Ekurhuleni's Aerotropolis set for take off
Key to Ekurhuleni municipality's 2055 Growth and Development Strategy is the aerotropolis masterplan. Africa Outlook has a look at the proposals.
Writer Ian Armitage
Project manager Stuart Platt
It's no secret that there needs to be improvement in how South Africa is managed at a national, provincial and municipal level. According to the auditor general, only five percent of municipalities obtained clean audit reports in the financial year 2011/2012.
There are currently 343 municipalities in the country and worryingly five of South Africa's nine provinces did not have a single municipality with a clean audit, including Gauteng, the country's economic engine. The Gauteng Province is divided into three metropolitan municipalities – City of Johannesburg, City of Tswane, and Ekurhuleni - and two district municipalities (Sedibeng and West Rand), which are further divided into seven local municipalities.
In 2009, the Gauteng Provincial Government deployed a specialised team in Ekurhuleni to assist in accelerating 'the provision of services, infrastructure development and to deal with outstanding disputes'.
The municipality had been facing challenges in its finances, infrastructure and planning. It also lagged behind in providing key services.
The municipality requested that the provincial government step in and deploy a team to assist in the short term, isolating and resolving issues that may be impeding proper service delivery in specific areas.
Much has since changed. But there is still work to be done.
In his latest state of the city address, Mayor Mondli Gungubele talked at length about the municipality's 2055 Growth and Development Strategy – a programme he described as "the essence of a future development trajectory for Ekurhuleni".
"For us as the City of Ekurhuleni, it is important that we create certain conditions in order to sustain the character of our city as a socially mature one that can never be undermined," he said. "In particular, three challenges must be confronted head-on, and be overcome: 1) We must continue negotiating the recent economic downturn, especially given the impact it has had on our city; 2) We must overcome our spatial fragmentation, because failure to do so will amount to the perpetuation of the apartheid legacy; and 3) We must halt, and ultimately reverse, the degradation of our city's built and natural environment. This is the essence of a future development trajectoryfor Ekurhuleni, which we advance in the recently adopted Growth and Development Strategy, GDS 2055.
"To borrow from U.S. President Barrack Obama, "As our parents' children, we have the opportunity to learn from these mistakes and disappointments. We have the opportunity to muster the courage to fulfil the promise of our forefathers and lead our great nations towards a better future". In the light of the above, we are today presenting 12 building blocks which are aimed at delivering a liveable city in the short to medium term, and a productive, future city in the long term. These are the blocks that we started laying since the beginning of our term of office. Going forward, we will be picking up momentum in their implementation." Those "blocks" are extensive and include, as the mayor put it, "intensifying job creation activities", "strengthening public participation", "improving local public services" and "broadening access and combating fraud and corruption".
Other blocks include better revenue management, working to transforming the economy, reviving the manufacturing sector and the development of the Ekurhuleni aerotropolis, a plan that will see Ekurhuleni become Africa's first "airport city", a link to the rest of South Africa.
The aerotropolis is really "the heart" of the new development strategy and it seems to be taking flight.
Referring to the project, the mayor said: "This flagship project has been in the pipeline for some time, and I am aware that there continues to be sceptics in our ranks as to whether it will see the light of day. To them I wish to confirm that we have no intention to go back on pronouncements made previously. "Following the development of our Strategic Roadmap, we have now set out to develop the aerotropolis masterplan. In this regard, a tender has been issued, to invite appropriately qualified service providers to step forward and help us develop this masterplan. We anticipate that process will take up to 18 months to conclude. Our plans enjoy the support of Provincial and National Government."
He pledged to "make sure that the Ekurhuleni aerotropolis is an overwhelming success."
Home to OR Tambo airport, Ekurhuleni has every chance of that. Key to the success of the project will be the ability to attract investors. in Kempton Park – national flag carrier South African Airways for example – while low-cost carrier Mango is headquartered at OR Tambo.
However, Shadow MMC for Finance in Ekurhuleni Eddie Taylor believes "the challenge the city faces is the issue of expanding".
Ekurhuleni is not the only City hoping to develop into an aerotropolis, King Shaka airport in KwaZulu- Natal has the advantage of space for expansion.
What Ekurhuleni doesn't have in space, it makes up for in roads. Good roads. And newly improved freeways. Being positioned in Gauteng gives an added advantage. These factors have seen the project endorsed by international experts.
"If the aerotropolis will inspire economic growth there will have to be synergy among key stakeholders," says Schipol Area Development Company's Vivianne Blommers, an international expert from the Netherlands. "We believe that by making the airport, city and region better connected, we can develop in a more economically efficient, attractive and sustainable way.
According to Blommers, "An aerotropolis model maximises the competitive advantages of having an Airport City in a strong Metropolis.
"Of course, a global city region can only exist in the presence of a hub. Airport, City and Region need to be connected in a way that benefits the hub as a whole," she says.
Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport is one of the pioneers of the Airport City formula. "It is a business model based on the concept that an airport is not just an arrival-and-departure terminal. It's about integrating aviation and non-aviation activities," says Blommers. "It is a dynamic hub integrating people and businesses, logistics and shops, information and entertainment offering its visitors and locally based international businesses all the services they require on a 24/7 basis."
With the high unemployment rate in the country, including Ekurhuleni, the aerotropolis would create employment and economic growth.
"We have the OR Tambo, the airport and the City of Ekurhuleni will have to continue to create a secure and conducive climate for business development as the only sustainable way to address unemployment and poverty," says Professors Carel van Aardt from the University of South Africa. "Ekurhuleni's responsibility is to improve the enabling of environment and eliminating deterrents to do business in Ekurhuleni, Gauteng and the wider South Africa."
