THE HEART OF IT: An aerial view of the anticipated Ekurhuleni Aerotropolis centre that was approved last week.
The City of Ekurhuleni has finally approved the R8.1billion a year, 30-year aerotropolis master plan - the first in Africa.

The aerotropolis being created around OR Tambo International is expected to create more than 250000 jobs. It will be a zone within a 30km radius of the airport in which economic hubs will be created for different industries, such as manufacturing and hi-tech industries, agribusiness and food processing, education and skills training, logistics and distribution, natural resources and energy.

City mayor Mzwandile Masina said last week that the aerotropolis’ catalytic projects, using labour-intensive scenarios, promise massive job creation and are set to change the landscape of joblessness in the city and Gauteng.

The aerotropolis, he said, is envisaged as being a game-changing intervention that would facilitate spatial, economic and social transformation, in order to reposition the regional economy as an ideal destination for trade, investment and tourism.

The City of Ekurhuleni, the Gauteng provincial government and the Airports Company South Africa have together embarked on the development of Ekurhuleni Aerotropolis.

“This programme is a deliberate growth trajectory that aims to reposition and enhance the value proposition of the Gauteng city region, with a particular emphasis of the Ekurhuleni Regional Economy as the footprint of the first aerotropolis in the African continent,” he said.

The hub, he added, leverages on the presence of the international airport, which handles 19million passengers every year and has the capacity for 60million passengers.

“OR Tambo also handles 83percent of all air cargo movements, thus playing a critical economic role for South Africa, Gauteng and Ekurhuleni.”

This 30-year master plan has been developed to identify projects in sectors such as retail, aerospace, advanced manufacturing, logistics and distribution, research and development, health and life sciences, he added.

The mayor indicated that critical road infrastructure networks are being prioritised to unlock the footprint of the aerotropolis to enable mobility, integration and densification.

This is being done through exploring ways of leveraging the economic opportunities created from having the OR Tambo International Airport located in the city to position the city to become a destination for investors seeking to relocate their operations.

“The airport is in a good position to accelerate its logistic and air cargo activities regionally. The airport is already a gateway for the transit of high value time sensitive products, such as electronic equipment, as well as textiles and footwear for nearby countries,” the mayor said.

At the centre of the master plan is the redesign of the city’s layout, infrastructure and economy to be centred on a major airport.

Masina said the funding of the Ekurhuleni Aerotropolis project requires a “multi-layered” approach that is capable of leveraging on the financial capabilities of the private and public sector. The funding plan requires strategic partnerships between all stakeholders, including the government, development finance institutions, property owners, developers and investors, research and development agencies, institutes of higher learning, external funders and underwriters through a systematic and co-ordinated integrated development planning process in order to deliver the strategic objectives of the aerotropolis,” he said.

Gauteng is responsible for 34percent of GDP and has three big metros, with Ekurhuleni as its industrial heart. It has, therefore, become necessary to have specialist hubs around the airport.

There are about 200000 people a year coming into the province and infrastructure has not caught up with job opportunities.