12 September 2012
South African businesspeople currently on a selling and investment mission in Benin, led by Deputy Trade and Industry Minister Elizabeth Thabethe, have expressed their excitement about investing in the country.
Thabethe and the 15-member business delegation arrived in Benin on Sunday night, and on Monday joined businesspeople from Benin at a trade and investment seminar.
Thabethe, addressing the seminar, urged South Africa’s business community to seize the opportunities on offer in Benin.
Madina Sephou, Benin’s Minister of Industry, Trade, Small and Medium Scale Enterprises, said businesses from both countries should take advantage of the conducive environment created by their governments and form partnerships to boost trade.
Opportunities in various sectors
Peggy Mahlaba, a Cape Town-based electrical infrastructure engineer and managing director of Imbovotho Engineering, said presentations made at the seminar showed a country undertaking a major infrastructure development programme.
“We are interested in claiming our stake in the energy-generation sphere as the country experiences a serious shortage of electricity,” said Mahlaba. “Load shedding is common as they lack capacity to generate sufficient power and meet the consumption demand.”
Interior designer as well as deputy chairperson of the KwaZulu-Natal chapter of the South African Women Entrepreneurs’ Network (Sawen), Phindile Mkhize, said the development proposed in the tourism sector would give her an opportunity to decorate hotels, lodges and other tourist attractions in Benin with South African decor, in which the people of the West African country had shown interest.
“I will be sharing information on all the opportunities in Benin and contacts of relevant people in different sectors with other Sawen members so that they can also come here and establish partnerships with other businesswomen,” said Mkhize.
North West businessman Gordon Cornish said agriculture and agro-processing in Benin beckoned. Cornish said he would study all aspects of both sectors, including legislation governing land ownership, as he intended to invest in land to set up an agricultural and agro-processing business.
Meanwhile, Daniel Magagula of JK Consulting Engineers in Gauteng province said he had identified opportunities in mining and the construction of the national road network that the Beninese government had embarked on.
Opportunities in various sectors
Briefing journalists in Pretoria last week, Thabethe said the mission to Benin took place within the context of South Africa’s strategic engagement with the rest of the continent, aimed at supporting Africa’s economic revival and promoting intra-African trade.
“It is important for South Africa to continue to pursue economic collaboration and partnership with African countries when crafting the way forward for sustainable economic development and the development of investment in the African region,” Thabethe said.
“Benin, like most countries in Africa, presents a wealth of business opportunities for South African companies. By establishing their presence in this country, South African companies would be able to access other markets in the West African region and Africa at large.”
According to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Benin’s domestic economy revolves around subsistence agriculture, which accounts for 35.5% of gross domestic product (GDP) and is the main source of income for over half of the population.
Cotton is the main commercial crop, accounting for about 45% of the country’s foreign-exchange earnings.
The hydroelectric potential of the Mono River, which forms Benin’s border with Togo, is being developed, with the construction of dams for power generation and irrigation.
Mineral reserves, notably of marble, iron, and phosphate, have not been fully exploited, which also presents an opportunity for investment, the DTI said.