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KwaZulu-Natal - The KwaZulu-Natal government has set itself the target of creating 2.1 million jobs during the next 18 years.

Doing so would nearly double KZN’ employment figures from 2.4 million to 4.5 million within the next two decades.

The province envisaged that such targets could be achieved by unlocking potential in the agricultural sector and by positioning the province as the “gateway to Africa”.

In the agricultural sector, the government hoped to increase the employment figure from 108 000 to 350 000 jobs by 2030. These targets were unveiled by Frikkie Brookes, of the provincial planning commission, who tabled the commission’s growth and development plan in the KZN legislature on Thursday.

Studies by the commission showed that agriculture could be one of the main growth drivers if properly managed.

“The agricultural sector in KZN has the potential to create a substantially higher number of jobs in a shorter time frame,” Brooks said.

“Over the short- to medium-term the agricultural value chain can support labour intensive absorbing activities generating large scale employment,” the report read.

However the commission noted that the sector faced constraints, which included inadequate funding and increased competition due to subsidisation of international farming.

The province hoped to create more jobs by enhancing industrial development through investment in manufacturing, tourism, transport and logistics. But the commission said KZN’s economy would have to grow 5.43 percent.

Premier Zweli Mkhize hailed the report, saying the targets it had laid out were within reach. “There is, however, a strong realisation that we will not achieve our job creation targets if our people are not appropriately skilled to take up the new opportunities we are creating. Education and skills development is therefore of paramount importance,” he said. Mkhize said education and skill levels were very low in KZN while unemployment was very high.

In 2009, only 2 percent of the adult population in KZN had an accredited tertiary qualification, while of the about 132 000 people who had passed matric, only 26 000 had earned university exemptions.

Mkhize said this meant the labour force remained unskilled. “From 1996 to 2011, KZN grew employment by under 10 percent. This is not adequate to grow provincial GDP to levels needed to decrease employment and increase growth.” - Daily News