The Richards Bay Industrial Development Zone signed property leasing deals with three companies on Friday, which they said would represent investments worth R4.56 billion.
The agreements are seen as a milestone for the zone, which had managed to secure only one major investor in the past with the opening of the Tata Steel factory several years ago.
Nyanza Light Metals, part of the Mauritian-based Arkein International, was the biggest investor to sign on Friday.
It plans to invest R4.5bn in a titanium dioxide pigment plant.
The other two investments were much smaller projects, but significant investments in the renewable energy space.
The Dubai-based Oasis Group plans to invest R40 million in a waste oil processing and lubricants plant, while Phaka-Sangle Energy Africa wants to invest R20m in a solar water heater manufacturing plant.
KwaZulu-Natal Economic Development and Tourism MEC Michael Mabuyakhulu said the agreements were “binding land leasing deals”. However, environmental and other legislative approval for the two bigger deals were under way.
He said the agreements showed the development zone was delivering on its mandate and the Zululand industrial hub could look forward to significant investment and jobs.
Several issues, including a lack of financial support from the government in the past and bureaucratic delays by the municipality, have hamstrung the growth of the zone.
It only secured its “operator permit” in December 2011 from the Department of Trade and Industry, but since then, planning and investment around bulk infrastructure for the zone has picked up.
Mabuyakhulu said the three new investments were a vote of confidence in the region in the face of “tepid” economic growth of 0.7 percent in the third quarter of this year. He was confident they would be operational with a few years.
“The Richards Bay IDZ historically has received the least support from the national government; hence its growth and development has been slow. But things have changed and prospects are brighter.”
Bongi Kunene, Richards Bay Industrial Development Zone chairwoman, said by signing the land agreements the investors were showing their commitment to the zone.
“This is not just talk. They have fulfilled the conditions to qualify for the lease agreements. We are open for business,” she said.
Donovan Chimhandamba, the chief executive of Arkein International, said the company was a Pan-African group made up of private equity investors largely from Africa.
It had done a pre-feasibility study on a titanium dioxide pigment plant and spent R100m on research and planning.
“We looked at several different locations and Richards Bay IDZ turned out to be the best. Our plant will use titanium slag, which is a waste material from Richards Bay Minerals operations.
“The zone has the infrastructure we need and its proximity to a major bulk port is key as two thirds of our pigment product is intended for export,” he said. - The Mercury