Reasons to smile

Total South Africa is investing R140 million in its facilities.

I am one of the most positive people on the planet – I’ve never seen a glass half empty in my life. (And no, that’s not because it’s always being topped up.) But recent events are making me grin even more than usual …

Two particular events are giving me that warm and fuzzy feeling. The first is Truck Test 2013, which we will feature extensively in the next issue of FOCUS. What an event! I have had the absolute privilege of attending many industry events but this one really took the cake (and the icing and the cream nogal). It was just incredible …

To be frank, I started getting a little bit apprehensive three months before Truck Test 2013. That’s because one or two manufacturers mentioned difficulties with sourcing vehicles and bodies. “I am sure it will all work out,” I trumpeted, in typically positive Charleen fashion. We suggested sourcing vehicles from customers or dealers, offered help with sourcing bodies … and then we worried …

But, come the start of Truck Test 2013, everything came together so magnificently. And, laugh if you wish, I confess to having a tear in my eye when I saw the entourage of trucks line up at Engen Hartbeespoort for the start of the event. They looked just as gorgeous as the glistening dam down the road (and smelt much, much better).

The manufacturers really went the whole hog, branding their vehicles magnificently. The sponsors – thank you Engen and Ctrack – did a great job, as did Fritz Hellberg, our wonderful organiser. And the vibe was just great. Yes, everyone was competitive … but it was like a gathering of buddies. It made me ever so proud to be in this industry – and I am sure that the manufacturers will all be justifiably proud of their results.

Continent of hope

The second event was a breakfast hosted by Total South Africa, during which the fuel and lubricants specialist announced that it would be investing more than R140 million over the next two years in upgrading its blending plant and expanding the storage capacity of its fuel depot, both located at Durban’s Island View Terminal facility. This announcement, in itself, is extremely positive news; any investment in South Africa is reason to celebrate.

But the highlight of the event was a presentation by Dr Azar Jammine, director and chief economist at Econometrix. He chatted about our continent, pointing out that “Africa is looming as the big growth region of the world in the next decade”.

According to Jammine, there are a number of reasons why Africa holds so much potential. “It has the fastest growing population in the world. The other aspect driving growth is urbanisation; sub-Saharan Africa is the least urbanised region in the world but this is changing fast,” he noted.

Jammine noted that it’s not all milk and honey – we do have some enormous challenges in our country and our region. Two of the biggest are a lack of education and our shocking productivity statistics.

Christian des Closières, MD and CEO of TOTAL South Africa, says the company is committed to growing its business in South Africa and southern Africa.But there is lots and lots of good news. Jammine showed gazillions of fascinating statistics (available at a click on our website). Just one showed the relative youth of our population. “Where are the world’s opportunities? Those areas where the proportion of young people is the greatest and pensions for the elderly are least required,” he pointed out. (Sub-Saharan Africa, which has a growing workforce, fits this bill perfectly.)

Furthermore, life expectancy is improving in our region – largely thanks to the fact that we’re winning the war on HIV/Aids.

Another fascinating statistic related to the condition of our roads. This is something that we all moan about – constantly. But guess what? The roads in the United States have deteriorated more than ours!

The most upbeat statistic related to growth forecasts published by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) just last month. The United States is predicted to grow by 1,9 percent this year and three percent in 2014. Europe is expected to decline by 0,3 percent this year and grow by 1,1 percent next year. And sub-Saharan Africa? The IMF is expecting growth of 5,6 percent in 2013 and 6,2 percent in 2014.

Clearly this is a very good place to be.

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