Transport heartbeat to growth

In A few years, two record-breaking mega-bridges over local rivers will contribute to SA’s growing national and continental landscape and road network.

The two bridges, one over the Msikaba River and the other over Mtentu River, just outside Xolobeni south of Lusikisiki along our beloved Wild Coast, will be among the biggest in Africa. One will become the highest bridge in the southern hemisphere, the other possibly the longest cable-stayed suspension bridge in Africa, part of the N2 Wild Coast project expected to be completed by 2021.

As we celebrate October as Transport Month, it is time to ponder that people and places around the world rely on transport facilities for connection and interaction. Whether needed for getting to work in a big city or going to sell products in a rural village market, transportation infrastructure is a critical element of any society.

According to the national government declaration, October was declared Transport Month “to raise awareness on the important role of transport in the economy and to encourage participation from civil society and business, including the provision of a safe and more affordable, accessible and reliable transport system in the country. The month is also used to engage in extensive campaigns showcasing progress achieved in various transport programmes and projects.”

Such a declaration is not surprising. After all, transport infrastructure shapes and reshapes landscapes, it alters time-space relationships, and it provides a foundation upon which modern economies are built.

Transport infrastructure has never before been so conducive to positive economic expansion. Our provincial airports, PE, EL and Mthatha, are seeing a higher level of passengers than ever before.

Improved transport infrastructure for all modes of transport – aviation, trains, cars, buses, taxis, ships, boats and others – reduces travel time, transport costs, and, consequently, increases accessibility of goods and services.

This in turn leads to a decrease in the marginal cost of producers and an increase in the mobility of households and the demand for goods and services.

Here is a practical example to back the above argument. According to research by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), the upgrading of the N2 Wild Coast’s 410km stretch will cut the travelling time between EL and Durban by up to three hours. The 112km section of new road would link Ndwalane outside Port St Johns and Mzamba on the border with KwaZulu-Natal.

The road transport infrastructure would help unlock the Eastern Cape’s economic potential and contribute substantially to job-creating sectors such as eco-tourism, agriculture and manufacturing. The CSIR found that poor communities along the Pondoland coast will benefit from better access to towns, shorter travel times and lower travel costs. Researchers say the project will create 6800 direct and about 28000 indirect job opportunities during the construction phase.

This is confirmation that regional, provincial and national development is influenced by many factors, one of which is the quality of transport infrastructure. High transport accessibility contributes to attracting investors, accelerating economic turnover, creating jobs, and optimising the siting of firms seeking to gain better access to markets.

The N2 Wild Coast project is recognition that better transport infrastructure leads to improved capacity and better connectivity between cities and nations boosts trade, and creates growth and prosperity.

Transport is essential for increasing the connectivity of our economies and supporting international prosperity. It is a key engine for growth.

Granted all of us do occasionally experience the trials, tribulations, and challenges of getting around our province cities, towns and villages that suffer from infrastructural deficiencies.

However, we also savour the thrill of travelling on national roads across the wide-open spaces of our well-paved interstate highways. Indeed, sometimes it can be hard to fathom that some of our rural areas suffer from poor or inadequate transportation facilities.

We have seen how inadequate transport infrastructure inhibits economic growth, stunts social development, and exacerbates tensions over resources and the environment. The development of infrastructure is critical for economic growth. Indeed, the maintenance of what we have got is also critical.

Current and future investments on transport infrastructure improve the value proposition for inward investors, attract new employers and improve mobility and connectivity for residents along to spur economic growth.

Transport Infrastructure is a driver of sustainable development of continental, regional, national, provincial and local economic and social systems.

It is essential that we do not rest on our laurels and seek ongoing enhancement of our public transport to ensure we are a truly international-standard province competing with the best.

Phumulo Masualle is Premier of the Eastern Cape. Follow him on @EC_ Premier and on Facebook at Masincokole