Foreign direct investment of Chinese SMEs in the Free State
According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor survey, South Africa has a low early stage entrepreneurial activity rate of 7.8%, which is significantly lower than the average for all efficiency-driven economies (11.4%) as well as the average for all middle to low income countries (13.2%).Also, high levels of poverty, income inequality and unemployment are major issues that impact the economic growth of South Africa. Pahad (2008) acknowledged that South Africa’s social-economic goals are to reduce inequalities, reduce wealth and asset gaps between rich and poor, halve unemployment by 2014 and meet the Millennium Development Goals. However, one way of solving these issues is to encourage more foreign SMEs as they are capable of providing investment injections in various sectors of South Africa’s economy, such as agriculture, industry, education, and health. Likewise, these foreign SMEs can help eradicate poverty, improve employment and reduce income inequality and wealth disparity between the rich and poor. The main objective of this study was to investigate the motives of Chinese SMEs foreign direct investment in the Free State Province (FSP) and their perception about the external business environment in South Africa. The study examine empirically the motives of Chinese SMEs operating in the Free State province and determined if they were driven by the supply/resourcebased or the market driven factors. The study also identified the external environmental factors which can hinder foreign SMEs from investment in South Africa. Across-sectional study using the survey method was used to collect the data. Simple random sampling method and a non-probability snowball sampling method were used to determine the sample size of Chinese SMEs in the Free State province. A standard questionnaire was designed after a detailed literature review of the business environment and foreign SMEs investments. Data was gathered through self-administered questionnaires. The specific methods of data analyses used include descriptive statistics, cross-tabulations, frequency tables and T-tests. Reliability was tested using the Cronbach’s Alpha. Pre-testing the research instrument in a pilot study was used to determine the validity of the research. ii The research findings showed that the motives of the Chinese SMEs foreign direct investment in the Free State was predominantly market-seeking FDI. The findings also showed that the many external factors were impacting the operation of the foreign businesses negatively with crime, corruption, labour regulations and xenophobia being reckoned as the main external factors severely impacting the businesses. In addition, the Chinese SMEs had a negative perception about the external business environment of South Africa with 86% of them indicating that they had suffered from crime. Furthermore, the empirical findings revealed that SMEs in the manufacturing sector employed the highest number of employees and have stayed in SA for a longer period. Similarly, most of the exporters were in the manufacturing sector. However, the majority of those who were unsatisfied about their investment decisions and were willing to leave South Africa were in the manufacturing sector. The study provided some recommendations to improve the external business environment of SA so that more effective and efficient FDI is attracted. The recommendations include the need to improve the fight against crime as it is seen as the number one factor impacting and deterring away FDIs from SA. To attract sufficient supply/resource-based FDI, the government also needs to improve its labour regulations, thus easing the hiring process. To add, South Africa has to make its legal system more efficient by shortening the long procedures and duration of court judgments as well as making it more affordable. A better legal system can reduce crime, corruption and unethical behaviour.
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