R10 billion projects for economic zone

… We want a Mangaung that can grow and can produce opportunities for us all, Sonzane

The Maluti-A-Phofung Economic Development Zone has received letters of commitment from at least 13 companies from around the world which want to do business there.

The proposed projects are valued at an estimated R10 billion.

This was revealed on Tuesday afternoon by the head of the Free State Development Corporation (FDC) Oozy Osman in Bloemfontein.

The meeting was attended by business representatives in Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality.

He said this figure might go up as five more letters of commitment are still outstanding to reach the anticipated 17.

“The total figure of investment from these corporations stand at almost R10 billion, and we only have 13 letters of commitment when we have to get 17,” said Osman.

He said in Mangaung a single plan mapped out together with the private sector is needed to unpack what needs to happen for investors to come to the city as well as outline incentives that the metro can use to lure business to its shores.

Osman said the province and the metro are so committed to creating an enabling environment for business to thrive in the metro that work is now underway to have a pipeline taking water from the Xariep Dam in southern Free State to Bloemfontein to ease challenges of lack of water which might hamper business operations.

He said the main economic driver in the metro, which is the eighth biggest city in the country, is still in services and hospitality industries which have proven insufficient in reducing the high levels of unemployment.

Siyonzana, who is also the speaker Mangaung municipality, said the meeting with business had been necessitated by the need to find lasting solutions to the pressing challenges of widespread inequality and poverty in society.

He said these factors have been worsened by the current global economic meltdown resulting from slow growth in China.

He said the metro was now faced with another challenge of finding suitable employment for residents of the metro who lost their jobs in other provinces and are now coming back home as a result of the sluggish economy.

“We are here, we live here and our children are going to grow up here, hence we all want a Mangaung that can grow and be able to produce opportunities for us all,” said Sonzane.

The meeting was held at the Mangaung Metro’s offices was attended by representatives from the South African Chamber of Commerce (SACC), The Free State Development Corporation (FDC) and the Mangaung Chamber of Business and Industry.

The National Federated Chamber of Commerce (Nafcoc), Foundation for African Business and Consumer Services, as well as Glad Africa, a consultancy firm of engineers, were also represented.

Siyonzana pleaded for private sector participation in turning the fortunes of the metro around and help create jobs.

He said in the last council meeting a report on non -payment of services, which can be attributed to lack of employment opportunities in the metro, was tabled.

Siyonzana said it was a pity that the private sector had not been coming to the party despite the provincial government having worked to create an enabling environment for business to flourish in the province through the building of a reliable road network and ensuring the steady supply of water and electricity.

Mopedi Moshoeshoe, a commercial farmer, said there is a need to cut the middle man in the farming industry for livestock owners to be able to reap the highest benefits.

“I have a plan that can boost employment figures… we want to be able to link with small butcheries in the metro and sell directly to them instead of going through the market. With this, a lot of expenses will be cut and profits maximised for the farmers, unlike now whereby prices are dictated to us,” he said.

Tshepo Matshaba, secretary of Nafcoc in the province and national treasurer of the organisation, said lack of political will have in the past resulted to situations where resolutions made at business indabas were not implemented.

“Case in point is with the xenophobic attacks that happened in Botshabelo, twice we were called for meetings to resolve this impasse and twice we made resolutions which still have to be implemented,” said Matshaba.

He said small businesses were the cornerstone of any employment creation efforts. He argued that if a big business coming from outside does not reinvest in the metro but takes all the money out, it means there will be no development in the city.

The meeting eventually resolved on a regional summit to be held at a date still to be announced where power distribution company Centlec, Bloem Water and the department of environmental affairs are expected to come and state the incentives that are there for investors wishing to do business in the metro.

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