Gauteng Premier Nomvula Mokonyane believes that the success of the aerotropolis will lead to the prosperity of all the people of Gauteng including the business community. "The aerotropolis should be seen as a vehicle to position the SA economy among the world economies. It must be about creating jobs, poverty alleviation, and the equitable share of business opportunities to small, micro and medium enterprises," she says.
"We must create a good environment for investors, we must put processes in place to improve turnaround time in making decisions and have teams in place to identify and mitigate threats before it is too late."
Creating jobs is vital; It is one of the Municipality's "blocks".
"The official unemployment rate in Ekurhuleni is 28.8 percent, which is three present higher than the national rate as per the 4th Quarterly Labour Force Survey for 2012," said Mayor Gungubele. "This constitutes a 1.1 percent increase in official unemployment, if compared to our medium term population figures for 2006. However, in terms of the Gauteng City Region Observatory, Ekurhuleni' broader unemployment figures is 39.5 percent, thus implying that over 1,185,000 people in Ekurhuleni have no known income sources. Of these people, 61 percent are young people of 34 years old and below.
"This is a major source of worry for us because what it implies is that nearly four out of every ten young people in our city are unemployed. It is against this knowledge that a significant portion of our future plans revolve around job creation for young people.
"As worrying as the increase in unemployment is, it should be understood within the overriding context of a rapidly urbanising city. Such urbanisation is a worldwide phenomenon, where more and more people view places such as Ekurhuleni as holding the answer to their unemployment woes. Hence it is to these places that they flock in their numbers. As we bemoan the fact that these figures for unemployment are staggeringly high, we should perhaps take comfort in the fact that, compared to 2001, the rate of employment in our city has improved by about 12 percent. In this regard, the Global Insight' Economic data, the Ekurhuleni economy has created at least 12000 formal jobs between 2010 and 2011.
"The question you may ask is: how have we responded to the fact that in real terms, more than a million people in Ekurhuleni do not have known sources of income? Our answer is that we have laid some foundations. In September last year, the Municipality approved a Job Creation Strategy to enhance the number of jobs that we createin the city. Since June 2012, the City created 3,874 EPWP and 2,091 non-EPWP work opportunities in Quarter 1 and 2 of the 2012/13 financial year. These figures are going to increase significantly as we approach the end of the financial year. I am the first to acknowledge that given the magnitude of the problem confronting us, the number of jobs created seems like a drop in the ocean. But the impact these jobs have had on the livelihoods of families cannot be undermined. I am certain that those who have been beneficiaries of these initiatives can testify to the huge difference these opportunities have made in their lives; and those of their families. We have secured the commitment of all stakeholder departments to increase their job creation targets significantly. It is envisaged that the Ekurhuleni Municipality will contribute to the creation of an additional 5,500 work or income earning opportunities in the regional economy."
He continued that, as part of its Jobs Programme, the Municipality will be setting up a job creation programme management unit.
"The Unit will be tasked with the coordination and leveraging of external funding from sources such as "The Jobs Fund" and other related sources," Gungubele said. "In the final analysis, our Jobs Programme is planned in such a way that from the upcoming financial year and going forward, Ekurhuleni will create at least 15,000 work opportunities per annum. The demilitarisation project is going to be integrated into all the other job creation initiatives we will be implementing.
"Before the end of the current calendar year, we shall be hosting a Jobs Summit and Career Expo. It is at this Summit that we shall seek to ensure integration of skills development to placement opportunities, especially for the youth of our city "In all these job creation activities that we are announcing, the value of partnerships cannot be overstated. More than anything, we are calling upon commerce and industry to enter into strategic partnerships with us, to optimise opportunities that exist in this enterprising City of ours," he added.
Over R10 million has been committed by the City and various businesses in Ekurhuleni towards bursaries for post-secondary education and on-the-job-training, in line with the "Window of Opportunity" initiative.
This isn't all the Municipality is doing. Indeed, making sure there is access to electricity and water is just as important as creating jobs and Ekurhuleni has made huge strides in this respect.
Over 80 percent of South African households now enjoy the benefits associated with electricity, up from 32 percent prior to 1994.
Nearly all households in South Africa have access to clean, drinking water, up from 60 percent before the dawn of democracy.
When it comes to sanitation, at least 63 percent of South African households enjoy the dignity associated thereto – up from 43 percent 20 years ago.
"I now turn to our report on the electrification of homes and public facilities in the city," Mayor Gungubele said, adding, "In excess of 10,000 solar water heaters have been installed since 2011. 2,636 of these were installed in the first part of this financial year.
"By the end of June this year, the communities of Palm Ridge Phase 5, Mayfield Extension 6, KwaThema Extension 3 and Chief Albert Luthuli Extension 5 will enjoy the benefits that accrue due to electricity for the first time. As a result of the implementation of energy efficiency initiatives, we have saved the municipality R2.8 million to date, money which will now assist in rolling out services to those who have never had. Soon we will be rolling out a project for the installation of solar lighting in informal settlements. The project will be launched next month. This project is intended to help minimise fire incidents at informal settlements while also making life easier for our people living there. Our city's water remains the best in the country, having won the Blue Drop Award four times in a row – an achievement that has earned us a Platinum Status. Our city is officially the third best drinking water provider in the world.
"Looking at these achievements, clearly we have done a lot. And yet, a lot more needs to be done. Let me then reflect on our future plans for the next five years."
To learn more about these projects and everything else happening in Ekurhuleni (there is a lot going on) visit www.ekurhuleni.gov.za.
The hosting of the first ever Airport Cities World Conference and Exhibition (ACE) 2013 on African soil takes place on April 24 – 26.