The latest bid to become the economic hub of Southern Africa has come from KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), on the east coast of South Africa.
The Dube TradePort (DTP) in Durban is earmarked to be the catalyst of this transformation and is under consideration to be classified as a Special Economic Zone (SEZ), owned by the provincial government and managed by a corporation. The DTP aims to expand trade, encourage economic development, create jobs and increase foreign direct investment (FDI) by linking transport to connect the province to international economies. It is part of the province’s 20-year plan with R560 billion ($56 billion) worth of projects in the pipeline. It’ll employ up to 35,000 people.
The KZN MEC for economic development and tourism, Mike Mabuyakhulu, says that India and China’s large populations make them attractive destinations for South Africa’s exports. The province is looking for opportunities to increase trade with other southern African countries as well as increase tourism.
The DTP is home to the R7.8 billion ($ 780 million) King Shaka International Airport and lies between the Richards Bay and Durban ports. It is situated on the N2 development corridor that connects the Eastern Cape with Mozambique.
According to Mabuyakhulu, seaborne trade accounts for almost 80% of South Africa’s imports and exports. The port of Durban handles most of the trade in southern Africa, handling around 2.7 million TEUs.
The DTP zones are separate projects that interlink. Dube iConnect is a 24 hour telecommunications and IT service provider that will be using 36 km of fiber optics and a 10 gig pipe to service all the DTP zones.
The Dube Cargo Terminal is a three-year-old state-of-the-art terminal with the capacity to handle 1,000 tons per annum, with plans to increase it to 2 million tons by 2060. The terminal houses Customs, the departments of Agriculture as well as Health, the South African Revenue Services and South African Border Police—200 meters from the Dube TradeZone.
The TradeZone houses logistics, warehousing, light manufacturing, assembly, processing and high value cargo. It also includes the R28 million ($2.8 million) state-of-the-art flight kitchen facility. There has been a recent buzz among investors who are expected to sign contracts soon.
Dube Agrizone is 20 hectares that include a greenhouse hydroponics facility. Sixteen hectares of greenhouse produce 40 tons of fresh produce—including cucumbers and tomatoes—for large retailers, while a separate greenhouse is being developed for cut flowers and pot plants. The next question is what this will mean for the small farmers in the province?
The MEC says efforts will be made to integrate them into the new project. The idea for the zone dates back to 1994, when new ideas were sought to increase agricultural output and stimulate exports.
At the center of the R5 billion ($500 million) Dube City, three minutes from the airport, is Dube Square. The city will have accommodation, conference facilities, restaurants, retail and offices.
A memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Indian conglomerate, Action Group, has been signed for $217 million to build a mini city nearby that is expected to attract close to $2.2 billion in FDI.
The provincial government will retain ownership of the DTP and investors will be given long-term leases.
According to senior managers at Deloitte and Touché some of the challenges facing the DTP are the uncertainty around the SEZ regulations and the inaccessibility to rail. They feel that “government can play a significant role in helping the DTP realize its potential of becoming an economic hub”, through training of workers and offering greater flexibility with government incentive packages for specific projects. Deloitte and Touché warns that final SEZ legislation must meet the needs, of not only the zones for which it is being created, but also the expectations of foreign investors.
This could be a thin tightrope to walk on the way to the promise of prosperity.