19 April 2024

The recognition Durban deserves

Foreign Direct Investment
| The European |

Dube TradePort Special Economic Zone and Invest Durban are delighted to have won the coveted United Nations Investment Promotion Award for Excellence in Promoting Sustainable Investment in Special Economic Zones for South Africa.

They, along with investment promotion agencies and special economic zone operators from China and Sri Lanka, received the award on 11 November during the eleventh session of the United Nations Conference on Trade & Development (UNCTAD) Investment, Enterprise and Development Commission held at the UN’s offices in Geneva, Switzerland.  The award was presented at the second Ambassadors’ Roundtable on Investing in the Sustainable Development Goals.

Invest Durban and Dube TradePort Special Economic Zone won the award for their role in setting up partnerships and positioning KwaZulu-Natal as an attractive destination for high-value-added and export-oriented technology production.

The award particularly recognises the facilitation of the investment of R1.5bn ($24bn) by Mara Phones, which is a subsidiary of Mara Corporation, for the manufacturing of smartphones in the Dube TradePort Special Economic Zone.

“We are encouraged that our business model, combined with the sustainable investment requirements of Dube TradePort, has resulted in the winning of this internationally recognised award that speaks volumes to good business practice,” said Mara Corporation Chairman, Jagdish D. Thakkar.

“We are constantly looking to enhance our current productive capacity and technological innovation in order to further position Mara Phones as a global brand. After considering various options to locate, it was our view that Durban’s Dube TradePort Special Economic Zone best afforded us the geographic advantage to execute on our strategy.”

Mr Thakkar continued: “Our decision to take the investment to the Dube TradePort was also informed by imperatives for job creation and commercial sustainability, while being sure that the free zone will continue to support us post launch as they have pre launch, for which we are very happy with our decision to locate in the Dube Trade Port.”

Professor Bridgette Gasa, Board Chairperson of Dube TradePort Special Economic Zone said: “We are thoroughly pleased with the internationally acclaimed Mara Phones decision to invest in Dube TradePort Special Economic Zone and having won this award, I believe this is a significant vote of confidence in our organisation as a dependable and trusted partner for a global player.

“This international award recognises the very essence of our comprehensive policy framework, derived from national government policies, that ensures local communities are engaged through responsible procurement, enterprise development and localisation. With the investment, new and vital employment opportunities are generated and localisation stops being a mere dream.

“This is what the Mara Phones investment brings to Dube TradePort Special Economic Zone, our operating precinct, the community and the provincial and South African economy.”

Professor Gasa was especially encouraged by how the investment by Mara Phones bears testament to the agility of the Dube TradePort Special Economic Zone in aligning itself with the “Presidential investment drive”.

She added: “We are exceptionally pleased that a globally-acknowledged and multi-disciplined investment group such as the Mara Phones, selected Dube TradePort Special Economic Zone for its smartphone production, and as a result we have been awarded the United Nations Investment Promotion Award for Excellence in Promoting Sustainable Investment in Special Economic Zones.”

Investor confidence

Professor Gasa also reflected on the importance of the award to South Africa as it seeks to further establish its reputation as one of the continent’s leading destinations for foreign direct investment.

“The [Mara] group’s substantial investment here is indicative of the confidence investors are showing in South Africa, KwaZulu-Natal and especially, Dube TradePort Special Economic Zone. We fully endorse UNCTAD Director of Investment and Enterprise, James Zhan’s sentiment for the need to direct more foreign investment to sustainable development goal-related projects. Sustainable development is what we as a country, province and special economic zone strive for.”

Professor Gasa concluded: “As a province and special economic zone, we have come to a point of enjoying an attractive investment profile, and have in place well-established and serviced infrastructure, with institutional support designed to fast-track the ease of doing business here.”

Durban is the third most populous city in South Africa, after Johannesburg and Cape Town, and the largest city in the South African province of KwaZulu-Natal.

Nomusa Dube-Ncube, MEC of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs for KwaZulu-Natal spoke of the significance of
the award.

“The United Nations Investment Promotion Award for Excellence in Promoting Sustainable Investment in Special Economic Zones is a validation of a government-led strategy that is collective, collaborative, and single-minded in purpose for the delivery of responsible actions.

“I must congratulate the team at Invest Durban, Trade and Investment KZN and Dube TradePort for their efforts in bringing investment of the calibre of Mara Phones to KwaZulu-Natal and South Africa. The realisation of this investment is absolutely aligned to and consistent with the KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Growth and Development Plan which has job creation as a primary objective.”

Best of the best

Entries from 29 countries worldwide were adjudicated by a panel of UN-linked experts based in Europe and the United States to a shortlist of 10 finalists, which then went into the final round of judging for three winners. Winning alongside South Africa, was the Guangzhou Development District Administration Committee from China and the Board of Investment of Sri Lanka.

Russell Curtis, Head of Invest Durban commented that South Africa, KwaZulu-Natal and Durban provides a hive of opportunity for business and investors: “We believe in collaborating with all our partners to provide an undeniable value proposition and valuable support to investors and business. Our slogan: ‘Facilitating sustainable investment in Durban for the benefit of all’, says it perfectly. While we are delighted to be recognised for our work through this award, building the country is the responsibility of every individual.”

Mara Phones is the first smartphone manufacturing plant in South Africa that will produce phones with functionalities that enable e-learning, with fast data communication and interpretation qualities, and include applications that provide better access to health services. The project has created 200 permanent jobs and will generate an additional 600 jobs in its second phase.

Hamish Erskine, Dube TradePort Special Economic Zone, CEO noted: “Our current focus is to attract investment that will grow new manufacturing capacity with South Africa, this investment by Mara Phones delivers on that, with their new facility in Dube TradeZone having a capacity to produce 1.2 million mobile device’s annually. New manufacturing capacity boosts innovation, while impacting positively new job growth, addressing skills development and youth unemployment.  Manufacturing is also the key driver of supply and value chains which have an impact on the downstream and upstream economy.”

For the past three years, the UNCTAD awards have been dedicated to promoting investment that contributes to Sustainable Development Goals. Since 2002, 58 agencies and organisations from 46 countries have received awards or special recognition from UNCTAD for best practices in investment promotion and facilitation.

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