The Deputy Minister of Trade, Industry and Competition, Mr Fikile Majola has committed to facilitating strong cooperation between all three tiers of government to fast-track progress in the operation of the OR Tambo International Airport Special Economic Zone (ORTIA SEZ).
Deputy Minister Majola visited the SEZ on Thursday, leading a delegation of senior officials from the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (the dtic) and the Gauteng government, to discuss operations with the leadership of the Gauteng Industrial Development Zone (GIDZ), which is currently tasked with setting up the SEZ.
The ORTIA SEZ is one of the first Special Economic Zones (SEZs) linked to a port of entry that formed part of the SEZ programme of the government in the early 2000s. This was to support efforts of companies that produce products that would have to move via air freight.
Initially allocated a 7,5ha in the northern part of the airport, the SEZ has grown incrementally by size, with additional 29ha of land to the north of the R21 and a further 13,9ha next to the Impala Platinum Refinery in Springs Ekurhuleni.
This in effect established three operation precincts of the SEZ. There are efforts to secure more land in Ekurhuleni for industrial development to support the full implementation of the city’s Aerotropolis Strategy.
Majola expressed concern at the pace at which operations are unfolding and has undertaken to bring on board key stakeholders from the Gauteng government, Airport Company of South Africa and the Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality as soon as possible to assist in dealing with the challenges brought forward by the leadership of the SEZ.
“We have a problem of massive unemployment in our country, particularly among young people. We know that SEZs are one of the critical tools that the government has identified, not only to encourage investment both domestically and internationally, but to create jobs.
“So we have to make sure that they are fully functional and effective to assist economic recovery efforts. Gauteng is the economic hub of the country and therefore we should spare no effort because SEZs will play an important role in building the economy of the province. The OR Tambo SEZ is key in driving the implementation of the Ekurhuleni’s Aerotropolis strategy,” said Majola.
In the briefing, the Acting CEO of the SEZ, Ms Thandiwe Ngqobe indicated that some of the critical challenges they are facing include providing adequate bulk infrastructure to secure investments. In addition, she highlighted that they were working hard to address some of their capacity and financial constraints. However, there has been progress made over the past couple of years.
In site of the challenges faced, 13 investors have been secured, three of them are already operating from precinct one of the SEZ. One of the three companies is In2Food, which is a food packaging company contracted to Woolworths.
In2Food started operations at precinct 1 in 2019, bringing an investment of R257 million, while also creating over 2200 direct jobs. The development also provided support opportunities to six emerging farmers, five of which are black-owned, and funded through the company’s support programme.
Metal Concentrators is a South African refinery producer which started its operations this year. The company has invested R102 million in support of its operations at the SEZ. Over 50% of the staff complement is made up of women.
the dtic leadership is currently engaging with all provinces on the implementation of the new approach to SEZ implementation, the new approach; include the model of involving all spheres of government in the implementation of SEZ programme.
The implementation of the new approach has helped the SEZ Programme to secure a cumulative value of over R60 billion worth of private investments in SEZs.