Leadership of the Gauteng Provincial Government
CEO of the GGDA, Mr Saki Zamxaka
CEO of VFS, Mr Jiten Vyas
Captains of Industry here present
Members of the Media
Managers and Officials
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The Ministry and Department of Home Affairs are very grateful to the Gauteng Investment Centre on whose premises the Home Affairs Premium Visa and Permit Service Centre that is anchored by Visa Facilitation Services (VFS) is housed.
According to the financial news agency Bloomberg, the size of South Africa’s economy is US$301 billion, a figure which puts the country back at the number one spot in the continent. Bloomberg’s calculations are based on gross domestic product at the end of 2015 published by the International Monetary Fund.
Such exceptional economic performance is fuelled by the performance of provinces such as the one we are in today, Gauteng Province. Despite having the smallest land area, the province contributes around 34% to the national economy and some 7% to the GDP of the entire African continent.
As a way to contribute to the country’s economic development, among other initiatives, the Department of Home Affairs deemed it necessary to establish this world class centre. It is an important part of the drive to automate Visa application processes, develop a solution for biometric capturing in line with global practice, and manage a dedicated permitting centre, for efficient and timely services to clients.
DHA’s Economic Contribution in the Context of Border Management Authority
As a Department we constantly ensure that our interventions lead to positive economic outcomes. Our introduction of the Border Management Authority (BMA) Bill, 2016 in the past months represents a radical shift from the colonial and apartheid systems that were informed by a desire and a mission to create and sustain racism, hostilities and hatred rather than dignified migration.
The BMA will play an important role in supporting the creation of an inclusive and growing economy at the frontline of our country’s borders by facilitating the legitimate movement of people and goods in line with our socio-economic objectives. We will focus on building the right set of skills for Border Guard officials and on establishing modern and secure infrastructure, information and communication technology platforms that meet the universal standards based on the rule of law.
The BMA will fully embrace the digital revolution and the evolving digitised society and promote prosperity for all and balance these with our national development and security priorities as a country.
Progress Made since the Establishment of the Centre
Exactly 24 months since the launch of the premium centre, it is prudent to assess the impact and progress made thus far, best to ensure there is value in this investment.
It was crucial therefore to convene a Ministerial Interaction with Social Partners who were touched in their different ways by the services we offer at this Centre. Resources of this nature are really not about brick and mortar, or systems and processes exclusively. Interventions of this nature are about people.
There was a need to assemble with corporate clients who are regular users of our visa and permitting service at the centre, to create an environment that is conducive for feedback and accountability for the quality of services we offer. We trust that the unmediated interaction will create spaces for our clients to share their experiences with us, and their ideas on how best we can improve the manner in which we serve.
It is against this background that I thank warmly all business leaders, journalists and our partners at the Gauteng Investment Centre, and in the Province, for making time for the Ministerial Interaction where we could take stock of progress made or otherwise.
Invitations were sent to various corporate clients. In fact, we would have liked to interact with as many social partners as possible, their commitments and schedules permitting.
The work of the Premium VISA Application Centre received a boost in 2015 when President Jacob Zuma set-up the Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) on Investment that would facilitate processes for easing the way of doing business in the Republic and of presenting South Africa as a competitive country, for investment. With regard to focus areas, the IMC on Investment was, among other things, intended to look at:
1. Rollout of one stop service points across departments
2. Overall coordination of investment
3. Building trust between private and public sectors
4. Promoting private sector investment
5. Economic policy and regulatory framework
6. Promotion of large scale projects and regional integration.
Purpose of the one stop shop
The purpose of one stop agencies was to ease the way of doing business, to support competitiveness, and to unlock blockages. This came also as a direct response to requests from businesses for integrated services, more especially on matters of regulation and licensing.
For example, you would have more than 18 national government departments that are involved in investment in one way or the other, wherein investors would be required to approach these departments for services that would ultimately allow them to operate.
Clearly, better coordination was required to cut down on ‘red-tape’ and cost of doing business in South Africa. A good story to tell in this regard is the Gauteng Growth and Development Agency (GGDA), which stems from the merger between Blue IQ Investment Holdings and Gauteng Economic Development Agency.
The GGDA was established to spearhead and coordinate economic development efforts for the Gauteng Province. It had as a mandate, securing greater convenience for potential investors and exporters.
The GGDA thus serves as a one stop shop offering efficient services to enable investors and exporters to do business with ease. It is in this manner that GGDA plays a crucial role in developing the Gauteng and South African economy.
To its credit, the Department of Home Affairs has been able to support these initiatives. When the IMC on Investment was established, in December 2015, the Department had already taken a conscious decision to roll-out Premium Visa and Permit Service Centres in the provinces.
You would know that the Sandton Premium Centre was launched, in partnership with VFS, in May 2015, thus this assessment with Captains of Industry, focused on the first 24 months of the Centre. We started this project in this province for the reason that Gauteng was the first Province to have a functional investor centre and facilities wherein a premium visa and permit service centre could be established.
