Rural areas across South Africa are the scenes of battles for control of land.Picture: Reuters
JOHANNESBURG - Economic growth for millions of people living in rural areas will no longer be a pipe dream amid the launch of a community investment company scheduled for today in Melrose Arch, north of Johannesburg.

Traditional leaders and the Department of Co-operative Governance will unveil the United Royal Kingship Holdings’ (URKH) representing the economic interests of 25 million South Africans living in the kingdoms, kingships and royal communities made up of ten indigenous groups.

The URKH aims to create sustainable jobs by leveraging the rich natural and cultural resource base of 829 kingdoms, kingships and royal communities to create investment opportunities that are expected to empower rural citizens.

The long-term investment strategy focuses on the financial services, mineral resources and beneficiation, fuel retailing, agriculture and agro-processing, health services, tourism, property, infrastructure services and media.

Ikosi Sipho Mahlangu, URKH non-executive chairperson, said the initiative would help grow the South African economy.

“We are talking about opportunities that are going to be created. We are talking about off-take agreements with other countries. We are talking about a gold and platinum refinery and other opportunities that were not there that we are going to create. As a result, we are able to stimulate growth in the economy,” he said. Global services firm PwC had been approached on advice on viable sectors as well as how the company could improve accountability.

In terms of investment opportunities, the URKH aimed to partner with banks and financial institutions among others to acquire assets based on its resources including land and minerals. “When it comes to opportunities in agriculture, we will sign off-take agreement with various countries. We will assess food security needs and identify land where we can harvest produce”, Mahlangu said.

He also said it was long overdue because unemployment was rife in rural areas.

“The URKH was supposed to have been established 10 to 15 years ago when former president Thabo Mbeki called for a bridge between the so-called first and second economies. We are now in a better position to know what works and what does not work,” said Mahlangu.

The URKH aimed to focus on the upliftment of communities through the building of schools, clinics, and infrastructure. t was different from existing community investment companies because it brought all rural communities under one umbrella. “For the first time in South Africa we will have an investment company run by South Africa’s 829 traditional leaders with a national interest at heart,” Mahlangu said.