R1trillion Durban Aerotropolis is set for take-off
According to Economic Development, Tourism, and Environmental Affairs MEC Nomusa Dube-Ncube, plans were afoot to turn the region into a bustling hive of economic activity.
Speaking at the post-budget business breakfast at the Durban ICC yesterday, she said the development would also benefit the neighbouring municipalities of Ilembe, King Cetshwayo and Zululand.
When the idea of the construction of the Durban Aerotropolis was first mooted, it was reported that the development would be a 32000-hectare special economic zone that would be anchored by the airport.
The development is expected to create 750 000 permanent jobs and 42million square metres of business development while accommodating 1.5million residents. It was also reported that the investment potential of the development was R1trillion.
The MEC officially announced that KwaZulu-Natal would host an International Investment Conference next month to attract investment to the province.
“With the Durban Aerotropolis having its diverse range of opportunities and great economic impact, the first iteration of the conference will be Durban Aerotropolis,” said Dube-Ncube.
She said in the past, investments in regional airports had been lacklustre because they were generally viewed as a means of travel for the elite.
Dube-Ncube said, however, they saw these airports as an important means to bolster regional economies.
“KwaZulu-Natal regional airports are envisioned to increase the accessibility of our regional economies by domestic and international travellers. Many of these regional airports are surrounded by vacant developable land that makes provision for non-aviation activities.”
She said public land around airports offered an outstanding development opportunity for investment, and the possibility of securing funding for capital expenditure on airport infrastructure.
Dube-Ncube said the provincial government had provided extensive support for Mkhuze Airport, adding that infrastructure upgrades at Margate and Pietermaritzburg airports were on the cards.
Palesa Phili, chief executive officer of the Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the planned Durban Aerotropolis would help to drive economic transformation and improve the connectivity of the region around the international airport.
Phili said this was crucial for trade, passengers, workers and residents and would benefit the economy.
“Local businesses will feed into the greater Durban Aerotropolis plan as they will be uniquely positioned between two major ports of Durban and Richards Bay,” said Phili.
She said the chamber believed that convening an investment conference would benefit the economy, especially at a time of low economic growth in South Africa.
Phili said KZN needed to create an environment that was hospitable for foreign and local investors.
“By hosting a conference of this nature, we will position the province and country as being open for business,” she said.
Economist Mike Schussler said that if the number of job opportunities set to be created prevailed, the Durban Aerotropolis would help fight unemployment in the province.
“It seems like a miracle because those are very big numbers. It’s sound too good to be true but if that had to happen, that will be a massive achievement in terms of eradicating unemployment and poverty in the province.”