Building the economy is one of the most important, yet most challenging, areas of activity we are engaged in. For without a growing economy we will not be able to absorb the increasing number of people entering the economy each year, we will not be able to provide for the poor and starving in our society and we will not be able to deal with the growing number of social problems besetting our city.
For eThekwini, we have taken the stance that Local Economic Development (LED) is the primary responsibility of all sector departments in the city. Our Integrated Development Plan provides a number of examples:
- The Engineering unit are spending over R100 Million to facilitate the development of infrastructure that would be used for economic development projects;
- The Skills Development Unit have invested in training and Adult Basic Education courses;
- Development Planning Unit has identified future growth and development areas for economic development.
- The potential of Sport and Recreation as a lead sector has also been identified as an opportunity;
- Developing our Green economy provides for a more sustainable future;
- The roll out of Fibre Optic Networks creates an electronic platform for business to access both local and international markets; and
- The role of Fibre optic connectivity and education at schools is also a programme that is being developed within the municipality.
These are but some ways in which we are promoting Local Economic Development.
Of course, there are many bigger initiatives we are involved in. We are looking at what to do around Cato Ridge as some of the adjacent locations are starting to reach capacity in terms of space availability for commercial and industrial development. These include places like Hammarsdale.
Another multi-billion project, Cornubia, is a mixed-use and mixed income development spanning over 20 years and will the home of the next major industrial area in the north of Durban. The 1,200 hectare development will provide 240 ha of industrial and commercial space. This is a key industrial area with linkages to the new international airport. It will also comprise fully subsidised low-to-middle income houses.
The old airport site represents 300 hectares of developable land and a dugout port is being considered. This would greatly assist the Port of Durban to meet the growth in containerised traffic.
The outlook for tourism is also brighter given the trends of recent months. There has been improved sentiment about inflation; however this has been affected by the recent announcement of the increases in the cost of electricity.
The challenge locally would be to get the correct kind of industry-led growth, investment and job creation as the national government's target of 7% per year may not necessarily help to reduce unemployment. In the past there was economic growth but a decline in productive capacity, so it is crucial that the right sectors are targeted.
It is incumbent on all of us to find ways, in which we grow the economy, create jobs and ensure that we have food security, healthier people and a safer city.