Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies on Tuesday launched the first phase of the revitalisation of Babelegi Industrial Park, saying the area has potential for economic growth. “We took the decision as the Department of Trade and Industry (dti) to support those operating in industrial parks because there is economic potential in them,” said Minister Davies.
The launch of the first phase forms part of the dti’s Revitalisation of Industrial Parks programme. The department spent R42 million in the first phase, which involved the upgrading of security infrastructure, the erection of a perimeter fence and installation of guard houses, among others.
The upgrade, said the Minister, was good value for money, given concerns raised by tenants at the industrial park around issues of vandalism and crime. Babelegi Industrial Park is the sixth industrial park out of 10 to have been revitalised by the dti programme, which started in September 2015. The revitalisation of the industrial parks speaks directly to government’s radical economic transformation objectives, said the Minister.
Minister Davies said there is a need to bring the majority, who had largely been kept out, into economic activities. “We have to promote greater patterns of inclusion, greater involvement of the majority of our people in activities in the real economy, [where they] actually become real industrialists and become owners of manufacturing businesses, not just as shareholders in somebody else’s company,” said the Minister.
If South Africa is to become a developed country, it is essential that it brings the majority of its people, who were kept from participating in the real economy as a result of the apartheid regime, into the real economy. “That’s the only way we are going to develop. That is the only way we are going to reach the goals of having a developed country in which we tackle head on the scourge of poverty, inequality and unemployment,” he said.
The first phase of the revitalisation programme at Babelegi resulted in 158 people being employed, while the building equipment needed in the upgrades was sourced from local businesses. To date, the industrial park, which in its prime used to employ over 25 000 people, currently employs about 8 500 people.
Acting Chief Executive Officer of the North West Development Corporation (NWDC), Michael Mthimunye, said 181 factories, including multinationals like Nestle, are operating on the site, with 19 of them being privately owned.
Acting Gauteng Premier Barbara Creecy recalled Premier David Makhura’s visit to the area in 2015. She said today was a dream come true, as major progress has been made. The industrial park, which has 261 developed units, currently has an occupancy rate of 65%.
Minister Davies, the Acting Premier, and a delegation visited three of the factories based within the industrial park, where they interacted with the owners.
Shenton Sun, the Chief Executive Officer of Harvest Group, which is one of the tenants operating in the park, said the South African market is a good one for his company, which has received assistance from the NWDC.
“It is definitely worth the investment,” he said of the company’s over R100 million investment in South Africa.
Harvest Group is a supplier of knitted and woven bags with a wide range of uses in the agricultural industry. The company manufactures knitted vegetable bags as well as polypropylene bags, among others.
The industrial park also houses companies operating in textiles, light manufacturing and engineering fields, among others.