Wesgro has hit back after a local Cape Town newspaper article insinuated that trade missions do not benefit the provincial economy.
In a statement the Western Cape’s official trade and investment promotion agency said these missions were an essential part of boosting exports, bringing hundreds of millions of rands into the economy, and ultimately creating jobs and that articles insinuating otherwise were regrettable.
“Trade missions allow for Cape companies to directly engage with counterparts in key strategic markets, making it easier for companies to sign business agreements, which is a process that the Wesgro team facilitates and measures,” reads the statement.
The Cape Argus on Tuesday reported on what it called premier Helen Zille’s “latest overseas junket” where she visited Thailand and Vietnam.
According to the newspaper opposition parties, including the ANC and the ACDP, lambasted the premier for the mission that cost R540 000 because trade missions bring no economic benefits to the province.
ANC chief whip, Pierre Uys, was quoted as saying every week the premier travelled overseas with very little benefit and “quite frankly, we don’t know why she is going over there. There is little value to the trips, we see very few other MECs attend these events and it is always being organised by Wesgro. It is clear that there is no value to citizens. It is a total waste of money”.
According to Wesgro CEO, Tim Harris, not only has the organisation been arranging trade missions for the past 30 years, but that the benefit to Cape companies is significantly enhanced when trade missions are led by government leaders like Zille, Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille, and Minister of Economic Opportunities, Alan Winde.
“These leaders open doors for companies in challenging foreign markets, and their presence endorses the Cape’s exporters as globally competitive businesses,” said a spokesman. “The benefit of trade missions continues to pay off for our exporters: in the first quarter of our financial year (April-June 2017) eight business agreements have been signed in agro-processing and agribusiness with R84.75 million of exports facilitated and 73 jobs created. R92 million in outward foreign direct investment (OFDI) declarations were received, with 120 jobs to be created.”
The Wesgro trade mission to Senegal this year, said the spokesman, with the objective of boosting Cape Halaal products, resulted in declarations amounting to R100 million, while the trade mission to Ethiopia last month, led by Mayor De Lille, had already resulted in a declaration amounting to R200 million, while the Brexit mission to the UK saw declarations amounting to tens of millions.