KZN to become gateway to SA, Africa - Mkhize

Friday, September 28, 2012

Pretoria - KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) is aiming to set itself up as the gateway to the country and continent, says the province's Premier Zweli Mkhize.

Structures and plans currently in place in the province are intended to position KZN as one of the most important centres in trade and commerce in South Africa in the coming decades, Mkhize said during The New Age Business Briefing in Durban on Friday.

"In 20 or 30 years, KZN will be become a prosperous province with a population that is healthy secure, skilled and it will be a gateway into South Africa, Africa and the world," he said.

The province was well aware of the challenges facing the country such as poverty, unemployment and inequality.

"One of the ways we have dealt with it is to structure the KZN Provincial Planning Commissions which has provided us with a plan for the next 20 years as to how this province can structure itself and position itself to be able to respond to those challenges," the premier said.

The focus was also on job creation with the aim to bring down unemployment and create millions of jobs.

Mkhize said the province expected these jobs to come from each district and sector.

One of these sectors was agriculture, which needed to be revived, particularly from the point of view of food security, land reform and ensuring communities able to create jobs.

"We have also looked at the area of tourism, which we believe is a very important area. The features of the province, from the beach to Berg, the cultural trails, lend ourselves to be one of the most attractive areas. At the moment we have the highest domestic tourism numbers, and we are focusing at competing with other destinations in the country to push the numbers."

The province was considering sectors where it could initiate economic development programmes, and was looking at the north of Durban as green energy manufacturing hub.

In the south of Durban, the province intended expanding the manufacturing sector, while there were opportunities for the leather industry and electronics in other parts of the province.

"In the whole province we have anchor programmes that should be able to invite investors in different nodes in the province in every district," he pointed out.

Mkhize noted that the driving sector in the province's economy was the ports. The province had the biggest ports in Africa and with more expansion at the ports planned.

In addition, huge investment was on the cards for rail and the upgrading of roads. Mkhize pointed out that one of the unique features of the province was its ability able to carry stuff from the sea to rail to road to air all in the same vicinity.

"That is why we are saying - well developed, well catered for, with adequate investment this offers KZN a gateway into the rest of Southern Africa," he said.

One area of concern for the province was the spate of killings of political figures.

"There have been things that have been very embarrassing or problematic. One of these is although we have seen stability at a political level we have seen deaths of leaders," the premier acknowledged.

Mkhize said the political hostility of the past did not exist in the province anymore and that the killings could be attributed to criminal motives and self-interest.

"It is a trend we need to deal with because it was part of a sense of ill-discipline, self-interest, criminality and people who think they can get access to money out of targeting other people," he said.

However, Mkhize noted that police, with the help of communities, were closing in on those arrested for the killings and had already secured convictions.

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