EDEN DISTRICT NEWS - The attendance of Swedish Business Trade Commissioner Staffan Arbring at the Eden District Municipality's Garden Route Investment Conference in March gave Mayor Memory Booysen and co-hosts hope for the Southern Cape region's ability to attract investors from Europe and the rest of the world.
The conference held at Oubaai Hotel near Herold's Bay, was also attended by green energy, biomass and desalination companies and a Chinese business delegation.
However, in a press conference mid-way through the first day, Arbring confirmed that he was worried about the South African government's policy of expropriation without compensation and the uncertainties of property ownership in general. He intimated this may have a dampening effect on long-term investments by Sweden in South Africa.
During the conference, a letter of intent to commit to long-term collaboration strategies between the district and international role players was ceremonially signed by Arbring and Cecilia Leideman-Bäck, both from Business Sweden; Booysen and Municipal Manager Monde Stratu.
Biomass/green energy prospects
Booysen and Paul Hoffman, manager of the South Cape Economic Partnership (Scep), said they felt confident about the prospect of a project entailing the conversion of industrial and household waste (biomass) from PetroSA's industrial waste site near Mossel Bay into biofuel* at the PetroSA plant, which is close by.
EDM is responsible for managing a regional waste site on behalf of the B-municipalities who, after initial reluctance due to the cost, recently committed to jointly contribute to the development of a new site to replace the old one, which has reached the end of its lifetime. (See article elsewhere in paper.)
When Eden District Municipality was asked whether any of the 50 investment projects (amounting to R11-billion) highlighted at the conference would be materialising any time soon, communications officer Marillia Veldkornet responded that Business Sweden did a short follow-up visit after the conference.
Asked if any of the Swedish or Chinese companies who attended would be entering into joint agreements with South Africa, Veldkornet said, "Some interactions took place with potential investors/funders and project owners. However, the process must follow its course before any further comments can be made."
Booysen emphasised that the conference (which cost R350 000 to stage) was not a "talk-shop" but aimed at bringing about investment in the Garden Route.
Arbring, who is focused on increasing trade and investment between his country and Southern Africa, is seen as a major player in this quest, which was started a year ago by Hoffman and a few others.
*Biofuel is a fuel that is produced through contemporary biological processes, such as agriculture and anaerobic digestion, rather than a fuel produced by geological processes such as the formation of fossil fuels.
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