Less than two months after President Jacob Zuma outlined infrastructure projects that are expected to create jobs, grow the economy and change the way the country functions, two key projects have launched the implementation of this ambitious programme.
Both projects were outlined in the 2012 state of the nation address in which the president unveiled a programme, led by the Presidential Infrastructure Coordination Commission, to establish public infrastructure to improve services to citizens and stimulate job creation and business activity.
Since then, the president has launched the Dube TradePort in KwaZulu-Natal and the Port of Ngqura in the Eastern Cape to demonstrate the government’s commitment to use infrastructure to drive the economy.
The Dube TradePort is a state-of-the-art cargo terminal, trade zone and agrizone located between the southern hemisphere’s two largest sea ports of Durban and Richards Bay.
The Port of Ngqura is the deepest container terminal in Africa, and a key part of Coega, one of the country’s strategic industrial development zones.
These two infrastructure projects embody government’s commitment to building – literally and figuratively – an industrialised economy that tackles the challenges of unemployment and higher economic growth to reduce and ultimately eradicate poverty and inequality.
The Dube TradePort and the Port of Ngqura will help develop better economic links between the country’s outlying areas and the main urban centres, making it easier for companies to export and do business.
They also have the potential to support much more employment through growth in local industries, as they link local producers to international markets.
At the launch of the Dube TradePort, President Zuma said: “As this project demonstrates, there is real scope for growth and finding new markets for agricultural produce, including exports. Other than improving food security, agriculture is an important source of exports.”
The trade port is also set to be southern Africa’s premier logistics platform, given that the Port of Durban provides connections to 53 international destinations and access to local distribution networks.
Likewise, the Port of Ngqura is poised to be a major facilitator of trade as it becomes an important conduit in the movement of goods. The development of a new 16 million tons a year manganese export channel through the port is a prime example.
There is also a planned expansion of the coal channel from 60 million tons a year to 82 million tons a year for the port.
Since about 96% of the country’s exports are conveyed by sea, these two new trade ports further enhance the country’s stature as an international trade destination.
South Africa has eight commercial ports: Richards Bay and Durban in KwaZulu-Natal, East London, Port of Ngqura, Port Elizabeth, Mossel Bay, Cape Town and Saldanha Bay.
South Africa’s economic prospects are inextricably linked to the region and the new trade ports will act as gateways to neighbouring landlocked members of the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
About 95% of all trade to the region passes through these ports and those of east Africa, providing a vital link in the logistic chain that binds southern Africa together.
South African ports are ideally situated to serve as economically viable commercial ports for both the western and eastern seaboards. Located on the southern hemisphere trade routes, they effectively facilitate commercial shipping vessels from the Americas, Europe, Asia and Oceania.
South-south trade will also be enhanced as South Africa is located directly on the shipping trade route between China and Brazil.
It is forecast that over the medium to long term, this route will emerge as a major trading route, changing the dynamics of the international trading system.
Our ports position South Africa to lead in the establishment of a key trade corridor linking Southeast Asia with South America.
Infrastructure projects such as these show government’s capacity to guide economic development – a capacity that is often disputed by those doubting the value or intent of a developmental or interventionist state.
Government has earmarked the transport sector as a key contributor to South Africa’s competitiveness in global markets.
Through large-scale investment such as in the Dube TradePort and Port of Ngqura, the result is more efficient cargo handling, improved infrastructure and better service levels.
Over time the sector will allow the South African economy to become more productive and internationally competitive.
South Africa is moving towards a commercial ports system that is globally competitive, safe and secure, operating at internationally accepted levels of operational efficiency.
Our commercial ports system will serve the economy and meet the needs of port users in a manner that is economically and environmentally sustainable.
In fact, all our infrastructure investment will lead to increased productivity that typically follows large-scale public infrastructure development.
For example, among the five major geographical projects announced by President Zuma in his state of the nation address is the improved movement of goods through Gauteng, the Free State and KwaZulu-Natal with the development of a logistics and industrial corridor.
The corridor will connect the major economic centres of these provinces, and at the same time, link these centres with an improved export capacity through Durban harbour.
The Dube TradePort demonstrates how carefully designed infrastructure can stimulate economic growth and development. The construction phase has already generated close to 20000 jobs in each of the past two years.
The Port of Ngqura has been integrated with the Coega industrial development zone to allow for greater efficiency for exporters. Recently, First Automobile Works of China invested R600m in a state-of-the-art production plant in Coega, which confirms the potential to attract foreign direct investment, which in turn boosts the creation of employment.
The Port of Ngqura has made it possible for the Eastern Cape economy to benefit from the minerals industry. The province recently announced the development of two ferromanganese smelters that will manufacture a fully beneficiated product destined for the export market.
As a country, we are laying the foundation over the next 20 years for greater growth, improved service delivery and job creation.
Watching this space should become a national pastime – because this space will be changing all the time.
Jimmy Manyi is head of Government Communication and Information System