Maputo, Mozambique. Picture: REUTERS/Grant Lee Neuenburg
Maputo, Mozambique. Picture: REUTERS/Grant Lee Neuenburg

Business Day should not allow political noise to distract it from underlying economic priorities. So why describe Siyabonga Nene’s venture in Mozambique as “an obscure and risky investment”, a “strange”, “as much as Nene was an exception ... ”(October 9).

References to “oil refineries” are just misleading, dog-whistle language for hydrocarbon corruption. The missing descriptor is “vegetable” oil refinery and there is nothing obviously strange about it.

Nampula Province has long produced oilseeds, starting with slave labour cotton seed in colonial times. More recently, production of soya beans by independent smallholder farmers has expanded rapidly, generating useful rural incomes and supporting a growing poultry industry.

South and Southern Africa’s economic planning emphasises the importance of agroprocessing. So an investment in oilseed processing is completely in line with industrial development policies.

We need to advocate greater regional integration to support more equitable economic development at home and in the region. And oilseed production and processing in Mozambique is precisely the sort of “real economy” investment that we ought to be making.

It’s in SA’s interest too. We supply more than 30% of Mozambique’s imports. But India has become their biggest export destination and is well placed to erode what short-sighted South Africans have always considered to be “our market”.

So, while the PIC must consider the risks (and Nampula is reputed to be a hub of global drugs trading), the formal investment is exactly what we should be encouraging, not criticising. 

Mike Muller
Wits School of Governance