Celebrating its 28th year of defining trade opportunities within Africa, leading multi-sector trade show SAITEX opened its doors to public and private stakeholders from across the globe at the Gallagher Convention Centre in Johannesburg earlier this week. 

Co-located with F&B show Africa’s Big 7 and the Halaal International Trade Expo, the event boasted a packed three-day workshop programme dedicated to the revival of the African economy that included an impressive line-up of local and international speakers. 

It’s a good time to be a township entrepreneur 

Of great public interest was a stakeholder engagement session focused on rebuilding Gauteng townships as a catalyst for growth through funding mechanisms such as the Township Economy Partnership Fund (TEPF). 

The TEPF is a partnership between the Gauteng Department of Economic Development (GDED), Gauteng Enterprise Propeller (GEP) and the Industrial Development Corporate (IDC), which supports SMMEs in the township economy of Gauteng in sectors that include (but are not limited to) manufacturing, the taxi economy, ICT, Backyard Real Estate upgrading and retail. 

The session was moderated by Jesse Weinberg, Executive Head: SME Customer Segment, at FNB South Africa, and speakers included Saki Zamxaka, Chief Executive Officer at GEP and Sonja Loggenberg, Head of Partnership Programmes at the IDC. 

Loggenberg said that while the IDC is well known for large projects such as Sasol, it has been involved in small business from the very beginning, granting its first loan of £600 loan to kick-start Ouma Rusks, and has invested R10 billion within townships over the last 15 years, comprising around 300 transactions. 

“We have adopted a strategy based on the recently passed Township Economic Development Bill, to make sure we look at existing businesses within townships, and assist in giving access to markets, providing a network, partnering with other development finance institutions to assist with infrastructure, so that we can help these businesses to grow.” 

Zamxaka highlighted the funding gap as the biggest need for entrepreneurs within the township economy. “For entrepreneurs who are here at SAITEX signing deals, they will need financing to fulfil these contracts, and we are here and available to make that financing happen,” he said. 

The fund is made up of R450 million in funds from IDC and GEP collectively, but Zamxaka said they have their sights set on the R1 billion mark, adding: “You can’t scale up without funds, and you can’t help businesses to grow without funds.” 

Loggenberg confirmed that while this is the first fund of its nature, the IDC is targeting another three similar funds in three different provinces in the next financial year. 

“It is critical that we roll out the Township Economy Partnership Fund in Gauteng quickly, showing restraint, good due diligence and good sense, so that when we engage with other provinces, we can provide them with a solid track record, so that those funds become attractive to commercial investors,” she said. 

Ample investment opportunities in Southern Africa 

Several attractive investment opportunities in South Africa’s North West Province were outlined in the keynote address by Keneetswe Mosenogi, North West MEC, North West Department of Economic Development, Environment, Conservation and Tourism. 

Mosenogi said that the success of Madikwe Private Game Reserve and Pilansburg National Park serve as an example of the potential that lies in protected areas and the opportunities that exist for rural communities, in terms of employment and participation. 

In his ministerial keynote address, the Honourable Rajeshkumar Indukant Modi from the Ministry of Industry & Commerce in Zimbabwe, said the country is geographically positioned to connect the whole southern region of Africa, and that it is Zimbabwe’s mission to mobilise private capital to lead the Sub Saharan economy by 2030. 

“Let us unite in our purpose, challenge our potential and work together hand in hand towards our common destination. Through hard, honest work, there is no limit to what Africa can achieve,” he concluded. 

Wrapping up SAITEX on 21 June, Portfolio Director of Food, Hospitality and Trade of dmg events Evan Schiff said that the show had more than lived up to the expectations of exhibitors, visitors and organisers. 

“We are delighted at the outcome of SAITEX 2022 – our first in-person event in two years – which enabled tangible international and local trade relationships and provided a meaningful platform for the private sector to showcase innovations, solutions and services for the African market.”