Western Cape Business News

Send  Share  RSS  Twitter  22 Oct 2008

DEVELOPMENT: Accelerating onto Wesgro


Recent Western Cape Business News

IN May this year CBN asked whether a hint at closer working relationship between Western Cape-based trade promotion agencies Wesgro and Accelerate would eventually lead to a more formal arrangement.

At that point it was CBN’s gut feel that Wesgro and Accelerate’s services and marketing efforts would inevitably overlap to a large extent.

It seems our question was rather pertinent because last month Accelerate released a statement claiming it is succeeding in bringing regional stakeholders together “in order to develop and implement a long-term vision for sustainable, inclusive economic growth.”

Accelerate’s claimed success stems from the appointment of its CEO, Guy Lundy, to the board of Wesgro - which currently ranks as the official investment and trade promotion agency for the province.

In a statement Lundy says he believes the move will be advantageous to both organisations. “As Wesgro is a government agency and Accelerate Cape Town is private-sector-led, we are forging a government-business partnership which can only benefit the Western Cape economy.”

It would seem that government is also recognising that Accelerate can be a potent force in driving Western Cape development, and may well have insisted that Wesgro accommodate the new body.

Wesgro confirms as much in a statement to CBN. Senior manager of investment promotion Rishaad Hajee says the responsibility of announcing the appointment of the board is not Wesgro’s but rather the responsibility of the MEC or Provincial Minister for Economic Development.

Officially Lundy indicates that his appointment to Wesgro’s board symbolises the partnership approach between Accelerate and Wesgro.

More importantly, Lundy says his appointment will mean Accelerate can influence the strategic direction of trade and investment promotion in the Western Cape.

And it would appear that Accelerate is looking beyond Wesgro, and already holds monthly meetings with the Cape Town Regional Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Currently the general sentiment is that established business promotion bodies like Wesgro and the Cape Chamber are perhaps too staid and not influential enough as regards big hitting transactions. Accelerate’s charter pretty much sums matters up, disclosing that the body was formed by local business leaders with a “common concern over the lack of pace and direction of change in the Western Cape.”

The biggest overriding concern is that Wesgro (and to an extent the Cape Chamber) are not really representative of mainstay Western Cape business or able to harness the full potential of the region.

This may be easier said than done, and one cannot begrudge the trade promotion efforts by Wesgro and the Cape Chamber – especially since 1994.

But Accelerate has a major advantage in holding the vital sponsorship backing of blue chip corporations like Old Mutual, KPMG, BP, Chevron, Deloitte, British American Tobacco, Ernst & Young, Webber Wentzel and Santam as corporate sponsors. That kind of buy-in seems a whole lot more reassuring than having to rely on (and be limited by) annual handouts from local and regional government.

The membership base is equally impressive - including Coronation Investments, Safmarine, Allan Gray, Pam Golding Properties, Cadiz, I&J, Woolworths, Pick n Pay, Murray & Roberts, Investec, Sekunjalo Investments, Nedbank, Media24, JP Morgan, Spur Corporation, Dubai World Africa and Distell.

But the real trump card is the intellectual capital at Accelerate’s disposal. Board members include KPMG’s strategy and markets director Tim Bashall, Andrew Boraine (CEO of the Cape Town Partnership), Samora Biko (chief operating officer of Circle Capital Ventures), Harvey Christophers (regional boss of Deloitte in Western Cape), Mike Thompson (former MD of Cape of Good Hope Bank), Justin Hardcastle (Managing partner of Webber Wentzel), Ray Cadiz (co-founder of financial services group Cadiz Holdings), Wayne Klahs (CEO of Chevron SA) and Fay Kajee (a director of British American Tobacco SA).

With this in mind it is difficult – even though it is early days – not to regard Accelerate as anything but the most muscular option in driving investment and business opportunities in the region.

In May CBN suspected Accelerate had already found significant momentum that could well see it displacing Wesgro as the ‘default’ option for investment and business promotion in the greater Cape Town area.

Lundy’s board seat at Wesgro may be the first step in confirming such a process – which might well entail merging all or parts of Wesgro into Accelerate. In CBN’s view too many trade promotion bodies could well spoil the stew in the Western Cape.

Lundy notes that part of Accelerate’s Vision 2030 project is working together with other business leaders and organisations on what the economic vision, strategy and business brand of the region should be over the next 20 years.

“It is important that we have a good relationship with other business organisations to make this as effective as possible,” he says.

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