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South Africa has lost more than half of its capital-goods share of the market over the last decade, losing out to aggressive competition in markets such as the mining-rich Copperbelt region.

This is according to Nigel Gwynne-Evans, chief director for African integration and industrial development at the Department of Trade and Industry’s industrial development division.

The Copperbelt is a resource-rich region in Central Africa which sits on the border region between northern Zambia and the southern Democratic Republic of Congo and is known for copper mining, and is the source of more than half of the world’s cobalt, a critical element in the lithium-ion batteries used in electric vehicles.

Gwynne-Evans was one of the guest speakers at an event hosted by The Exporters Club Western Cape in Cape Town last week focusing on the topic: Where to Invest in Africa 2018 – How the Africa landscape has changed since 2017.

Highlighting a few key aspects impacting investment into Africa, Gwynne-Evans’ presentation covered key market opportunities, issues of country data, and South Africa’s geographical position in relation to the region.

“We have a very real geographic reality with the SADC (Southern African Development Community) that we are part of and have a relative competitive advantage over other blocs,” said Gwynne-Evans.“The most important point from my side is that when one looks at indexes such as RMB’s Top 20 (countries) in terms of competitiveness indicators, this is useful at a high level, but does not get down to our reality as a regional player and our geographic advantage that we have in the subcontinent.

He said it was often easier to deal with West Africa from Europe than from South Africa.

“If you look at the trade figures, 86percent of our trade with the rest of Africa is with the SADC countries, and of that, more than 60percent is with the Southern African Customs Union countries, and particularly Botswana and Namibia.

“So from a South African government perspective we first and foremost would advocate a very strong focus on our neighbours.

“I would very much look at the next frontier, Mozambique, Zambia and Angola, as the areas we should be focusing on,” he said.

Gwynne-Evans added that South Africa was starting to lose its geographical advantage from Tanzania, northwards into the East African Community.

““Looking at Africa, I think the political winds of change are moving in a more positive direction.

“I think that if things move in the right direction, there will be big changes.”