US, Gauteng deepen tech ties as diplomatic dispute thaws

Admire Moyo
By Admire Moyo, ITWeb's news editor.
Johannesburg, 14 Sept 2023
Over the years, the economic relationship between the US and Gauteng province has grown.
Over the years, the economic relationship between the US and Gauteng province has grown.

As diplomatic relationships between South Africa and the US remain dicey, the latter and the Gauteng Provincial Government are looking to accelerate co-operation on the technology front.

This, after Gauteng economic development MEC Tasneem Motara and US consul-general Vincent Spera yesterday briefed the media in Sandton following their recent trade mission to the US.

According to the provincial government, the mission, which took place between 25 August and 3 September, marked a milestone in strengthening bilateral ties and fostering economic growth between the US and the Gauteng region, South Africa’s economic heartland.

The visit came after simmering diplomatic tensions between South Africa and the US about South Africa’s non-aligned stance over the raging war in Ukraine.

Led by Motara and Spera, the delegation included economic planning deputy director-general Bulumko Nelana and Vaal Special Economic Zone CEO Xola Sithole.

The delegation visited several government agencies, and companies, such as Ford Motor Company, Citi Bank, Intel, Amazon Web Services Skills Centre and SGH2 Energy.

The provincial government notes some of the companies have already pledged interest to invest in Gauteng, while others were lobbied to consider the province as an investment destination.

Among other commitments, Gauteng and the US pledged to deepen innovation collaboration.

Government engaged with US technology giants and stakeholders to foster collaborations in technology transfer, innovation and commercialisation, specifically focusing on artificial intelligence capabilities and cloud computing.

MEC Motara highlighted the role US investment plays in the South African economy, adding some of it will catalyse the Vaal Special Economic Zone in the province’s southern region.

“The US post mission represents a tremendous opportunity for the Gauteng economy,” she said. “The agreements and partnerships forged during this visit are projected to result in billions of dollars in investment and economic growth. These developments are expected to have a positive ripple effect, creating employment opportunities, driving innovation and improving the overall quality of life for residents of Gauteng.”

Consul-general Spera said US companies had pledged investments and ploughed about R4 billion into SA in the last six months.

Collectively, he added, American companies employ 220 000 South Africans. “This mission has reaffirmed the strong and enduring partnership between the United States and Gauteng. We are excited about the tremendous potential for economic growth, innovation and collaboration that has emerged from this visit. Together, we are poised to achieve great things,” he said.

The US and Gauteng say they remain committed to building upon the foundations laid during this mission, fostering mutual prosperity and strengthening the bonds of friendship between the nations.

The entities have also forged a Trade-Investment Framework, which will foster an equitable partnership to pave the way for agency-to-agency collaboration between the two governments in digital technologies and ICT; urban development/township economy, tourism and creative industries; transportation, infrastructure and logistics; agriculture; as well as climate and energy.

The Gauteng Provincial Government and the US believe the working group framework will help to provide structure to their continued engagement, provide greater growth and prosperity for both South Africa and the US, and encourage policies that increase openness and competition within the region.

Over the years, the economic relationship between the US and Gauteng Province has been robust and growing.

In a statement, the US Embassy in South Africa says in 2020, bilateral trade grew despite the COVID-19 pandemic and reached a record $21 billion (R395 billion) last year.

“US-sourced foreign direct investment has created more jobs than any other country. Hundreds of companies in Gauteng export to the United States as part of this reciprocal trade. Gauteng companies are also setting up operations in the United States or forming commercial partnerships with US companies. The Trade-Investment Framework looks to build on these and many other past successes,” it says.