China injects R150m into Dube fibre optics plant

2016-05-19 06:00
Photo: GRAHAM BARCLAYChinese and South African shareholders break ground at the site of the YOAC fibre optics plant at Dube Tradeport.

Photo: GRAHAM BARCLAYChinese and South African shareholders break ground at the site of the YOAC fibre optics plant at Dube Tradeport.

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JUBILATION and celebration were the themes of the day at Dube Tradeport last Friday, 13 May, when Yangzte Optics Africa Cable (YOAC) announced plans to open KwaZulu-Natal’s first fibre optic cable manufacturing facility.

The R150m investment into the construction of this plant will create just 45 jobs for unskilled South African workers, and it will be based at the Dube Tradeport on the KZN North Coast.

The plant is the first of “many” Chinese investments in the province and seeks to upgrade KwaZulu-Natal’s internet infrastructure.

The plant will be open and fully operational by January 2017.

The investment also won the full support and praise of eThekwini Municipality councillor, Logie Naidoo and KZN department of economic development, tourism and environmental affairs (EDTEA) MEC, Michael Mabuyakhulu, who welcome the investment as a great way of strengthening Sino-South African trade relations.

“The construction of this new facility will go very far in extending investment relations between South Africa and China, and eradicating poverty and unemployment in the North Coast region,” said Naidoo.

Investment South Africa’s acting deputy director general, Yunus Hoosen also welcomed the investment and the efficiency with which the construction of the facility is already been managed.

“The time taken from the point this project was proposed to the stage of construction we are at right now is only six months, and after a total time of 12 months; this plant will be up and running,” said Hoosen, who added that the plant is the perfect investment for South Africa’s digital economy.

JSE listed South African company, Mustek are the BEE partner in the deal, with a small shareholding in the facility and its operations.

The majority shareholding is held by YOAC, which is a state-owned company in the control of the Communist Party in Beijing.

Wang Jian Zhou, consulate general of the Chinese Embassy in South Africa, said YOAC is “an important state-owned company looking to grow Chinese interests in Africa.”

“By investing in Africa, China wants to make the African continent greater. There are many challenges that come with investing in a foreign country, which is why we need the support of our South African partners,” said Wang, who emphasised that YOAC is “environmentally friendly”.

“The MEC and the KZN government have created a great investment atmosphere and this project must and will succeed in order to strengthen investor confidence and attract more Chinese companies to invest in KZN,” he added.

R150m is a lot of money and the question has to be asked of who will really benefit from this deal. Unemployment is officially at 20.8% in KwaZulu-Natal, and higher still at 25.2% in South Africa, with the vast majority of South Africans continuing to live below the bread-line.

Amid endless calls from South Africans for improved service delivery, housing, electricity, water and sanitation; improved internet connection is at the bottom of the priority list for millions of people.

Pieter Viljoun, CEO of YOAC, said the investment will create 150 high-skilled jobs, with a few allocated positions to artisanal and unskilled workers.

“We will, of course, need factory workers, and 45 of the 150 jobs will be set aside for unskilled workers, who will be trained internally by YOAC. There will also be 20-30 job opportunities at artisan level for those with technical skills,” said Viljoun.

According to Yunus Hoosen, the goal of Investment SA and the KZN government is to give 90% of South Africans citizens access to fibre optic broadband by 2090, with the hope of future Chinese investments in KZN.

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