The Western Cape is enjoying a high-tech boom, an economic fact that will make the upcoming Futurex & Equip exhibition, which is co-located with Securex – the security, safety, fire and protection exhibition, a popular attraction for exhibitors and visitors.
Organised by Exhibitions for Africa – winners of "Best Exhibition Organiser" at the Exhibition Association of Southern Africa (EXSA) 2006 Awards, the shows will be held at the Cape Town Convention Centre from 26-28 September 2007.
According to Wesgro, the Western Cape is home to approximately 10% of South Africa’s population – however, it contributes almost 15% of national output and attracts more than 16% of foreign direct investment destined for South Africa.
The strength of the Western Cape, according to the development agency, lies within its people, diversified economy, modern infrastructure and ability to compete in the international arena.
"Attending the Futurex & Equip or Securex shows in Johannesburg is not always viable for Cape based businesses" says Sandra Galbraith of organiser Exhibitions for Africa, "so we take the show to the people."
The potential of the Cape market is recognised by the many Johannesburg-based companies which will be exhibiting at Futurex & Equip Cape, many as an extension of their presence at the Johannesburg show held in May.
While Gauteng is seen as the country's economic powerhouse, Galbraith points out that the Western Cape is home to many important industries such as financial services, petro-chemical, biotechnology and retail – as well as local and provincial governments and, of course, Parliament.
"All of these industries have normal office equipment, ICT and security needs," Galbraith says.
Cape Town itself is rich in terms of IT infrastructure and local organisations are able to leverage this for their own high-tech installations. The city is serviced by a fibre optic-based Metropolitan Area Network (MAN), while international links are fed via submarine cable and satellite networks.
Cape Town is connected to Europe and the US via the SAT2 fibre optic submarine cable, and cables are currently being laid for a link to the Far East.
In addition, Cape Town lies in the same time zones (GMT+2) as large parts of Europe, thus facilitating communications and eliminating jet lag for international travellers.
Adding to the high-tech flavour in the region are a number of ICT-led initiatives.
Perhaps the biggest is the business process outsourcing (BPO) boom being led by organisations like Wesgro and CallingtheCape. Between them, these two organisations are marketing Cape Town as the off-shoring destination of choice for multinational companies.
The current focus is on call centre outsourcing but moves are afoot to up the level of skills and services offered by Western Cape companies to help the region compete with other off-shoring destinations for lucrative international contracts.
"One of Wesgro's key goals is to roll out call centres as a way of increasing wealth and fostering job creation in the region," Galbraith explains.
"Many companies are starting to look at South Africa, and the Western Cape in particular, as a preferred destination. In many cases, the area has been able to compete with India and win the contracts.
"These moves will help to stimulate interest and implementation of computers and IT across the board."
In fact, Cape Town can already claim the title of call centre capital of South Africa, attracting as many as 75% of all BPO and off-shoring investments in the country.
This includes the contact centre industry, as well as other business processes that are outsourced or off-shored, including back office administration.
According to CallingtheCape, the increase in contact centre activity is estimated to translate into as many as 35 000 new employment opportunities in the Cape metropole. Call centres are located across the region, from the CBD to Bellville, Claremont and Century City.
A total of 2 371 people now work exclusively on offshore programmes in Cape Town, up from about 100 in 2003. This accounts for more than 50% of the total offshore employees in South Africa.
Since 2004, CallingtheCape has facilitated 30 new investment deals from business giants such as Barclays, Shell, Carphone Warehouse, Budget Insurance, Lufthansa, Dialogue Group and Close Brothers.
In total, these investments are worth over R500-million and account for R800-million in annual spend, 50% of which is made up of staff salaries.
The high-tech flavour of the region is further enhanced by the strong Linux and open source software following in the Western Cape, Melville adds, with the University of Cape Town (UCT) leading a number of initiatives in this arena
"This serves to create people who are technology-aware and both willing and able to use ICT.
"Of course, a lot of technology-awareness, and especially the role of open source software, is driven by the success of Mark Shuttleworth who is, himself, a native of Cape Town."
Cape Town is also home to CITI (Cape IT Initiative) which is involved in developing an IT community and driving IT-based entrepreneurship in the region.
With 7 000 members, CITI is well placed to help new companies through the difficult early years and hosts the Bandwidth Barn, a high-tech incubator. "All in all, Cape Town is an IT-savvy city that is looking for IT-savvy solutions," says Galbraith.
With the Western Cape boasting such a diversity of business and industrial interests, Galbraith says Futurex & Equip Cape Town will offer a range of products and solutions targeting companies from SMMEs (small, medium and micro enterprises) to big organisations.
"Just think of the number of SMMEs in the area, ranging from specialised clothing stores to boutique food offerings, from gifts to a culture of design: all of them need to keep accounts, stay in touch with their customers, build and maintain Web sites. They should all be visiting Futurex & Equip Cape Town to shop for the best technology for optimum efficiency in their businesses."
As far as big business goes, with the head offices of many retail, energy, financial services and media organisations based in Cape Town, Galbraith expects to attract a cross-section of IT decision-makers and decision-influencers to the show.
Futurex & Equip, with the co-located hi-tech security show Securex, is bound to attract quality visitors from a broad range of industries.