Wesgro appoints CEO, secures R1.5 billion in investment for Western Cape

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The Western Cape Investment and Trade Promotion Agency (Wesgro) has exceeded its 2010/11 investment target for the province by about R2 million in the past financial year and its board has appointed Acting CEO Nils Flaatten as the CEO of Wesgro with a 12 month mandate

Wesgro, which is legally mandated by provincial government to attract investment and promote trade in the province to grow the economy and create jobs, made these announcements at its AGM at the Taj Hotel in Cape Town on Tuesday night. 

Wesgro board chairman Ben Kodisang said the Wesgro board was proud to announce Flaatten’s appointment as the agency’s chief executive. 

Flaatten reacted to his appointment by saying: “I am very grateful for the opportunity to lead the Agency and we have begun a process of re-connecting with Western Cape businesses. 

It is our aim to make sure that we discuss export opportunities with companies and individuals who are export ready and highlight the markets that we see as growth potential ones.

The Agency has generated high quality business intelligence and we must make sure that as many companies as possible have access to and use it. 

The global interest in Africa is on the rise and we see many international investors who are looking to setting up regional headquarters in the city of Cape Town.”

Wesgro acting head of Investment Promotion Ebrahim Khan said at the AGM that Wesgro had secured over R1.5 billion worth of investment in the Western Cape over the 2010/11 financial year. This was an improvement from investment totalling R1 bil in 2009/10 and far exceeded its target to secure R1.3 bil of investment in the province in 2010/11.

This investment of R1.5 bil has led to the creation of 325 jobs in the province in the past financial year. 

“This improvement was achieved against the backdrop of difficult global market conditions where the main market characteristics were uncertainty, the lag effect of the global financial crisis and tight credit conditions.

Inflows into South Africa fell by a material 77,9% and inflows into Africa are estimated to have dropped by 14% to $50-billion in 2010 illustrating the effect of the global crisis,” said Khan. 

“Spending on capital projects and greenfield investments have in many instances been cancelled or postponed which has had a direct impact on multinationals’ cash positions and leverage options.

In spite of this, Wesgro adapted its strategy to continue to market the region internationally and direct its strategy on domestic inward flows and business retention and expansion”, he said.

South Africa and the Western Cape face stiff competition from other emerging markets in trying to attract investors. However, the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ has raised the profile of the country and province, generating new investment interest. 

Kodisang, who is also managing director for Old Mutual Investment Group Property Investments, said Wesgro embraced provincial government’s proposal to establish a new overarching Economic Development Agency (EDA) for the province next year.

“The EDA is a very interesting and exciting opportunity for us,” Kodisang said. 

Kodisang said it was understandable that staff were anxious about the EDA process and what it means for them and Wesgro, adding that Flaatten had been appointed on a 12 month contract to guide his staff in this process and create stability in the organisation. 

Flaatten said he was optimistic about the Western Cape economy and the opportunities Wesgro could seize in the current world economic climate to benefit the regional economy. 

Although Wesgro will work to protect trade relations with the Western Cape’s traditional trade partners such as Britain, Germany, the Netherlands and France and recognised that the Western Cape will become an increasingly important food source for the European Union through its food exports, it also plans seizing economic opportunities posed by high growth in a number of African markets.

“Cape Town is the most important strategic food and agri-business export port in South Africa and we have to leverage this opportunity as best we can to the benefit of our local economy,” Flaatten said. 

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