Unmistakable whiff of business confidence about the Western Cape economy

Despite the icy grip of winter there is good reason to feel warm and fuzzy about the Western Cape economy.

In a week of floods, snow and general weather chaos, there comes the unmistakable whiff of business confidence.

Is it misplaced?

Consider this: the Western Cape economy is underpinned by four key sectors: financial services, manufacturing, tourism and agriculture. Three of these are largely dependent upon efficient transport infrastructure, notably ports and roads, and there is certainly cause for optimism about the GNU’s commitment to improving performance in this sphere.

This much was evident in Barbara Creecy’s inaugural speech as Transport Minister where she gave all the right signals, at least so far as business is concerned. Private-public reforms, rebuilding Transnet, and rehabilitating the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) all featured in her address at this week’s Southern African Transport Conference being held at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in Pretoria.

Creecy even confirmed a draft devolution strategy for urban commuter rail, currently being developed by the Ministry.

The Minister’s assurances are indeed sweet music to the ears of business stakeholders more accustomed to official platitudes about shortcomings rather than details about future reform.

On the manufacturing front there is also optimism surrounding prompt action from new Home Affairs Minister Leon Schreiber who wasted no time in issuing an extension to all foreigners currently affected by the massive visa bottleneck. This decision will assist both foreign workers and foreign tourists alike, with immediate benefits for manufacturing and tourism.

These positive steps add to the positive momentum seen in relation to ports and efforts to include the private sector in improving operational efficiency.

And there is also good reason to be optimistic about the province’s financial services sector, with economic growth projected to increase, albeit slowly in the short term. The return of Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana has settled the markets, and there is R169billion of climate finance heading our way as part of the country’s Just Energy Transition Partnership (JETP) with the developed world. The Western Cape, already a hub for green energy projects, is in a good position to further expand this sector as funds become available.

Of course there are always unforeseen economic headwinds. But the break in the clouds and a burst of good business news is always worth celebrating, no matter what lies ahead.

John Lawson
CEO of the Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry