Mpumalanga discusses development opportunities and challenges

18 July 2006

NELSPRUIT – Mpumalanga Department of Finance held a Round Table Discussion on the challenges and opportunities facing the province. The discussion was aimed at coming up with ways to accelerate and fast-track growth and development.

The objectives of the Round Table Discussion were to stimulate rigorous debate on growth sectors, come with a Programme of Action to ensure enhanced performance through identified growth sectors and to identify possible Accelerated Shared Growth Initiative of South Africa (ASGISA) anchor projects, among others.

The discussions centered on Meeting, Incentive, Convention and Exhibitions (MICE) Industry, Business Process Outsourcing (BPO), Financial Services, Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and Agro Processing sectors.

MEC for Finance, Ms Mmathulare Coleman said the province needs to consciously contribute to the goals and vision of ASGI-SA, adding that to achieve this, business, labour, civil society and government will need to partner and share challenges and opportunities in order to grow the economy of the province to higher growth paths.

“Mpumalanga is a rural province and issues of rural development are critical when addressing challenges and identifying further opportunities for the poor,” MEC Coleman said.

The ICT Sector

MEC Coleman said this sector could provide the opportunity for the province to develop as it has the role of promoting the sustainable economic growth through increases in productivity, promotion of exports of services, and improved markets and quality and efficiency of government services.

“The provision of ICT in the province will help to facilitate poor access to markets, increase the demand for services and bring education to people who might be in a position to attend formal classes, and in the process of learning new skills,” MEC Coleman said.

The Business Process Outsourcing

MEC Coleman said South Africa has opportunities in this sector as the economy has a good international reputation for high quality and service.

“ The BPO will improve productivity and operational efficiencies, reduce costs like overhead, payroll and capital investments, allow organizations to focus on their core business and ensure best practice, skills and technology, provide access to scalable operations and on-demand services and strengthen client’s competitive position,” MEC Coleman said.

The AGRO Processing Sector

MEC Coleman said Mpumalanga has a vibrant agricultural sector which generates an estimated R3 billion per year and is the major employer.

“ Agro-processing provides for increased agricultural production through market expansion and it is one of the industries that are prioritized by ASGI-SA,” MEC Coleman said.

She said the province has not fully exploited opportunities of Agro Processing adding that the potential for this sector in Mpumalanga was good because of abundance of agricultural raw materials and labour in the province.

The Financial Services Sector

MEC Coleman said this sector was not fully exploited as a sector that could reduce the level of poverty in the province.

The challenges facing the Mpumalanga Financial Sector include, low levels of black participation, especially women, rural population that does not have bank accounts and access to financial services, black businesses who have limited access to credit and low levels of saving among the poor.

“ By facilitating transactions and making credit and other financial products available, the financial sector is a crucial building block for private sector development”.

“It could also play an important role in reducing risk and vulnerability and increasing the ability of individuals and households to access basic services like health and education, thus having a more direct impact on poverty reduction,” MEC Coleman said.

The MICE Industry

MEC Coleman said this industry has a potential to support tourism in the province which was one of the high priority sectors according to ASGI-SA.

She added that the construction of an international convention centre in the province, will help accelerate economic development and growth.

She concluded by saying that the investments and support of these sectors will support ASGI-SA and halve poverty and unemployment in the province.