Cape Town must be more ‘liveable’

2015-06-02 06:00
Wesgro CEO Tim Harris 
Foto24/Denvor de Wee

Wesgro CEO Tim Harris PHOTO: Foto24/Denvor de Wee

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Every resident has a part to play in drawing investment to Cape Town.

This was the message of Wesgro CEO Tim Harris, who addressed the Mouille Point Ratepayers’ Association on Thursday last week.

Wesgro is the official destination marketing, investment and trade promotion agency for the Western Cape. It promotes Cape Town and the region all over the world as an investment destination and a place to sell products.

“To quote Michael Bloomberg, if you want people to invest in your city, you have to make it a city people want to live in,” Harris said.

This means residents needed to be civic-minded and partner with the council and local agencies to prevent crime and make the city more liveable, he said.

“There’s a whole lot going on that people don’t know about. We’ve got a lot to sell,” he said.

Wine and similar products sell themselves – the agency needs to tell the unexpected story, Harris said.

“There’s still the perception that if you want to do business in South Africa, you need to go to Johannesburg,” he said.

In his talk, Harris focused on three sectors, each of which has proven its viability as investment opportunities.

Harris told the story of Cape Town entrepreneur Cameron Stevens, who founded Prodigy Finance, a company which offers loans to international postgraduate students at leading business schools.

As an INSEAD graduate who experienced the difficulties of financing an international MBA, he and two fellow students set out to solve this problem.

When he approached venture capitalists in the USA, Stevens was told he couldn’t run a company like this from Cape Town, Harris said.

Stevens has since proven them wrong, having distributed $50m in loans to postgraduate students from 90 nationalities, with exceptional repayment performance.

“When you look at asset management, Africa’s money is now run out of Cape Town,” Harris said.

The food industry is another growing sector, as illustrated by a local iced tea company.

“In 2009, a rooibos farmer named Dave Evans started making Bos iced tea,” Harris says. Today, the product is sold in 14 countries.

“Dave always says we need to ditch our inferiority complex,” Harris said. “With our diverse market, if you can sell a product in South Africa, you can sell it anywhere.”

And it’s not just small companies running the Cape Town food industry, Harris says, with retail giants like Pick n Pay, Woolworths and Shoprite based in the Cape.

Manufacturers are also choosing Cape Town, with engines made for Mercedes-Benz trucks and flat-screen TVs produced for Hisense in factories in Atlantis

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