‘Think-tank’ held to better NC
“As a province, we understand the innovation concept.
“However, we have been slow to realise the benefits.”
This was admitted by Mac Jack, the Northern Cape MEC for Finance, Economic Development and Tourism, during the provincial Economic Colloquium on Tuesday, 31 July, in Kimberley.
Attended by academics, representatives of government, state institutions and potential investors at the Mittah Seperepere Convention Centre, the event was to elaborate and propose conclusive action on how to stimulate the provincial economic growth.
Jack highlighted that although innovation on the continent has been rooted in a laboratory mindset, it remains limited to a focus on technology.
He urged the imperativeness of joining the dots and capitalise on the groundwork.
Jack referred to the event as a think-tank to find solutions for the betterment of the province and its people as it is the largest province covering nearly a third of South Africa’s land, while having the smallest population of 1,21 million and contributing to 2,1% of the gross domestic product (GDP) of South Africa.
According to Statistics South Africa’s 2017 Midyear Population Estimates, the unemployment rate stands at 29,5%, of which the youth unemployment rate is 37,6%.
He expressed the disturbing reality that the economy of the province is mainly driven by mining and agriculture, and produces raw materials which are imported back as finished products at higher prices.
Jack sees a need to diversify and look at boosting the secondary sector and for the colloquium to identify areas of investment in the province.
Elaborating on existing opportunities, Jack said, “The province has got opportunities in new economies such as renewable energy and oceans, and in astronomy in the form of SKA and MeerKAT.
“There are opportunities in agriculture and agro-processing that remain untapped.
“Mining, being the leading sector in the province and having commodity prices bouncing back, means that there are opportunities in this sector that can still be explored.”
Jack’s concern further lies in the untouched 313 km coastline which has economic value.
This is despite the recent growth in the abalone industry, as well as the fishing and lobster operations.
“Plans to boost the maritime economy in the province forms part of two broader national programmes, part of Operation Phakisa.
“Investment opportunities are there, especially on high impact projects such as the Boegoebaai Deep Port Harbour development project, the Upington Special Economic Zone (SEZ) and the De Aar railway harbour development.
“The Port of Boegoebaai will catalyse economic impacts associated with key economic drivers that will enable investment in the natural resources sectors that are currently constrained by lack of access to infrastructure.
“A port at Boegoebaai would be the only major port between Walvis Bay and Cape Town to have dry dock and maintenance facilities for ships requiring assistance.”
Support is granted by Coega, an Eastern Cape SEZ, who are assisting the Northern Cape Economic Development Agency (NCEDA) in the establishment of the Upington SEZ on 497 hectares of land in and around Upington.
“We have seen the level of capacity at Coega; capacity supported by academic exposure.
“Upon completion, at least 20 investor projects, mainly from the Renewable Energy and Aviation Sector, will be realised in the SEZ,” Jack said.