Attacks on foreigners haunt SA’s investment hopes

Police arrest some of the alleged ring leaders in the violent attacks on foreign nationals in Katlehong. Picture: Tebogo Letsie/City Press
Police arrest some of the alleged ring leaders in the violent attacks on foreign nationals in Katlehong. Picture: Tebogo Letsie/City Press

South Africans attending the Global Business Forum Africa 2019 under way in Dubai have had to defend the country from criticism over the incidents of sporadic attacks against African nationals earlier in the year.

While he was participating in a panel discussion titled Rethinking Business in South Africa, chief executive of Trade and Investment KwaZulu-Natal Neville Matjie was asked by a delegate how the country planned on attracting foreign investment while foreigners were being attacked.

“What has happened is really regrettable and very unfortunate. Those of you who have been to South Africa know that is not what the country is about,” Matjie said, adding that the recent attacks were sparked by an isolated incident where a foreign drug dealer killed a local man.

“Unfortunately when it is reported it is reported as if the whole country is burning and we don’t want our fellow African brothers [in South Africa],” he said adding that the government was taking responsibility and had already put interventions in place.

A number of African business delegates told City Press that the attacks on foreigners had not made the country an appetising investment destination.

Kenneth Obiajulu, managing director of FarmCrowdy, which is one of a handful of African startups that are part of the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry Startup Mentorship programme, was among those who said the country was not an ideal territory to expand to.

Speaking to City Press on the sidelines of the event, Obiajulu said despite his company receiving invitations to expand in other African markets, feedback from his fellow countrymen based in South Africa indicated that the country was not open for foreign African business.

“I spoke to some people over there and they told me that even the government would not let me if I try to expand there,” said the Nigerian entrepreneur, whose FarmCrowdy agriculture fintech business has attracted attention from several African governments and the United Arab Emirates.

The annual event, this year themed Scaling up Africa, was attended by more than 1000 delegates from across the world, including several heads of states such as Liberian President George Weah and Zimbabwe’s Emmerson Mnangagwa.

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July 2020

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