Cape Town – More than 200 000 jobs could be created in the province’s oil and gas, agri-processing and tourism sectors by 2019, Premier Helen Zille said in her State of the Province Address on Friday.
Although Zille did not deliver the address, meant to broadly outline the provincial government’s plans for the year ahead, in the provincial legislature after Friday’s sitting was derailed, her speech was posted online.
Zille also briefly addressed journalists on the content of the speech during an impromptu press conference after the sitting of the House was temporarily suspended.
In copies handed to journalists, Zille announced five “strategic goals” and eight “game changers” she said would, in concert, improve the lives of residents.
The second “game changer”, called Project Khulisa, outlines a plan to add up to 235 000 jobs to the province’s economy by 2019, by focusing on the oil and gas, agri-processing and tourism sectors.
“We already know that tourism is a major contributor to job creation in the Western Cape, pumping R17 billion into the economy and underpinning 204 000 formal jobs,” she said. “However, we believe the sector can contribute even more.”
Tourism, Zille added, had the potential to increase its contribution to the economy by another 50 percent, adding almost 100 000 jobs in the next five years.
The premier welcomed the review of the country’s visa regulations announced by President Jacob Zuma in his State of the Nation Address last week, saying these had dampened demand from China, India and Africa, all major growth markets for South African tourism.
Speaking in Parliament last week, Zuma said there would be a “review” of visa regulations “to strike a balance between national security and growth in tourism”.
Zille said the province could also learn from how Kenya and Jordan managed to increase their tourist arrivals by savvy marketing, including selling themselves as “cultural and heritage” niche markets.
The second leg of Project Khulisa was agri-processing, which Zille said could add up to 100 000 jobs in five years. This sector currently accounts for 79 000 formal jobs in the province.
She said the government was in the process of evaluating whether “specialised agri-processing parks” should be developed, possibly with the incentive of tax and energy rebates, and research and development support for companies that decided to invest there.
As an example, she said the government may look at how Morocco had developed “agri-processing clusters”.
“(These) are located on sites with good road connections, near ports and airports. The clusters are also served by research and development and training institutions to address specific needs in the sector,” she said.
The third leg of Project Khulisa was investing in the province’s oil and gas sector.
“Currently, the oil and gas sector accounts for 35 000 formal jobs in the province. Looking at similar initiatives elsewhere in the world, we estimate that we could more than double this number by 2019.”
Zille warned that a skills shortage could hamper growth. “Currently, there are 1 700 artisans employed at the port, and we will need 18 000 by 2019 to support accelerated growth in this sector.”
One way to close the gap was to get retired artisans to pass on knowledge and skills to younger artisans, she suggested.
On the issue of electricity disruptions, Zille said the country needed “viable alternatives” to Eskom.
While she did not offer specifics, or mention a plan mooted by, among others, Wesgro chief executive elect Tim Harris to build a independent gas power station in the province, Zille criticised Zuma for maintaining what she termed Eskom’s “monopoly”.
She said nuclear power would not solve the “energy crisis” as it took 15 years for plants to become operational.
Meanwhile, the province’s plan to give all residents access to high speed broadband was “well under way”.
Announced in her previous State of the Province Address, Zille said 460 of a planned 2 000 provincial government sites had been connected to broadband internet. The sites, such as schools, health facilities and libraries, were being connected in partnership with the State Information Technology Agency and Neotel.
The first 50 of 384 wi-fi hot spots using government facilities as the backbone would go live in the next financial year.
People within range of the hot spots would get 250MB of free data per month.
Zille said the successful rollout of broadband would feed into the piloting of e-learning in provincial schools and R730 million had been allocated over three years to establish information and communications technology, and e-learning in schools.
While still thin on specifics, Zille said e-learning would start with a number of “pilot interventions”.
Turning to alcohol abuse in the province, Zille said this was “the biggest single threat to achieving our goal of increasing wellness, safety, and reducing social ills in the province”.
Among a raft of measures outlined to help combat the problem, she said the provincial government was investigating “alternative uses for cheap wine, such as converting it into biofuel for tractors and generators”.
It was important that the province help illegal shebeen owners find alternative business opportunities.