A delegation of South African automotive component makers will visit the United Kingdom next month to present British manufacturers with possible investment opportunities in SA.

A delegation of South African automotive component makers will visit the United Kingdom next month to present British manufacturers with possible investment opportunities in SA.

According to a report in on Thursday, the trip aims to secure skills transfer and job-creating investment in South Africa as well as partnerships between British and local manufacturers.

The move follows a fruitful visit by an SA automotive components delegation to Japan earlier this year where it was found that there was “exceptional” interest in further investment in South Africa after the extension of the Motor Industry Development Programme to 2012.

CARtoday.com reported at the time that a delegation led by the Gauteng Economic Development Agency’s chief executive, Charles Jonker, had returned from Japan, where they visited the procurements divisions of Toyota, Mazda and Daihatsu to discuss investment in South Africa’s component manufacturing industry. The delegation included Gauteng Premier Mbhazima Shilowa, Clive Williams, executive director of the National Association of Automotive Components and Allied Manufacturers (Naacam), and director-general Mogopodi Mokoena.

They also visited Honda, Mitsubishi, Subaru, Nissan, Nissan Diesel, Hino, Isuzu and the Japan Auto Parts Association. Jonker said there was a good possibility of Denso Corporation, the largest supplier of parts to Toyota, investing in South Africa.

The next delegation will convey that while it may be difficult for UK firms to conquer the US market from their home base (by virtue of the strength of the pound), South Africa's favourable trade access to the US makes the country ideal for export-oriented investment.

Zaida Enver, the UK's trade development adviser in Johannesburg, said the visit to the UK will be a follow-up to a visit to South Africa by a number of British automotive companies last October and a trip to Europe by Trade and Industry Minister Alec Erwin that month.

As well as meeting manufacturers, the SA delegation will meet consultants who advise the British automotive industry on exports.

"It has been an uphill struggle putting SA on the map in the British automotive sector, but we have arrived. We are at a stage where UK companies are talking serious business with SA companies. We've had a few partnerships, and there are more to come," said Enver.

"In partnership with an SA company, they can use SA as a cost-effective base from which to export to the US to take advantage of provisions under the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act, but also to export to other markets such as Australia, China and India."

She said component manufacturers found the UK market expensive as a manufacturing base, and were seeking cheaper alternatives. But although South Africa was cheaper, it had to compete with countries like Brazil, Mexico, China, India and the Czech Republic.

Enver was positive about the mission, but said people would invest in SA for a return on investment, not social reasons. While there were positive factors to attract investors to SA, negative factors included HIV/AIDS, the rand's strength and fear of militant unions.

"SA also has good infrastructure," said Enver. "The ports are overloaded, but they work, telecommunications work, and there is a very sophisticated banking sector."