Trade, Industry and Competition Deputy Minister Fikile Majola has committed to facilitating strong cooperation between all three tiers of government to fast-track progress in the operation of the OR Tambo International Airport Special Economic Zone (ORTIA SEZ).

Majola visited the SEZ on November 18, leading a delegation of senior officials from the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (DTIC) and the Gauteng government, to discuss operations with the leadership of the Gauteng Industrial Development Zone (GIDZ), which is currently tasked with setting up the SEZ.

The ORTIA SEZ is one of the first SEZs linked to a port of entry that formed part of the SEZ programme of the government in the early 2000s. This was to support efforts of companies that produce products that would have to move via air freight.

Initially allocated 7.5 ha in the northern part of the airport, the SEZ has grown incrementally by size, with an additional 29 ha of land to the north of the R21 and a further 13.9 ha next to the Impala Platinum Refinery in Springs Ekurhuleni. This, in effect, established three operations precincts of the SEZ, the DTIC notes.

There are efforts to secure more land in Ekurhuleni for industrial development to support the full implementation of the city’s Aerotropolis Strategy.

Majola expressed concern at the pace at which operations are unfolding and has undertaken to bring on board key stakeholders from the Gauteng government, the Airports Company of South Africa and the Ekurhuleni metropolitan municipality as soon as possible to assist in dealing with the challenges brought forward by the leadership of the SEZ.

“We have a problem of massive unemployment in our country, particularly among young people. We know that SEZs are one of the critical tools that the government has identified, not only to encourage investment both domestically and internationally, but to create jobs. So we have to make sure they are fully functional and effective to assist economic recovery efforts.

“Gauteng is the economic hub of the country and, therefore, we should spare no effort because SEZs will play an important role in building the economy of the province. The OR Tambo SEZ is key in driving the implementation of the Ekurhuleni’s Aerotropolis strategy,” said Majola.

During the briefing, SEZ acting CEO Thandiwe Ngqobe said some of the critical challenges they were facing include providing adequate bulk infrastructure to secure investments.

Moreover, she highlighted that they were working hard to address some of their capacity and financial constraints.

However, there has been progress made over the past couple of years.

Despite some of the challenges faced, 13 investors have been secured, three of them are already operating from Precinct 1 of the SEZ.

One of the three companies is In2Food, a food packaging company contracted to Woolworths. In2Food started operations at Precinct 1 in 2019, bringing an investment of R257-million, while also creating over 2 200 direct jobs.

The development also provided support opportunities to six emerging farmers, five of which are black-owned and funded through the company’s support programme.

Metal Concentrators is a South African refinery producer, which started its operations this year. The company has invested R102-million in support of its operations at the SEZ. Over 50% of the staff complement is made up of women.

The DTIC leadership is currently engaging with all provinces on the implementation of the new approach to SEZ implementation, the new approach; include the model of involving all spheres of government in the implementation of SEZ programme.

The implementation of the new approach has helped the SEZ Programme to secure a cumulative value of over R60-billion worth of private investments in SEZs.