The latest bid to become the economic hub of Southern Africa has come from KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), on the east coast of South Africa.
The Dube TradePort (DTP) in Durban is earmarked to be the catalyst of this transformation and is under consideration to be classified as a Special Economic Zone (SEZ), owned by the provincial government and managed by a corporation. The DTP aims to expand trade, encourage economic development, create jobs and increase foreign direct investment (FDI) by linking transport to connect the province to international economies. It is part of the province’s 20-year plan with R560 billion ($56 billion) worth of projects in the pipeline. It’ll employ up to 35,000 people.
The KZN MEC for economic development and tourism, Mike Mabuyakhulu, says that India and China’s large populations make them attractive destinations for South Africa’s exports. The province is looking for opportunities to increase trade with other southern African countries as well as increase tourism.
The DTP is home to the R7.8 billion ($ 780 million) King Shaka International Airport and lies between the Richards Bay and Durban ports. It is situated on the N2 development corridor that connects the Eastern Cape with Mozambique.
According to Mabuyakhulu, seaborne trade accounts for almost 80% of South Africa’s imports and exports. The port of Durban handles most of the trade in southern Africa, handling around 2.7 million TEUs.
The DTP zones are separate projects that interlink. Dube iConnect is a 24 hour telecommunications and IT service provider that will be using 36 km of fiber optics and a 10 gig pipe to service all the DTP zones.
The Dube Cargo Terminal is a three-year-old state-of-the-art terminal with the capacity to handle 1,000 tons per annum, with plans to increase it to 2 million tons by 2060. The terminal houses Customs, the departments of Agriculture as well as Health, the South African Revenue Services and South African Border Police—200 meters from the Dube TradeZone.
The TradeZone houses logistics, warehousing, light manufacturing, assembly, processing and high value cargo. It also includes the R28 million ($2.8 million) state-of-the-art flight kitchen facility. There has been a recent buzz among investors who are expected to sign contracts soon.
Dube Agrizone is 20 hectares that include a greenhouse hydroponics facility. Sixteen hectares of greenhouse produce 40 tons of fresh produce—including cucumbers and tomatoes—for large retailers, while a separate greenhouse is being developed for cut flowers and pot plants. The next question is what this will mean for the small farmers in the province?
The MEC says efforts will be made to integrate them into the new project. The idea for the zone dates back to 1994, when new ideas were sought to increase agricultural output and stimulate exports.
At the center of the R5 billion ($500 million) Dube City, three minutes from the airport, is Dube Square. The city will have accommodation, conference facilities, restaurants, retail and offices.
A memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Indian conglomerate, Action Group, has been signed for $217 million to build a mini city nearby that is expected to attract close to $2.2 billion in FDI.
The provincial government will retain ownership of the DTP and investors will be given long-term leases.
According to senior managers at Deloitte and Touché some of the challenges facing the DTP are the uncertainty around the SEZ regulations and the inaccessibility to rail. They feel that “government can play a significant role in helping the DTP realize its potential of becoming an economic hub”, through training of workers and offering greater flexibility with government incentive packages for specific projects. Deloitte and Touché warns that final SEZ legislation must meet the needs, of not only the zones for which it is being created, but also the expectations of foreign investors.
This could be a thin tightrope to walk on the way to the promise of prosperity.
Cryptocurrency for Africans
George Gordon is on a quest to revolutionize the financial system. The director of Africa Master Blockchain Company talks digital currencies, blind risks and board games.
What is this new African cryptocurrency you are offering?
Where the majority of current digital currencies are based on speculative models, AfriUnion Coin (AUC) and the AfriNational Tokens (ANT)are designed for a transactional purpose allowing international payments, remittances, foreign direct investment as well as day-to-day transactions at local retail stores and other outlets. While the option for speculative trade is available with AUC, the focus is not around that.
Each African country will have a specially-designed ANT which will allow users to pay for goods and services and bills easily through completely digital means without requiring any bank account. AUC and ANT will be fully interchangeable to one another and there will be no fees for the user.
It’s the natural next step for digital finance from mobile banking which most Africans are accustomed to. The ability to freely have the power to send and receive money locally and internationally will allow the freedom of choice and spending power many Africans don’t have currently.
What is your own investment philosophy?
I am a gambler! I believe in taking risks and putting things on the line. That being said, blind risk or whimsical guesses don’t get you very far. Always acquire enough information to understand to a reasonable level what the thing you are planning on investing is or how it works and then trust your instinct and gut feel.
What advice would you give entrepreneurs wanting to invest in blockchain?
