When it comes to educating U.S. businesses and potential investors about money-making opportunities in Africa, there is no shortage of gatherings with broad agendas for doing business in Africa as a whole, or in an entire region, sub-region or specific country of that continent, to the chagrin of its national policymakers and business executives, and even to U.S. executives with long experience in one or more of its 54 individual countries.
Not only is Africa not a country, it is the second largest and second most populous continent after Asia, brimming with market and business culture diversity at regional, subregional, national, and subnational levels.
At a jointly sponsored conference on October 22, 2015, in New York City, Brand South Africa, South Africa’s official image-branding agency, and NMBC-Global, the international arm of the National Minority Business Council, Inc., will focus on two specific industry sectors in a single country. Partnering for the first time, they will host what they are billing as an “insider’s conference” on South Africa’s information/communication technology and renewable energy sectors, with the intent to provide on-the-ground intelligence for small and medium-size enterprises that are ready, willing, and able to take advantage of the myriad opportunities in these sectors.
The conference is hosted by Azania Inc., a New York City communications and public affairs consultancy with offices in Washington, D.C., and Cape Town, South Africa, and will be held at the headquarters of BNY Mellon, 101 Barclay Street, New York City, from 11:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., with presentations from U.S. and South African executives experienced in doing business in South Africa and in the target sectors.
Officials from the U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. Trade and Development Agency, Overseas Private Investment Corporation and Global NY, New York State’s Empire State Development agency’s international business division, will identify and explain key resources available to U.S. SMEs to do business in South Africa in general, and in the ICT and renewable energy markets in particular.
“For this conference we are targeting U.S. firms in ICT and renewable energy with the experience and capacity to do business in the growing South African economy,” said Mudunwazi Baloyi, the head of Brand South Africa in the United States. “ICT and renewable energy offer lucrative trade and investment partnership opportunities between minority, women-owned, and other small U.S. enterprises and their South African counterparts as South Africa undertakes to transform its economy through green technologies, strengthen the delivery of basic services, and create hundreds of thousands of much needed jobs.”
South Africa has said it needs 50,000 megawatts of new power generation capacity by 2030, roughly 19,000 MW of which is to come from renewable technologies, including wind, solar, hydropower and biogas technologies. Its goal is to have 30 percent clean energy by 2025.
The sector is bustling with innovation and ripe for investment. For example, tests of pioneering technology developed locally, in which mirrors are used to generate cheap solar electricity (pictured above), already has drawn interest from a Massachusetts Institute of Technology solar company, as well as from a German consortium.
In ICT, recent industry reports show that South Africa is spending hundreds of millions of dollars to create a fully digital government in hopes of improving the country’s ICT infrastructure as a whole. Spending is expected to reach more than $700 million in 2019, up from $615.9 million in 2014.Much of that will be focused on updating IT hardware and data centers and supporting systems integration, especially in the health, education and administrative departments.
Meanwhile, South Africa’s socio-economic development initiatives and Black Economic Empowerment policies call for more than $6.7 billion in goods and services in renewable energy, ICT and other sectors to be procured from Black small-scale suppliers. Private corporations, too, are looking to the BEE community. For example, MTN is recruiting local Black ICT entrepreneurs under the age of 35, including enterprises owned by women and the disabled, to become suppliers and service providers to MTN South Africa.
All of this is good news for U.S. small businesses, said Fritz-Earle McLymont, managing director of NMBC Global.
“South Africa’s BEE procurement targets create ample opportunity for partnerships with U.S. SMEs, particularly businesses owned by minorities and women. Our conference will look carefully at this particular niche opportunity,” he said.
With South Africa a net importer of technology, opportunities exist for U.S. SME exporters of such products as radio, television and communications equipment. Also needed are ICT labs to provide training in critical skills of database administration and development, website management and development, systems administration and development, networking and ICT equipment maintenance.
According to the most current Information and Communication Technology satellite account for South Africa report published by Statistics South Africa, South African households spend more than 4 percent of their income on ICT products, including telecommunications, broadcasting and information supply services, such as pay-television subscriptions, cell phone airtime and broadband; communication equipment such as televisions; content and media products, such as newspapers and books); and computing machinery.
Additional information on the South Africa ICT and Renewable Energy insider conference can be obtained from McLymont by calling (845) 510-3035, or by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Space is limited, he said, and attendees will be cleared on a first-to-register basis. Registration must be completed in advance, online at http://south-africa-open-for-business.eventbrite.com.
The Network Journal is a media sponsor of the conference.
(This story first appeared at AfricaStrictlyBusiness.com, http://www.africastrictlybusiness.com/news-analysis/insider-conference-us-smes-south-africa’s-ict-and-renewable-energy-sectors. It is reproduced here with permission.)