2014 could be the year when the Eastern Cape finally shrugs off the tag of being a minor contributor to the national economy and exporter of human capital and starts to become a significant player.
And it could, too, bethe year in which the unequal development between the west and east of the province and the unemployment and poverty that are the legacy of the former homelands finally starts to be addressed.
One pointer to the emergence of a new major player in the economy is the growth in the construction industry where employment in the first nine months of last year, grew at a faster rate than in any other province.
That trend is set to continue.
In the west of the province, for example, the number of people employed on the construction of the Baywest City Mall will increase from the current 600 to 2 000 by the middle of the year, while the various projects connected to the expansion of the Port of Ngqura will create more than 2 000 jobs in this sector.
In Buffalo City, construction is expected to start on the multi-model OEM in the East London Industrial Development Zone (ELIDZ) that will create 1 300 direct jobs.
To the north east of the province, the immediate financial problems facing Elitheni Coal have been resolved and the company is now looking to secure long-term financing, possibly from the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC).
This will allow for the resumption of production at the mine and the creation of a significant number of both direct and indirect jobs.
Investment in the province’s three ports will be significant.
Total investment in the 2014/15 financial year will be R1.55 billion spread across the three ports, with R267.5 million being spent in East London, R376.3 million in Port Elizabeth and R909.2 million at Ngqura.
Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa provided timetables for the construction of the Umzimvubu hydroelectric and irrigation scheme when she addressed the Integrated Wild Coast Development Programme Summit in November, stating that the clearing of the catchment area would start in April this year.
It also appears possible that work could start on the Wild Coast Highway with the legal challenges close to being resolved.
During the construction phase of the Wild Coast Highway 6 800 direct jobs will be created and 28 100 indirect employment opportunities.
This year will also see the completion of the feasibility study for Project Mthombo, the oil refinery planned for the Coega IDZ and a decision will then be taken on whether to proceed with the Front End Engineering Design (FEED) stage which involves the detailed design.
While the revised Integrated Resource Plan released by the Department of Energy states that any decision on the construction of Nuclear 1 at Thyspunt is likely to be delayed, the focus will be on the exploration of shale gas and what is described as the “Big Gas” scenario.
And that holds enormous prospects for the Eastern Cape.
The overall picture is positive and finally the Eastern Cape appears poised to shed its Cinderella status.