President Cyril Ramaphosa has officially launched the Atlantis Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in the Western Cape, with the goal of making it "a launching pad for economic growth" in the region.
“A combined R1.8-billion is expected to be invested in the SEZ by 2022. In the short- to medium term, the zone is projected to create over 1 400 jobs in Atlantis. Through manufacturing, job multipliers are estimated to rise to about 4 500 for the West Coast region,” said Ramaphosa.
“This is a new era for Atlantis. The Atlantis SEZ is an integral part of our effort to reignite economic growth by attracting investment and creating meaningful and sustainable jobs,” Ramaphosa told business, government and community leaders who gathered for the launch in Atlantis, about 60 km from Cape Town.
A green technologies hub is designated for the 124.5 ha area, following Cabinet’s approval of the Atlantis SEZ status on June 8. The area has been set aside for the manufacturing of green technologies, alternative waste management, energy efficient technology, alternative building material and many other clean technologies.
“The Atlantis SEZ is expected to grow the green tech sector in the Western Cape more broadly and revitalise Atlantis as a key industrial node in the region,” said the President.
The zone has already attracted four large green tech investors, which are fully operational.
Gestamp Renewable Industries was the first of these investments. The company invested R300-million and has created about 220 jobs in Atlantis. The other investors are Resolux, with an investment of R25-million, Kaytech, with an investment of R130-million, and Skyward Windows, with an investment of R50-million.
In addition to secured investments, the Atlantis SEZ has an investment pipeline valued at R2.4-billion.
Ramaphosa said the SEZ programme had been identified as one of the critical economic policy instruments for promoting industrialisation.
He said the ten SEZs had been established in areas where there is "deep poverty and the greatest need to create jobs".
“They are located in areas both in need of investment, but also where there is great opportunity for growth and development. They are being established close to where people live. This is very important. People should not have to travel hours and hours to get to work,” said Rampahosa.
As in the case of several other SEZs, he said Atlantis was in close promixity to ports, logistical nodes and hubs and related industries for raw materials. Most of the SEZs focus on a specific industry, encouraging the development of clusters of suppliers and service providers.
He said that, by concentrating industrial value chains in certain areas, collaboration is encouraged and costs are significantly reduced.
“These SEZs can contribute much to reshaping the spatial landscape of the apartheid economy. They also have the added advantage in that emerging black-owned and controlled companies are able to find a space and opportunity to germinate and grow and begin to fly.”
He said the SEZ programme was also supported by a competitive incentive package, to incentivise businesses to invest in these areas.
Ramaphosa said the people of Atlantis should be encouraged by the international experience which showed the potential of SEZs.
“In China, they use SEZs to catapult their economy to higher and greater levels of growth. One of the first to be set up was Shenzhen. It used to be a tired, old fishing village. Today, it is a metropolis, where 18-million people live. SEZs offer the opportunity to be a launching pad to build a bigger town, a city and a metropolis.”
Ramaphosa said South Africa was emerging from a very difficult period.
“As we mobilise investment, we are having to deal with the problems and challenges that have arisen over the past few years, especially the last nine years, where uncertainty was the order of the day, where bureaucratic constraints were the order of the day and where policy certainty was not present.”
Turning to localisation, he said it was vital, instead of importing products.
“We want more and more products being made here, so that all of us can say, "This piece of iron, this piece of rope, this grate, is being made here in Atlantis, in South Africa".
Amazon was also setting up operations in the Atlantis zone. “That is fantastic. We welcome this opportunity by Amazon. It will bring new technology, innovation and new opportunities.”
Trade and Industry Minister Dr Rob Davies said the Atlantis community would be given priority in terms of job opportunities, as would supply opportunities for small, medium-sized and microenterprises.
Western Cape Premier Helen Zille said the province was excited to be a partner in the Atlantis SEZ.
“We have identified the Green Economy, together with agri-processing and tourism, as key sectors under the Western Cape’s economic strategy,” said Zille. She anticipates great opportunities for developing renewable energy.
“I really do believe that policy certainty will return and that the load-shedding crisis that Eskom is in again will be turned into the opportunity it can be . . . into pumping renewable energy into our grid at a cheaper cost than coal costs, so that we can fire up this economy.”
She called on the President to untangle red tape and bureaucracy to make it easier for businesses to operate.