Premium Visa and Permit Service Centre in Sandton
This followed the partnership the Department of Home Affairs entered into with VFS Global and the Gauteng Provincial Government’s Gauteng Growth and Development Agency with the intention to facilitate increased investment into South Africa.
Over the past 24 months, the focus of the partnership has been on making it easier for corporate clients to process visa and permit applications at the Sandton Premium Visa and Permit Service Centre, since 20 May 2015. The partnership followed the appointment of VFS Global, in 2013, by the Department of Home Affairs, to manage 11 visa processing centres throughout South Africa.
VFS Global is the world’s largest outsourcing and technology services specialist for governments and diplomatic missions worldwide. It manages visa and passport issuance-related administrative and non-judgmental tasks for its client governments.
Targeted Clients for Corporate Accounts
As per international practice, the targeted client is usually the applicant who is an investor, manager, or expert in a particular occupation or academic field, and those who are part of the client’s family.
Thus, the target market of the centre is senior executives of major multinational corporates, South African banks, international employees and students, investors and business persons, foreign health and medical professionals whose applications are recommended by the National Department of Health, as well as applicants who are in the Republic as part of Treaty Agreements between South Africa and their countries.
Applications for visas made at the Gauteng Investment Centre are managed by the specialised DHA Corporate Accounts Unit.
Criteria for Corporate Account Status
Accreditation as a corporate account client started with a formal invitation to potential clients to apply for status. The first invitation was issued through a government gazette in December 2006.
A total of 120 corporates were granted the corporate account status. Among them were Total, BP and Shell from the oil and gas industry, BMW, Mercedes Benz SA, Toyota, VW and others from the automotive industry and KPMG, Price Water Coopers, EY and Deloitte from the financial sector.
State owned entities such as SASOL, ESKOM, PRASA and Metrorail were granted honorary accreditation in light of the national importance of infrastructure projects with which they were involved. Similar honorary accreditation is granted automatically to recognized institutions of higher learning, major banks, government departments and agencies such as the National Research Foundation and the Square Kilometre Array (SKA).
The First 24 months of the Sandton Premium Centre
You already know that the Corporate Accounts Unit facilitates work visa applications of large companies and manages stakeholder relations in this regard. The work of this strategic unit is enhanced by the one stop shop in that visa applications here are processed with highly reduced turnaround times.
For instance, an application for temporary residence visa takes between 3 days to 4 weeks to finalise and permanent residence applications take between 3 to 4 months to finalise. This means all applications at the premium centre are finalized in half the time.
Our reports show that by July 2017, the Premium Centre at the GGDA had processed 1 301 visa and permit applications from corporate clients, from various business sectors.
A total of 2 872 applications were processed in 2016, and 923 in 2015, bringing the total between 2015 and 2017 to 5 096.
The Centre proved its professionalism and efficiency when it had to change the name of the employer on the work visas of employees of AB Inbev Africa (Pty) Ltd. This was after a change of control between AB Inbev and SABMiller, in October 2016. That process was facilitated and concluded within record time in this premium visa and permit centre for all of the senior executives affected by the change.
Another good story to tell in this regard is that of Choppies Enterprises. Through Corporate Accounts, the Department issued a Corporate Visa to Choppies in 2013. In January this year, Choppies announced that it plans to expand its number of stores in southern Africa by almost 25 percent over the next two years. It plans to open 26 supermarkets at a cost of about R300 million ($22.6 million). This will include growth in the South African province of KwaZulu-Natal. Ten of the new stores will be in Zambia and one or two are planned for Zimbabwe.
I was told by my officials that the CEO is here with us and I hope he will be able to share with us some of the best experiences he has had in terms of the level of service received from the Department as well as employment opportunities created, particularly in the rural areas where Choppies Enterprises has most of its stores.
To replicate these achievements, I am happy to announce that this year, in August, another Premium Visa and Permit centre will be opened at the new Cape Investor Centre. All stakeholders within the new centre will soon receive invitations to the launch.
In conclusion, you will agree with me when I say that the Department of Home Affairs has a huge responsibility to ensure visas and permanent residence permits are issued as expeditiously as possible and on the basis of simplified procedures and objective, predictable and reasonable requirements and criteria, and without consuming excessive administrative capacity. Part of this daily exercise requires that over and above offering basic immigration services, the Department should align itself with the market and sector needs of different corporates.
Ladies and gentlemen, as we speak, officials from the Corporate Accounts unit of the Department are in talks with BMW Group South Africa on how we can efficiently facilitate the movement of technicians and artisans into South Africa, and South African BMW technicians and artisans into other BMW global production plants.
This movement of people resources is in relation to the new generation BMW X3 Project at BMW Plant Rosslyn, where production is expected to commence in early 2018. The officials here locally, through Foreign Office Co-ordination, will be liaising with their colleagues at the South African High Commission in both Munich and Berlin in Germany, the United States of America and China, to ensure minimal disruption to the project in as far as obtaining visas is concerned.
I do believe though that we can do even more together to move South Africa forward, and to bring value to all of our shareholders and all of our stakeholders.
I invite your input and feedback the better to improve on services we offer. And thank you all for making time for this Ministerial interaction!