PRETORIA– Members of South Africa’s Special Economic Zones Advisory Board are in China on a week-long study tour aimed at learning from the Chinese experience in the planning, development and management of Special Economic Zones (SEZs), says the Department of Trade and Industry (dti).

Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry Bulelani Magwanishe says the visit to the Asian economic powerhouse is among capacity-building programmes designed for the board in order to equip its members with diverse and complex approaches to the planning and development of SEZs, which are geographically designated areas of a country set aside for specific and targeted economic activities.

The tour is expected to assist in building capacity to develop proper strategies and policies for SEZs in South Africa. The group will gain insight into the implementation and impact of the SEZ model in China, including lessons on SEZ infrastructure, funding, policy, sustainability, strategy investment promotion strategies and SEZ management structures at the national, provincial and local spheres of government.

One of the strategic initiatives which the government, through the Department of Trade and Industry, has earmarked for accelerating the country’s industrial development agenda is the SEZ Programme, says Magwanishe.

The premise is that SEZs can provide the country with the necessary impetus for promoting industrial development building the required industrial infrastructure, promoting coordinated planning among key government agencies and the private sector, and using the zones to guide the deployment of other necessary development tools.”

He added that China’s SEZ model was the most appropriate for South Africa to learn from as the country had gone through radical economic development, and had had to deal with similar development challenges such as unemployment and poverty which South Africa was facing.

China is the second biggest economy in the world, and South Africa’s biggest trading partner. China’s market remains a key strategic priority for South Africa’s raw material and value-added products. Moreover, China has about 141 zones, with an annual industrial output of over 1.2 trillion yuan (about 180 billion US dollars). China is the most successful country in terms of planning, development and management of SEZs, he said.

The 15-member SEZ Advisory Board is an independent body established by Minister of Trade and Industry Rob Davies through the Special Economic Zones Act to advise him on the policy and strategy for SEZs, as well as on applications for designation.