South Africa's minister of arts and culture Dr Z. Pallo Jordan has promised his ministry's help in setting up "state-of-the-art" studios for South African musicians.

The politician made his pledge Aug. 22 when he delivered the keynote speech to open the fourth annual Moshito Music Conference and Exhibition.

Claiming that the local music industry was worth 7.4 billion rand ($1 billion) and employed more than 20,500 people, Jordan said his goal was to establish studios in South Africa's "musical hotspots," with mobile studios reaching rural areas.

Jordan did not elaborate on the project, but hinted that his department was looking for co-funding. His department would work with the Creative Workers Union of South Africa -- a musician-driven union -- to launch the initiative.

Jordan, however, drew criticism from several delegates for being "out of touch" when, during his speech, he pin-pointed "Virgin and Tower Records" as potential "marketing company partners" that could help take South African music to the world.

Other topics under the microscope at Moshito include piracy, music education, digital issues and the "Needletime" scheme, which introduces royalty payments for the public broadcast of sound recordings for the first time.

The four-day event, which concludes Aug. 25, is held at the Museum Africa in the city's Newtown Cultural precinct. It has attracted close to 500 delegates from around South Africa as well as 30-plus exhibitors.