Cape Town: the innovation gateway.

Posted On Monday, 25 November 2002 10:01 Published by
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The Cape IT Initiative (CITI) this week commended local ICT players on significant strides made in increasing South Africa's overall competitiveness, as a result of technological progress and innovation.
The Cape IT Initiative (CITI) this week commended local ICT players on significant strides made in increasing South Africa's overall competitiveness, as a result of technological progress and innovation.

Earlier, South Africa jumped eight positions in the World Economic Forum's international competitiveness rankings, with its overall technology rankings position moving from 46th place last year to 38th place, out of eighty countries this year. CITI is a not-for-profit public-private partnership focused on developing the ICT cluster in the Western Cape.

John Kotsaftis, CEO of Intelligence/Q, a UUNET Bandwidth Barn tenant, commented: 'Skilled staff and lower labour costs, compared to international competitors, makes South Africa a perfect development ground for overseas companies. These companies have to build software to remain competitive in the global economic downturn, despite budget cuts. In many cases, organisations in the UK and America, have had to shelve projects that would keep them strategic because of financial constraints.

'But by partnering with more cost-effective companies such as Intelligence/Q, our clients abroad have kept their products streaming to market without compromising quality. They have found our software delivery to be as technologically advanced as overseas companies and, in many cases more leading-edge, which is typical of South African companies who are early adopters of technology,' Kotsaftis added.

CITI said collaboration and clustering in the ICT sector were key in the recent global competitiveness rankings. The Forum's rating of South Africa pointed to a competitive exchange rate and sound state of government finances as being important contributors in boosting South Africa's macro-economic environment. 'It is largely through the facilitation of networking and entrepreneurial support that the province has been able to develop and sustain a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship,' said CITI executive Director, Masedi Molosiwa.

CITI houses 48 companies in the UUNET Bandwidth Barn and its virtual community of companies and individuals involved in the industry has grown from a few hundred to nearly 3000.

CITI's aim it is to leverage off the numerous advantages offered by the Western Cape - such as lifestyle attraction, a favourable exchange rate for foreigners, cheaper flights, and a similar time zone to Europe - in order to encourage foreign companies to use the Cape as a launchpad into global markets, and perhaps even encourage local greenfields investment.

This, says Molosiwa, will help fuel the growth of the economy, and address longer-term goals such as job creation and prosperity for all. 'We are particularly encouraged by the growing number of flagship IT companies treating South Africa as a test site for products destined for an international market, most often the UK or Europe,' he said.

Molosiwa said other factors making the Cape attractive for business were: geographic positioning, not only as a link to Europe and Africa but also as a major transport route (via air or ship), its attraction as a 'neutral' tourist destination, the quality of locally developed products and the skills of professionals who understand the unique social and business context in which such products and services will be used.

Cape Town, he said, is also becoming an energetic hub for growing industries such as the film industry, fishing and vertical markets, such as financial services, all of which can harness technology for competitive advantage.

CITI is getting on with the job

CITI has already taken active steps to promote the local ICT sector internationally though various initiatives:

* Working with similar national partnerships, such as The Innovation Hub in Gauteng, CITI has co-ordinated visits by international delegations to South Africa, to exchange ideas on ICT growth drivers. This year, these included a Swedish/Finnish delegation, a Silicon Valley delegation (intended to attract South African business to the US), and an outward mission to Florida and New York, made possible by Wesgro and TISA.

* CITI is working with UCT's Graduate School of Business in facilitating the creation of an international diaspora network of South African professionals working abroad, to pave the way for South African businesses to take advantage of international opportunities.

* The launch of the Cape Lab project to assist Cape-based IT companies to 'go global' has been successful to date and is intended to be the initial driver of a bigger collaborative effort between government and CITI, that will see the ICT sector promoted internationally, on an ongoing basis, so as to attract foreign business to the Cape.

Although CITI focuses on developing the ICT cluster in the Western Cape, its overall aim is to facilitate the creation of jobs and prosperity through IT. It is intent on working with collaborators and great ICT industry minds from all corners of the globe in an effort to raise the international profile of South Africa as a first-class tourist destination and attractive business location.
Publisher: Cape Business News
Source: Cape Business News

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