JOHANNESBURG –Whether you drive north-south or east-west, a whistle stop tour of Gauteng reveals some encouraging trends. The province is on a development drive and it’s about a lot more than the impressive number of cranes in Sandton.
The development of economic infrastructure in the province is one of the jobs of the Gauteng Growth and Development Agency (GGDA). Projects range from the Jewellery Manufacturers Precinct (JMP) on the East Rand (Ekurhuleni) to The Innovation Hub in Tshwane. Some build on the country’s existing resources and skills, while others promote new skills as the province actively develops a more diversified economy.
Many of the world’s most beautiful gemstones are found lying in South Africa’s land. Raw resources are valuable; turning them into finished goods creates more employment opportunities and greater value.
This was the idea behind the Jewellery Manufacturing Precinct, launched 3 years ago with the purpose of improving South Africa’s jewellery manufacturing capabilities. The precinct is located in the OR Tambo Industrial Development Zone, a custom controlled zone for high value exports.
The JMP is progressing well. “There is onsite development of bulk infrastructure such as roads and water, sewer and electricity services,” says Saki Zamxaka, Group CEO for the Gauteng Growth and Development Agency.
“A contractor is working onsite bulk infrastructure and development of the first building is underway. This building will house support services to the JMP and will including regulatory institutions”
Zamxaka says the vision is to make the JMP the biggest centre, in South Africa with links to other centres in the province.
If the JMP relies on South Africa’s natural resources for its start in life, consider the other side – the knowledge economy.
One of the successes of the GGDA has been The Innovation Hub (TIH), an internationally benchmarked science and technology park. TIH is close to institutions of scientific innovation like the CSIR and the University of Pretoria, key for a centre that incubates and supports the commercialisation of new technology projects, and grows hi-tech businesses.
“Developments like TIH ensure that South Africa is ready for, and can take advantage of the knowledge economy,” says Zamxaka.
He says there are two projects underway at TIH, one of which will involve private sector funding, designing, building, operating, maintaining and handover of two enterprise buildings (multi-tenant buildings) over a concessionary period of about 40 years. A prequalification process has been completed and Requests for Proposals (RFPs) were invited. The successful developer is due to be announced by the end of this year. These buildings will accommodate companies in the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sectors including other sectors such as renewable energy etc.
Also located within TIH is the Gauteng BioPark, a biosciences incubator that offers opportunities for commercialisation to early stage biotech companies by providing business development support. Zamxaka says the Phase 1 building of the BioPark was completed in 2014, and currently Phase 2 is under construction. The BioPark also accommodates a very sophisticated clean room including start-up companies in a climate innovation centre aimed at supporting the incubation of companies that will commercialise technologies and innovation for water, energy and food security.
The GGDA has also focused on a Township Economic Revitalisation (TER) strategy that will see existing township enterprises and industrial hubs refurbished and new hubs built. Zamxaka says that by the end of the 2015/16 financial year six hubs in Gauteng were completed. The second phase of the project is underway. “In total 23 township hubs will be revitalised, 16 of these will have been refurbishments; the others are new developments, across the province townships.”
The GGDA has played a key role in developing one of the province’s major heritage and tourist destination; Constitution Hill in Braamfontein, Johannesburg. The need for further development at Constitution Hill has been identified and two projects are underway. The first being the development of the Visitors Centre Building. “We reviewed plans to expand and set up major conferencing facilities and office space,” says Zamxaka. “We are now at procurement stage.”
The second is the development of the remaining land parcels and existing old buildings. This is planned to be undertaken as a PPP and therefore by the private sector partnerships. The project will have a huge impact on the functioning of the Braamfontein environs and accelerate inner city revitalisation.
One project in the early stages is the development of a Gauteng Science and Hi-Tech Special Economic Zone (SEZ). Zamxaka says two 1 000 hectare sites have been identified and the most suitable site will be selected soon after feasibility studies have been concluded. This project will be undertaken in partnership with the Chinese government.
Finance for projects are provided primarily by the GGDA shareholders, the Gauteng Department of Economic Development, but Zamxaka says funding is always a challenge because there are so many competing needs. The GGDA deals only with economic infrastructure, not social infrastructure like schools and hospitals.
Many of the projects the GGDA undertakes have a strong green theme and Zamxaka says sustainability is a strategy of the agency. “There is always space for green technologies in infrastructure development.”
The Gauteng province is developing and building. Importantly, many of these projects have already created employment. Development has not been without challenges but the agency has adapted and continues to focus on growing a diversified economy.
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