Capitalising on the coastal city of Buffalo City and transforming surrounding areas was at the top of the agenda at a two-day business seminar hosted by the Buffalo City Metro development agency last week.
At the two-day event, at East London IDZ conference centre, potential investors and stakeholders in the public and private sector were able to identify their concerns about the metro and outlook for the future.
Guest speakers included managing director of Azzaro Quantity, Sandi Mbutuma, renewable energy and ICT sector manager at the IDZ Dr Chris Ettmayr, DBSA’s Tshepo Ntsimane and Mercedes-Benz spokesman Asanda Fongqo.
BCM development agency CEO Bulelani Nelani said the company had had a productive year, developing several plans and designs to upgrade the beachfront and capitalise on the coastal city.
“As we celebrate the first anniversary of the agency, we also wanted to interact with the industry and stakeholders to understand what their expectations are and engage in discussions.
“The key issue is for us to announce that we are open for business. With our visionary mayor and city manager, who are very supportive, we are ready to transform the city,” he said.
Nelani said among the agency’s short-term goals, 50 jobs would be restored through a clean-up campaign and possibly another 60 would be created for security personnel to patrol along the beachfront over the festive season.
“We want to give our patrons a sense of safety, and in addition to the recently installed surveillance cameras along the Esplanade, we will have between 40 and 60 warm bodies patrolling from December,” he said.
Areas of growth for the metro were identified in tourism, infrastructure, transport, agro-processing and establishing industrial sites by rehabilitating old and underused factories.
Fort Jackson and Dimbaza were identified as potential areas for incubating programmes to support and capacitate unemployed graduates and emerging entrepreneurs, as well as up-skilling unemployed youths.
Fongqo said although MBSA had already up-skilled many youths through their training academy, many remained unplaced and unemployed.
Invest Buffalo City project manager Drayton Brown said there were many factors that needed to be put in to place to stimulate economic potential.
“The city needs to invest more in SMMEs with more experience as opposed to giving large projects to startup companies because emerging SMME’s have a failure rate of 95% in the first three years,” he warned.
Southcity Capital chairman Oscar Paradza said the town had a lot of potential with a beautiful coastline, but it needed to be branded and well-packaged and advertised more.
“You need to develop a themed package to sell the town for everything that it is and all that it has to offer, and create platforms for people to experience exactly what the town is about,” he said.
Ettmayr said more recreational activities and facilities needed to be developed along the beachfront to restore the number of cruise liners coming through the East London harbour.
Buffalo City mayor Xola Pakati said the metro had a long-term vision.
“The metro’s growth and development strategy, Vision 2030, aligns with the country’s National Development Plan.
“Through this strategy we seek to build a Buffalo City Metro that is inclusive, well-governed, globally connected, green and innovative, and which is overall a place to live, work, invest and play. We want our city to be characterised by rapid and inclusive economic growth with falling unemployment and poverty and reduction of inequalities,” he said. — firstname.lastname@example.org