The gasworld African Conference 2008 is underway in Johannesburg, as members of the industrial gas community around the world gather to discuss the opportunities and challenges ahead in this exciting region.

The Southern Africa Compressed Gases Association’s (SACGA) Albert Spencer welcomed delegates to the conference and opened the event with a few carefully chosen words about the local market and the problems faced, while also thanking visitors for attending the conference and taking part in the debate.

“You will be aware, hopefully, that this is the first conference of its type in Africa and we are very proud to welcome you,” Spencer opened.

“We thank most sincerely all the exhibitors who have set-up promotional spaces and gone to so much trouble. A lot of you have come from a long, long way away and we appreciate that.”

Speaking of his own regard for the challenges ahead across the continent and furthermore, the significance of the conference, Spencer noted, “I believe its very apt in the fact that things have been going tremendously well and there’s been shortages because of that with gases. Things have grown so rapidly over the last two or three years that we can’t keep up with that growth, and the infrastructure itself is playing catch-up - the challenge for Africa itself is very viable.”

“Enjoy this conference, I think it’s a tremendous opportunity for us all. With those few words I’d now like to hand you over to John Raquet who is the Chairman of the first session.”

Having underlined the motivation for the conference, the Spiritus Group’s Raquet introduced the morning’s guest speaker, Kuseni Dlamini, and returned to his seat for the presentation’s to begin.

Officially opening the conference and providing the day’s opening speech, Kuseni Dlamini, Executive Chairman of the Richards Bay Coal Terminal, thanked gasworld for the opportunity to present and immediately addressed the topic of meeting the challenges in Africa.

“It’s a great honour and privilege for me to be here today. We are living in an era marked by common shortages all over the world, only last year we had a shortage of carbon dioxide in Africa and last year a shortage of helium around the world,” he said.

Describing globalisation and the effect of this on both the African continent and more specifically South Africa, Dlamini explained how this is a fundamental factor for development across the African continent and explained, “Globalisation is not something that just imparts on Africa in a negative way, it imparts on us all over the world.”

“I think we need a much more sober debate, a much more informed conversation about the topic of globalisation. It requires us to make the right choices and business and government to work together to make this happen,” Dlamini added.

Discussing the action needed in Africa, Dlamini highlighted the need for not just resources, but also the knowledge and skill-set to accompany this. He explained, “I believe Africa needs to build up the knowledge and expertise in particular areas and industries. Without those things and without the physical infrastructure you cannot get things right. Knowledge intensity is very, very important and I think there is more that is needed to do.”

“I think it is important for Africa – we are lacking in resources but resources are not enough. If you look around the world, countries with the most abundant resources tend to be the poorest – there are many more dimensions and subjects that need to be looked at,” Dlamini continued.

Making the right choices is indeed the theme, with the morning’s session focusing on the challenges faced in the African continent and chaired by John Raquet. This included a probing presentation from Shuaib Fareed, Business Manager for Afrox in South Africa, who took to the lecturn shortly after Dlamini.

Before proceeding with his informative and attractive presentation, Fareed spoke of the relevance of the conference and commented, “It is a great pleasure for me to speak with you about the challenges in Africa.”

Fareed then spoke of the operations of Afrox across South Africa and how the company strives to support the market, the economy and challenges that are often encountered.

Following Fareed’s presentation, a brief refreshments and networking break ensued, with delegates returning for the second morning session, chaired by the SACGA’s Laurie Raison and including presentations from Sasol’s Vincent Govender, Christopher Peck of Dominion Gas and the Spiritus Group’s John Raquet.

Delegates will then break for the first day lunch, sponsored by Inox India Ltd, before the conference continues again in the afternoon- a session chaired by Roy Irani of Gas Package Solutions (GPS) and including speakers such as Logie McKay of Global Gases and Maghreb Oxygene’s Laila Benali.

Stay tuned to the gasworld website for further updates throughout the day.