A delegation from the KwaZulu Natal (KZN) province of South Africa visited Atlanta this week with the objective of fastening relations begun during last year’s visit here of the province’s premier, Senzo Munchu.
Zamo Gwala, CEO of the province’s trade and investment department, briefed members of the DeKalb Africa Initiative in Decatur Oct. 9 about the premier’s development goals for an “aerotropolis” around the province’s new airport, an expanded film industry and a vibrant tourism sector.
The similarity between the goals of KZN and the city of Atlanta, DeKalb as well as other counties and the state of Georgia generally was underscored by members of the delegation from the province’s Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Durban is the largest city in KZN and the second largest manufacturing center in South Africa, surpassed only by Johannesburg. The King Shaka International Airport, Durban’s primary airport located 22 miles north of the city, opened in 2010 in an undeveloped part of the province titled the Dube Tradeport, an industrial trade zone.
“Our new airport is geared for building up our exports and trade,” Mr. Gwala said. “We have a lot of undeveloped land around it and our president just two days ago announced a special economic zone that was benchmarked on Atlanta’s developing aerotropolis. That’s one of the main reasons we are here.”
A major impetus for the aerotropolis, he added, is to provide jobs and curb the region’s high unemployment rate, a theme that Miguel Southwell, general manager of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport recently voiced at the Atlanta World Showcase and Governor’s International Awards event. Mr. Southwell, incidentally, is slated to visit Durban this week for the Airports Council International Africa Region annual assembly.
Jacob Zuma, South Africa’s president, announced the measures he is supporting for industrial trade zones that are to receive special economic zone status once legislation is passed providing value-added tax exemption, a 15 percent corporate tax rate, a building tax allowance and an employment tax incentive.
Mr. Zuma pointed specifically to the Dube Tradeport, strategically located near Durban’s urban center and between the country’s two largest seaports, both of which are in KNZ, the ports of Durban and Richards Bay.
Mr. Gwala said that the Durban port is primarily used for exporting light manufactured products while the Richards Bay port serves heavy manufacturing, adding that South Africa is successfully seeking foreign direct investment from companies that wish to establish distribution centers for the rest of Africa and the Middle East.
The Dube Tradeport has a 60-year master plan that includes in its first phase an AgriZone, an information technology and telecommunications platform, and a cargo center.
Under the aerotropolis “city within a city” concept, the tradeport is to be a “catalyst for global business and trade by providing a platform for integrating supply chains, accelerating efficiencies and offering business the ability to compete globally,” the president said in his announcement.
Mr. Gwala also referred to the ambitions of the KwaZulu-Natal Film Commission to position the province as a choice destination for making films. KZN is located on South Africa’s east side with beaches bordering the Indian Ocean. In addition, it has mountains, game parks and extensive vistas, all conducive to film sets.
KZN next month will be hosting the African Economic Expansion Summit, which is set to bring in ministers and companies from all over the continent to discuss shovel-ready projects seeking foreign investment.
As the host of the annual Durban Film Festival, the largest in southern Africa, KZN already is recognized for its initiatives, but has augmented its reputation with a wide array of incentives for film production, much as Georgia has done.
Concerning tourism, Mr. Gwala said that the province faced the challenge of having to compete with Cape Town located in the Western Cape province, which is better known by foreign tourists and has many tourist attractions.
He added, however, that African tourists prefer the warmth of the water of the Indian Ocean to that of the Atlantic.