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Two new Special Economic Zones are planned in KwaZulu-Natal

Durban's cluster approach is paying off.

A key component of the economic policies of KwaZulu-Natal and South Africa is the support of Special Economic Zones (SEZs). In addition to its two existing zones, the province wants to establish two new ones.

Leather and textiles will be the focus of the planned SEZs in the Newcastle-Ladysmith corridor, an area where those industries already flourish. The province’s two established zones, Dube TradePort (at King Shaka International Airport, pictured) and Richards Bay Industrial Development Zone (RBIDZ) are attracting investments in a range of targeted sectors, agricultural exports and logistics, manufacturing and energy, among others.

TradeZone2 at Dube TradePort has been completed and has started attracting investors. These include:

  • Futurelife, food-processors, R57-million
  • LM Diapers, expansion of plant, R75-million
  • Synergy Blenders, chemical manufacturing, R93-million

KwaZulu-Natal is the second-largest manufacturing centre in South Africa, contributing 21% to national manufacturing GDP. The strongest export sectors are base metals (32% including aluminium), mineral products such as ores, vehicles and chemical products.

The sector is also a major contributor to the eThekwini Municipality GDP. The city’s economy grew 4.9% in 2021, 73% of which came from manufacturing, finance, business and trade.

“Manufacturing is responsible for 20% of the employment opportunities in eThekwini which translates to 176 000 jobs of which 83% are semi-skilled,” says Takalani Rathiyaya, Head of the Economic Development Programmes Department at the eThekwini Municipality. Over the last five years the municipality established four manufacturing clusters that collectively have over 200 member firms.

Through the Durban Chemicals Cluster, Durban Automotive Cluster, KZN Clothing and Textiles Cluster and eThekwini Furniture Cluster, a number of programmes are tackling challenges and attempting to stimulate growth. As Takalani explains, “Though we are only a couple of years into our industrial recovery plan, we are seeing the first green shoots in harnessing the industry’s potential to create high-income jobs, boost upstream development of local businesses as well as benefit from the multiplier effect for both formal and informal workers.”

Sappi’s massive Saiccor Mill on KwaZulu-Natal’s South Coast is one of the province’s largest processing facilities.

Aluminium producer Hulamin experienced reduced demand during the Covid-19 lockdowns but has secured a number of good orders, including to supply product to a US manufacturer of electric vehicles. Hulamin had previously laid off some workers and closed one of its factories in another province. The company believes that its restructuring is working well, and its beverage business is thriving. Hulamin also makes rolled products at Edendale, Pietermaritzburg and Camps Drift.

LG Electronics South Africa has opened a R21-million factory and distribution centre in Cornubia, north of Durban.

KwaZulu-Natal is the second-largest manufacturing centre in South Africa

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