The commitment by the national government and local authorities to invest significantly in infrastructure development at all levels in South Africa presents a unique and exciting opportunity for the private sector to contribute meaningfully to communities
There has been much talk around public-private partnerships (PPPs) in recent years, but while the take-up has been slow, there have been some excellent examples of the principle at work. Such partnerships present massive opportunities to all parties.
Private sector participants benefit from the opportunity by being able to take a leading role in the economic development of the country, which naturally translates into long-term income and growth opportunities for their businesses.
The public sector, in turn, is able to enjoy the benefit of quality entrepreneurial experience, and more importantly, growth in employment. It also attains a much greater level of financial independence by drawing funding that frees it from the budgetary limitations that can so often hamstring the very best of government intentions.
Of course, the primary beneficiaries of any PPP are, and certainly should be, the people and communities who typically gain increasing access to employment, housing, health care and education opportunities when the government and business sectors work together effectively.
The public sector has long recognised the broad-based value of such empowering partnerships, and recently the national government has expressed its desire to harness the power of the PPP to deliver on its infrastructure and social development visions and objectives.
Human settlements, for example, are the most obvious social development area where the full value of partnerships between the public and private sectors can be unlocked in the shortest time and for the benefit of large portions of the population.
While local governments typically hold large portfolios of state-owned land, their limited resources restrict transforming such land into opportunities for the benefit of communities, whether these opportunities take the form of housing offerings, accessible retail developments or job-creating commercial and industrial nodes.
For this reason, the public sector is increasingly turning its attention to actively seeking out opportunities to turn its policy ideals into practical, business-based reality, by utilising publicly owned land in a way that capitalises on its inherent value while providing social benefits and meeting growing societal needs.
At the same time, this presents the private sector with untold opportunities to deliver on its triple bottom line objectives.
The extent of these benefits, for all PPP stakeholders, was recently reinforced for Nedbank Corporate Property Finance through a partnership that includes the eThekwini Municipality and Carlos Correia, a private retail property developer in KwaZulu-Natal.
Enabled by Nedbank’s provision of a R273 million loan, the significant KwaMnyandu growth node in Umlazi will soon boast a major shopping precinct, spanning 23 000m² of gross lettable area, built on land leased from the Passenger Rail Agency of SA.
Another case in point of the private sector engaging in a more reciprocal fashion with underserviced communities, is evidenced in Correia’s engagement with black economic empowerment consortium Udengezi Holdings, a minority shareholder in the shopping centre. Udengezi comprises physically challenged individuals, among others.
The KwaMnyandu Shopping Centre adjoins the second-busiest station in KwaZulu-Natal, ensuring maximum foot traffic for the centre and total convenience and access for the surrounding communities. The centre will have the first Pick n Pay store in Umlazi as a major anchor tenant, in addition to Shoprite Checkers.
Importantly, the fact that the new centre is located in the heart of a vital growth node identified by the eThekwini administration adds a significant long-term community upliftment aspect to the development.
PPPs that focus on this type of property growth within developing nodes and previously under-serviced areas will facilitate economic growth, employment opportunities and sustainable transformation. They are also strong enablers of the government’s stated desire to move from merely building houses to providing integrated human settlements that offer people homes and serve to enhance their lifestyles and personal development opportunities.
As the largest South African township after Soweto, Umlazi is a top priority area for the southern development planning region and is integral to the local government’s development plans for the entire region and its people and businesses.
The only way these development plans, and indeed similar plans in the country, can be fully realised is through workable partnerships between local government entities and like-minded private businesses that recognise the opportunities and the privilege inherent in helping to drive socio-economic development.
Anand Joseph is the KwaZulu-Natal regional executive for Nedbank Corporate Property Finance.