First, do some research in terms of what the blockchain technology is being applied for or created in terms of its application to an industry or project. Thereafter, check the white paper for the design of the platform as well as its functionality and applicability to what it is trying to achieve. If it aligns with your personal investment rules, then go for it,however, remember that blockchain is continuously evolving and thus you need to explore outside the usual and standard.
First cash-less, now card-less. What is the future of online banking?
If we are looking into what is currently science fiction, I would say the future is digital contact lenses that will be able to connect you to all your social media accounts, internet, news as well as make payments by just looking at QR codes or specialized barcodes to approve and accept payments.
Now, realistically we are not far off from such innovation and technology, but for the time being, I think the next step is scanning of QR codes at retailers and having the transaction automated from your wallet to the retailers digitally.
What is your most prized investment and why?
My mind. I believe that the work I have put into developing my mind, and continue to do so every day, is the number one investment that I have ever done. It allows me to look at things in a unique perspective as well as provides me with the tools to push boundaries and create new opportunities.
Money, success, fame? Which is most important to you?
I would have to say success… because it is most likely going to bring the other two as well, right? But success in the form of starting something and letting it grow and succeed and knowing that something new exists because of your efforts.
What do you spend your money on mostly?
Board games. I love board games and believe it’s a fantastic way to expand your mind as well as have fun with friends.
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Offering The American Dream
Gar Lippincott and Daniel Ryan of Atlantic American Partners were in South Africa recently looking for high-net-worth individuals wanting to invest in the US.
It’s a warm spring day in September, and Gar Lippincott and Daniel Ryan have just arrived in South Africa. It is Lippincott’s first time in the country, and he is jet-lagged.
A little over two months ago, he was booked to fly here from the United States (US) but was turned back at immigration.
“At Atlanta airport, the lady looked at Daniel’s visa and let him through and she looked at my visa and she said ‘I am afraid you can’t get on the plane because you have to have a blank page on your passport’. I said ‘I have three blank pages’ and she said ‘no, it’s supposed to be the one that says visa on it’. She said it’s the rules in South Africa so I had to sadly go back home… now when I was coming, I was told that’s not an issue anymore so I am happy they have made traveling into the country easier,” says Lippincott.
With a brand-new passport, he’s here with Ryan looking for people who want to invest in the US in exchange for a green card.
Lippincott, the Managing Partner of Atlantic American Partners, says he has always been keen on South Africa for its growth opportunities and prospects.
“From what I understand, the things that are causing short-term decline in the economy in South Africa are set up to provide long-term growth and hopefully people will understand this,” he says. Ryan, the company’s Managing Director of Emerging Markets – Africa, agrees: “I lived in Malawi for 12 years and South Africa is still considered the shining one throughout the continent. Even with all the problems, everyone still wants to come here because of the opportunities.”
According to an AfrAsia Bank report, South Africa comes second to Mauritius in boasting the highest number of high-net-worth individuals.
These are the kind of people Ryan and Lippincott target through their work at Atlantic American Partners. The company has real estate investors and professional private equity fund managers that manage money for banks, insurance companies, and pension funds. In addition, they help people get US green cards and ultimately US citizenship through the US government’s EB-5 Immigrant Investor Visa Program.
“Basically we look for people who want to move to the United States and we help them do so legally by investing and the nice thing is, with our program, they are also able to get a nice return on investment,” he says.
According to Lippincott, for a $500,000 investment that creates 10 jobs for American workers, you could get a green card in about two years and be a US citizen in about six or seven years. “Twenty seven countries have an investor visa program but with most of them, it’s essentially a fee you pay, or you need to be actively engaged in the day-to-day operation of a business. For example, you invest $1.5 million in Australia, but you need to hire employees and generate a certain amount of revenue. One of the biggest advantages with our program is you actually invest the $500,000 into a fund. We act as a trustee of that money and within five to seven years, they get that money back with a bit of return on investment and you are a permanent citizen in the US.”
Atlantic American Partners invests the money in real estate developments like hotels, apartments and student accommodation.
“What’s nice about the program is it doesn’t only cover the investor; it covers the spouse and children under 21. Our biggest family was a Hungarian family with seven children so they got nine green cards for $500,000,” says Lippincott.
The company says it has had positive response in South Africa. “Two months ago, we were here and we had scheduled six presentations for 100 people and we ended up speaking to 450 people. Most were business people, people worried about the economy, people worried about the political future of South Africa and people concerned about the education future of their children,” says Ryan.
According to Lippincott, despite the news of the clampdown on immigration, the US economy is booming and will perish without immigration. In the era of Donald Trump and his anti-immigrant views, that’s heartening news indeed.
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