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Durban - A pledge to halve unemployment by 2030 and ensure that the distribution of wealth in the province favours black Africans is at the top of KZN premier Senzo Mchunu’s agenda.
Delivering his State of the Province address in the legislature on Thursday, Mchunu said his government intended to ensure that total employment rose from the 2.4 million recorded in 2010 to 3.3 million in 2020 and ultimately to 4.5 million in 2030.
This would translate to 2.1 million jobs being created in the next 16 years.
Mchunu said the challenge of job creation was immense, despite the 267 000 jobs created in KZN between 2010 and 2014.
“We are concerned about the recent losses of jobs in the agricultural sector, about youth unemployment and the fact that real and meaningful black economic empowerment is slow,” Mchunu said.
“These conditions are posing a serious risk to our society and are further exposing our people to poverty, food insecurity, substance abuse and criminal activity.”
He acknowledged that the growth of the provincial economy had been sluggish.
This was notwithstanding the fact that it had grown in real terms from R270 billion in 2010 to R347bn this year.
The provincial economy is projected to grow at 3% this year and to between 3.5% and 4% next year.
“Although the tertiary sector continues to be the largest contributor to the regional economic growth, the province is better positioned to capitalise on agriculture, mineral beneficiation, manufacturing, tourism, freight and logistics, as well as the financial services sector to boost its real growth.”
In the agricultural sector, Mchunu said his administration had set a target of increasing employment from 110 000 jobs to 200 000 jobs in the next five years.
It also aims to facilitate at least 1 000 new farmers who would bring 1 million hectares of unproductive land back into commercial agricultural production. The government would also strengthen the ailing Department of Agriculture and Rural Development and make it a “formidable player” in economic development and food security in the province.
Mchunu said the government was working on a shift in its focus on growing the economy.
There was recognition that for economic growth to be meaningful, the economic empowerment of indigenous Africans had to be top of the agenda for the national and provincial governments, he said.
“The objective is to address the real concerns that the balance of distribution of wealth in the province should tilt towards indigenous Africans in an equitable manner.”
The focus would be on assisting small businesses and co-operatives.
“We are encouraging our compatriots in the townships and the rural areas to work hard and rekindle their interests in business. Our message is go back to those general dealerships and township businesses that characterised this country for many years.”
Mchunu also expressed concerns that KZN had insufficient electricity infrastructure to meet the rising demands of industry and households.
This was due to the limited capacity of transmission lines and ageing networks. He said the government was looking at ways to support independent power producers.
“As we experience power cuts due to load shedding, we are reminded that we have vast biomass resources that could be used for energy generation.”
He said the province wanted to generate at least 2 400 megawatts of new renewable energy by 2020.