Pretoria - Gauteng was a regional economic powerhouse, and the province had bold plans to re-imagine itself as a leader in technological innovation, manufacturing, agri-processing and tourism over the next five years.
And Tshwane featured prominently in the priorities of the new provincial administration, Economic Development, Agriculture and Environment MEC Dr Kgosientso Ramokgopa said.
The former mayor of the capital said the ultimate goal was to deal with poverty, inequality and unemployment - with the target to reach a goal of just 6% unemployment; a tough ask in a compact province into which more and more people were streaming, seeking a better life.
One in four people in the country lives in Gauteng, and this puts enormous pressure on its services such as schools and hospitals, and results in social issues, he said
Ramokgopa said the economy of the province was skewed towards the big metros, with Joburg contributing close on 43%, Tshwane 29% and Ekurhuleni 19%. While Joburg remained the financial hub, Tshwane’s growth could come in the automotive sector; Ford, Nissan and BMW are all invested within the city borders.
Ford will soon break ground on the Ford Ranger factory in Silverton, while in Rosslyn, where Nissan and BMW have their factories, there is scope for a school of specialisation in the automotive industry.
In Tshwane the plan is to replicate lessons from the Winterveld and Chamdor automotive township hubs to develop three new hubs, and accelerate the development of the Innovation Hub near the CSIR, starting before the end of this year, to ultimately be the continent’s “Silicone Valley”.
Ramokgopa said the provincial government would offer support for the development of the township economy across the province, including allocating 30% of spend to SMME (sustainable small and medium enterprises) in the township space.
Aside from a state bank in the province, Ramokgopa said he would like to see an institution in the mould of a mutual bank to provide access to financing for black entrepreneurs and start-ups which struggled to get help from financial institutions and, if they do, it was at an exorbitant cost. SSMEs would also receive non-financial support. Aside from the township economy, the province plans to develop the West Rand and Sedibeng regions, anchored in agriculture and agri-processing using modern technologies.
With the Department of Trade and Industry, Gauteng will do an audit of industrial parks to find potential for their recapitalisation, and it will look at the procurement value chain in infrastructure projects such as roads and housing as well as the supply of food for schools, hospitals and the indigent in the province, to see where opportunities exist for local sourcing of supplies.
The MEC, who brought free wi-fi to Tshwane and was speaking on the same day as the 4IRSA conference, said he wanted to roll out wi-fi in Gauteng’s townships - with free access at schools and public places, and home connectivity available to those who wanted to pay.
The province may not have the mountain or the sea, but Ramokgopa has called for better packaging of its tourism through support for cultural tourism, competitive sports, lifestyle and business events, and destination marketing.