraco, which has a lot of valuable broadband on hold so that it can be offered as part of South Africa's bid for the radio telescope, which will be 30 times bigger in terms of collection area than any other telescope anywhere in the world. So, it is going to be quite a fantastic project and the State is ensuring that South Africa has the necessary broadband to underpin its billion-dollar SKA aspiration.

Perlman: Our bid to win the science World Cup, hopefully nobody takes a dive, as is highly likely during our hosting of the soccer World Cup in South African in 2010. Thanks very much. Martin Creamer is publishing editor of Engineering News and Mining Weekly, he'll be back with us at the same time next week.