By Wezi Tjaronda WINDHOEK Philips, a global electronics company will embark on feasibility studies for the establishment of energy-saving bulbs production facilities in Southern Africa. This is deemed one of the ways in which the region could participate in the electrical and electronics sector, while at the same time contributing to energy security and sustainable development. Philips, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) organized a regional conference in South Africa last week, which focused on the region’s potential to produce, trade and invest in the electrical and electronic sector. The sector is one of the new and dynamic sectors of world trade. It is believed that the plant will be set up in South Africa, considering its wide domestic market and developed infrastructure, which many countries in the region do not have. While many countries have small domestic markets, they are also confronted by problems of logistics. The widespread use of these light bulbs will also play a significant role in alleviating the looming energy crisis caused by the fact that electricity demand is expected to surpass electricity supply in Southern Africa in 2007, said Hennie Fourie, Chief Executive Officer of the Namibia Manufacturers Association (NMA), who represented the private sector at the meeting. The conference which was attended by 11 Southern African countries, namely Namibia, Botswana, Lesotho, Mauritius, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe, reviewed the factors affecting production, investment and trade in the sector. Participants also discussed the roles of governments and the private sector towards improving supply capacity and also explored the case for developing energy-saving light bulbs in the region. In recommendations after the conference, it was felt that promoting transnational public-private partnerships to establish or improve cost effective competitive supply capacity in the electrical and electronic sector are vital, with such a partnership being a long-term venture aimed at helping countries move into global production and value chains in the sector. As important prerequisites, the meeting identified stable and predictable investment environments, favourable harmonized regional market conditions, reliable transport infrastructure, responsive and reliable distributive works, secure and competitive telecom and energy infrastructure as well as proximity of national/regional key input and associated service providers and also secure and predictable access to the integrated regional market. It was noticed at the UNCTAD Expert Meeting on Dynamic and New Sectors of World Trade held in Geneva in October 2005 that the world’s 50 least developed countries (LDCs), most of which are in sub-Saharan Africa, and African countries in general, have not been able to participate in or reap the benefits from rapidly growing markets for electronics products. The NMA said in a press statement that successful experiences elsewhere indicate that it is vital for governments to make careful, realistic choices that enhance a country’s comparative advantages, and that such advantages should be matched with sub-sectors of the electronics industry where they will have the greatest possibility of providing competitive products. Energy-saving light bulbs were identified as such a potential product because they are relatively simple, yet technologically advanced. The intention is to move progressively from simple assembly operations to integration of small- and medium-sized firms into the supply and production networks of the international electronics industry.