Limpopo pins its hopes on SEZs

The Limpopo government is betting on two special economic zones (SEZs) to transform the province into a top investment destination.

The department of trade and industry (the dti) has provisionally approved the establishment of zones at the Greater Tubatse Municipality in the Sekhukhune region and in Musina.

In essence, an SEZ is a business park where trading and business laws are either relaxed or do not apply entirely.

It is hoped this will attract businesses and foreign direct investment.

Tax breaks, incentives and other benefits are used to lure businesses.

According to the dti, the SEZs, which replace the failed industrial development zones (IDZs), will accelerate industrial development and realise the country’s industrial action plan and the new growth path.

Solly Kgopong, the acting head of the Limpopo department of economic development, tourism and environmental affairs, said manufacturing would be the two zones’ “anchor industry”.

“We will use these to propel manufacturing in the province. We want to leapfrog growth, and deal with poverty, unemployment and inequality.”

A coking coal plant and a steam-power-generating company would be the Musina anchor tenants, Kgopong said.

Subindustries would include agroprocessing, fresh produce, and a logistics and trucking hub.

“Potential around the Musina border is crazy,” said Kgopong, adding that much of the work there would be done in partnership with neighbour Zimbabwe.

“Success there will not only depend on planning and design, but also on our Zimbabwean counterparts. That process has been initiated. I’ve been to Zimbabwe twice already. The premier and the MEC have also been there.”

Musina, said Kgopong, with the help of home affairs and customs officials, would eventually become a one-stop border post with streamlined business and civilian activities.

“Eventually, it will be a gateway into the Southern African Development Community, and an economic hub that will allow the smooth transit of goods and merchandise.”

Before any of this can happen, the province must complete a feasibility study, which Kgopong says will take 18 months.

The SEZ in Tubatse will have a different focus.

“We can call it a hydrogen-energy SEZ. The anchor tenant will manufacture fuel cells. If things go according to plan, this will change the face of manufacturing in Sekhukhune,” Kgopong said.

A prefeasibility study was under way, he said, adding that this would be followed by a full feasibility probe.

The province has partnered with Hydrogen SA, based at the University of Cape Town, as well as the University of Limpopo and the Sekhukhune Further Education and Training College, all of which are involved in research and development.

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