R60bn investment plan for E Cape

1 June 2007

South Africa’s Eastern Cape has launched a public-private initiative that aims to attract R60-billion worth of investment into the largely rural, eastern part of the province over the next 10 years.

Planned projects – designed to capitalise on the region’s high rainfall and large labour supply – include a new dam for hydroelectric power and irrigation and an agricultural irrigation scheme.

A special purpose, government-owned company – Asgisa Eastern Cape Pty Ltd – has been launched to oversee the projects. Eastern Cape Premier Nosimo Balindlela said in a statement last month that the projects driven by Asgisa Eastern Cape would help develop Mthatha into the third major city in the province, after Port Elizabeth and East London.

The first “mega-project” will be the multi-billion rand Umzimvubu Basin Water Management project, which will be linked to an irrigation scheme covering a large section of the former Transkei.

According to Business Day, a dam will be constructed on the Umzimvubu River – South Africa’s largest undammed river – with a hydro-electric power station capable of generating 2 000 megawatts of electricity.

Access to water through the associated irrigation scheme will enable the development of other industries such as forestry and the cultivation of grain and canola, which is used in the production of bio-fuels.

“This project will strengthen water security and electricity supply in the province and nationally,” Balindlela said.

A second project to be overseen by Asgisa Eastern Cape will be the development of the province’s forestry and timber industry by creating up to 100 000 hectares of plantations over the next 10 years.

“Nationwide, the timber industry has employed about 170 000 people and has annually contributed about R16-billion to the economy, and [it] is expected to play a similar role in the province,” Balindlela said.

Balindlela has appointed a board of directors for Asgisa Eastern Cape that includes Wiseman Nkuhlu, a former economic adviser to President Thabo Mbeki; Gloria Serobe, the founder of women’s empowerment group Wiphold; and Coega Development Corporation chief executive Pepi Silinga.

Businessman and politician Saki Macozoma has been appointed as the company’s chairman. A chief executive is expected to be appointed shortly.

All of the company’s endeavours, Balindlela said, would aim to “halve poverty in the area by 2014 and make the Eastern Cape a compelling place to live, work and invest.”

SouthAfrica.info reporter

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