South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has called for increased long-term investment necessary for sustainable job creation, innovation, productivity enhancement, wealth creation and improvements in the living standards of our people.
The Free State Province not only champions this call but proclaims that the country’s most centrally-located province has all the ingredients that an investor could need.
The Free State Province lies in the heart of South Africa, with the Kingdom of Lesotho nestling in the hollow of its bean-like shape. Lying between the Vaal River in the north and the Orange River in the south, the region is one of flat, rolling grassland and fields of crops, rising to lovely mountains in the north-east. The Free State shares borders with six other provinces and provides easy access to the main ports of Durban, East London and Gqeberha (Port Elizabeth). The country’s major national highway, N1, runs through the centre of the province on a north-south axis.
Mangaung, comprising Bloemfontein, Botshabelo and Thaba Nchu, is South Africa’s newest metropolitan authority. The Bram Fischer International Airport in the provincial capital is the site of a multi-phase industrial and commercial development.
The N8 Corridor covers Bloemfontein, Botshabelo and Thaba Nchu and contains projects including the ICC Precinct (hotel and convention centre in Bloemfontein), Bio-Medical Park, Airport Node (logistics and supply chain, warehouses, residential apartments, hospitals, schools, hotels and new shopping malls), and tourism infrastructure for the Naval Hill development.
The province has an established institutional, educational and administrational infrastructure and is home to the Supreme Court of Appeal, the University of the Free State and the Central University of Technology.
Multiple sector opportunities
The Free State is home to immense investment opportunities in sectors such as agriculture, agro-processing, manufacturing, ICT, infrastructure development, green energy, construction, tourism and trade.
Some of the biggest current sectors in the province are agriculture, mining, manufacturing and tertiary sectors, making it an ideal location for transport logistics and agro-processing operations. The province is the granary of South Africa, with agriculture central to its economy, while the mining industry is still a large employer.
The province supplies significant proportions of the nation’s sorghum (53%), sunflowers (45%), potatoes (33%), groundnuts (32%), dry beans (26%), wool (24%) and almost all of its cherries (90%). Red meat and dairy are other important products, while game hunting is a growing sector. Crop production represents about two-thirds of the province’s gross agricultural income. The main crops are maize and wheat. Sunflowers, sunflower seeds, sorghum and soybeans are other major crops. The Mangaung Fresh Produce Market plays a vital role in the sector, catering to householders, bulk buyers, informal traders, agents and farmers.
Opportunities are opening up in the province’s gas and energy sector, with exploration licences being granted, and a R200-million plant started producing liquified natural gas (LNG) and helium in 2022.
Opportunities in renewable energy are boundless. Rezoning for solar farms has already taken place in Theunissen, Bloemfontein, Fauresmith and Hoopstad. Solar projects include the 60MW Boshoff Solar PhotoVoltaic (PV) park (Sun Edison) and the 64MW Letsatsi Solar PV (Solar Reserve, Kensani Group and Intikon Energy).
Sasolburg, on the province’s northern border, is one of the country’s most important industrial complexes. It is home to the global giant Sasol and several other chemical facilities. Other towns that are the centre of economic activity include Kroonstad, an important agricultural, administrative and educational centre; Parys, on the banks of the Vaal River; QwaQwa, a vast settlement known for its handcrafted items; Ficksburg, famous for its cherry festival; and Bethlehem, gateway to the Eastern Highlands.
Companies locating to the Free State not only enjoy the opportunity to source inputs at competitive prices, but also benefit from domestic, regional and international markets for their products and services. Because South Africa has been engaging with our economically large trading partners, access to international markets is facilitated through various trade preferences and free-trade agreements.
Adding to the province’s attractiveness as an investment destination, there are several industrial parks and a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) that are supported by the National Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (dtic). Industrial parks are situated in Maluti-A-Phofung, Botshabelo and Thaba Nchu. The Maluti-A-Phofung SEZ (MAPSEZ) is situated in Tshiame in the northern part of the province, on the busy N3 highway.
The N3 transports vast amounts of cargo between Johannesburg and Durban, and the infrastructure at the MAPSEZ has been set up in such a way as to suit logistics operators. Manufacturing opportunities are also encouraged within the MAPSEZ and attractive concessions and allowances are available to investors. The key sectors that are being targeted are automotive, agro-processing, logistics, general processing, ICT and pharmaceuticals.
To find out about a specific opportunity or discuss your potential investment in the Free State, please contact the Free State Department of Small Business Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs here: