The highlight of the year for local business is the Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber’s Annual Banquet – held this year on Friday 6 November and attended by over 700 guests.
Chamber President Ian Nicholls delivered an impactful speech which appears below:
Over the years I have attended the Chamber Banquet as a member company representative, so like most of you in the audience, I have always watched the President’s speech from afar and from the comfort of my chair (with a drink in my hand). I must admit there were times when I found myself nodding off and wishing that the speeches were shorter or punchier. And of course, Mandla I am not referencing the last three years.
But never did I anticipate that I would end up having to put my money where my mouth is. Tonight I will give it a go and hopefully I will live up to my own expectations!
So let’s spend a bit of time reflecting on the highlights of 2015.
From a business environment perspective, whilst there were challenges – and I am not going to dwell too much on these – there were some encouraging developments like:
- the completion of the R2-billion Baywest Mall;
- the Coega Development Corporation’s record investment year whereby 19 companies have committed to investments of R1.8 billion;
- Transnet’s completion of its third and fourth berths at the Coega container terminal valued at R2-billion and the continued investment of over R26-billion in the manganese corridor – with the first manganese expected to be exported from here in 2019;
- In the motor industry Volkswagen announced that it would invest over R4.5-billion in new models to be produced at its factory by 2017. Ford also recently launched Job 1 of its latest generation engines at the Struandale Engine Plant and also increased the plant’s capacity and overseas customer base. And of course I couldn’t miss the opportunity to put in a punt for General Motors South Africa. We achieved an important milestone when we signed a framework agreement with Isuzu Motors Limited to build light commercial vehicles at significantly higher volume in the future. More details around this will be announced during the course of next year;
- We have also noted the positive moves regarding the marina development at the Port Elizabeth Port and we trust that the deadline to move the tank farm and ore berth to Coega by 2019 will remain firmly pegged in the ground;
- And finally the Baakens Valley prescient project is picking up momentum, and this will ultimately yield significant benefits to our tourism and retail sectors.
Looking now at the Chamber – this was a year of consolidation and greater focus for us.
The Board felt that it was important that we take a step back and reassess the role we play as the voice of business in the Metro. And there was unanimous agreement that the Chamber must be the leading force in ensuring that an enabling environment is in place – one in which our members and business in general can operate successfully. We therefore decided to narrow down our focus to the areas which matter most to our members. This has formed the cornerstone of our one page strategy and these priorities include electricity, Water, Roads and Metro Capacity Building.
We are in the process of integrating this strategy more deeply within our various structures. This covers everything from the Chamber Board, to EXCO and other committees, the Chamber organisation itself and very importantly to our task teams. We need to ensure that all our structures are aligned to these priorities and are set up to deliver.
These task teams need to play a critical role in the Chamber and I would like to encourage members to commit their expertise, time and knowledge to drive business success in the Metro.
It is early days yet but we are starting to make inroads. In fact earlier this year the Chamber – ably represented by Deputy President MC Botha and Task Team Chairman Angus Clark – were part of the team who convinced NERSA not to allow ESKOM to hike electricity tariffs up by an additional 9.6%.
This was a big win in terms of creating more cost reflective electricity tariffs in the country, and in this city. If ESKOM had got its way, each one of us in this room – would have had to fork out over R2400 per annum extra in electricity tariffs per household! Isn’t this a great opportunity for us all to put our hands together and give the team a round of applause – from the bottom of our pockets.
The Chamber also worked with high energy users to secure an agreement with the Municipality to reduce electricity charges to industry, thereby ensuring the continued sustainability of these and other businesses.
Our Board also engaged Minister Pravin Gordhan, in very frank discussions about the issues impacting on business in this Metro. These included poor municipal planning, a shortage of skills within key departments, as well as the lack of maintenance and investment in electricity, water and transport infrastructure in the city. The Minister was very forthright in his responses and committed to working with the Metro, to address the critical issues which matter to business. And you should expect the Chamber to continue to be vocal about ensuring that this happens.
Furthermore we will continue to lobby for:
- the completion of the Nooitgedacht pipeline so that security of water supply to our region can be established;
- the upgrade of the Fish Water Flats to be completed so that the treatment plant can cope with additional demands on the system.
- The completion of the Return Effluent Scheme – a pipeline where recycled water from the Fish Water Flats will be supplied to the Coega IDZ.
- And the much needed maintenance of roads in and around the city and the Addo road in particular.
So ladies and gentlemen, as you can tell, my comments tonight are less about reflecting upon the year that was, but rather on the road (hopefully not pot-holed) ahead.
I am going to talk about membership numbers, so you all need to listen properly. Number 1 was given a complicated set of numbers to read in his speech. Learning from this, I made absolutely sure that our numbers are much easier to read. So here I go: The Chamber has over 700 members – who together employ over 60 000 people in this Metro.
You have my commitment and that of the Board that in the coming months we will be elevating our focus on these strategic areas to ensure delivery in what matters most to members. Change is happening at a faster pace than ever before, which is why it is important that the Chamber is flexible, responsive and proactive.
Key changes that we will be implementing in 2016 include:
- Ensuring that the Chamber is structured to deliver in line with its objectives;
- Ensuring that value adding services are offered to members;
- The alignment of our task teams to our core priorities;
- Direct and regular engagement with the Metro Executive to promote capacity development within the metro;
- And more robust sharing of feedback to members.
In summary we have to offer an excellent value proposition to our members. While 2015 was a year of consolidation, 2016 will most definitely be a year of clarity, focus and action.
In closing, I would like to thank my valued board members, deputies. Treasurer and the task team members. You have all given of your time on a voluntary basis and for this I am very appreciative. Your contributions have and are making a big difference!
Last but not least, I would also like to acknowledge the Chamber CEO Kevin Hustler and the staff of the Chamber, who are committed to providing value-adding services to our member companies. This year alone they hosted over 70 networking events (reaching almost 2 500 people), issued over 12 000 Certificates of Origin and linked a number of local businesses to international market opportunities.
I hope that as I end my speech, that most importantly (1) you are still awake and (2) secondly you are as excited as I am about the direction the Chamber is heading in. This is our Chamber and it is up to all of us to leverage it as a platform to retain and grow business in the Metro for the long-term.
Thank you for your attention and enjoy the rest of the evening with us.