Economics, not politics must drive inner cities

Nelson Mandela Bay business growth inner cities south africaThe development of South Africa’s cities is critical to creating jobs and improving economic growth rates, but without partnerships, finding niches, being uber competitive and technologically advanced, this will not happen, delegates at a development conference heard on the weekend.

An especially big stumbling block would be if politics rather than economics drove the development.

SA has the sub-structure in place to make it work, whereas other sprawling cities like Lagos do not even have that, yet Nigeria is tipped to become Africa’s economic engine.

The local government said it was prepared to support bold, new initiatives and provide funding to worthy projects and partner with the Mandela Bay Development Agency (MBDA) on urban renewal projects.

“As a leading city we are investing more and more,” said Deputy Mayor, Nancy Sihlwayi.

She said the government understood the need to benefit from global trade and to provide a stable and competitive economy that competes at a global level. Urban renewal in the metro is seen as a critical plank in this process, but crime, violence and environmental challenges also needed to be addressed.

Professor Nick Binedell, from the Gordon Institute of Business Science, said the pursuit of narrow political interests would hinder this growth, as economics, not politics would be the driver.

Binedell said visionary thinking was needed, as the economy drove the cities, noting that Johannesburg was built in only 20 years, driven by its niche, mining. It became to the world in the 1800’s what Shanghai is to the world today.

“We live in a time of unbelievable change, increasing technical and social complexity and significantly more competition,” Binedell cautioned.

But he said the fight for the future was deeply competitive as the fight for resources was political. “We will compete for our lunch.”

Hundreds of cities are lifting their people out of poverty, and Port Elizabeth is a tiny speck in this sea of cities.

Binedell said technological innovation was a key in the process, and said that a city had to find its own niche. Another part of that was linking in with social change and bringing the young generation into the loop.

This comes as the MBDA is pulling its youth and other interested inhabitants together in an inner city run on Sunday along the new Route 67, that uses art to celebrate Nelson Mandela’s 67 years in public life, along the paths walked in the 1994 election.

It is also spending hundreds of millions to boost the inner city and wants a new harbour and beachfront development to drive tourism and jobs. It aims to use the city’s culture and history as its niche and to move past its motor-manufacturing base towards more tertiary sector development and diversified business base.

SA cities have had a rough time over the last couple of years, but infrastructure upgrades can create jobs, reverse brain drains and lead to economic diversification, according to MBDA CEO Pierre Voges.

Port Elizabeth is mainly based on motor manufacturing, while the tertiary sector has not developed over the past 20 years. But the MBDA aims to boost tourism and jobs into the Eastern Cape economy and has already spent R250 million on improving the municipal infrastructure in the CBDs of Port Elizabeth and Uitenhage.

“We are not trying to be like Johannesburg or Cape Town,” said Voges. The aim is to turn the manufacturing base and working mentality into a positive. He said infrastructure upgrades like those currently taking place in the inner city were already bringing entrepreneurs back into the region.

One stumbling block is seen as an ore terminal blighting the shoreline and creating health concerns.

Voges called the relationship with Transnet Port Terminals as “rocky”, but that far better cooperation was now happening as the port was so important to the region’s economy. The Port Elizabeth port alone has seen a threefold increase in tonnage shipped since 2005.

The 350,000 tonne manganese ore terminal between Kings Beach and the Port Elizabeth Harbour has for years been blamed for upsetting the beachfront aesthetics and potentially causing health problems. A new beachfront development and harbour upgrade is expected to replace the facility once it is moved to either Coega, Africa’s biggest industrial zone development just outside Port Elizabeth, or Saldanha.

source: Business Times

VWSA celebrates 60

Sixty years ago today, the first Volkswagen Beetle was produced in Uitenhage, South Africa. The date 31 August 1951 is a significant date both for Volkswagen Group South Africa (VWSA) and the many South Africans who have either owned one of its cars or been employed at the company.

Since then, VWSA has produced over 2.8 million vehicles, been awarded numerous export orders by its parent company, won a number of local and international awards and currently produces South Africa’s two top-selling passenger vehicles.

Volkswagen Group South Africa MD David Powels said the company has come a long way since its humble beginnings in 1946 with the establishment of South African Motor Assemblers and Distributors (SAMAD), which produced 12 Studebakers a day, to the world class factory it is today – producing an average of 600 vehicles daily.

Powels said the original management, in the form of SAMAD’s first MD, Melville Steele Brooks and chairman Baron Klaus von Oertzen, could not have predicted how Volkswagen would grow from a small Company with big dreams, and prosper over the next 60 years – not only building Volkswagens and Audis, but also Austins, Volvo’s and Jeeps.

Since its introduction in 1951 until the end of production in 1979, 290 000 of the iconic Beetles were sold in South Africa. For 11 of those 28 years, it was the top selling vehicle in the country. Another proudly South African car, the Golf 1, was launched in 1979, and until the end of its life cycle in 2009, 517 384 A1 Golfs had rolled of the production line in Uitenhage. These humble cars became giants in the motoring world, and would define generations of South Africans.

Volkswagen’s advertising campaigns over the years also speak volumes. Who could forget the famous “Red, Yellow, Blue Citi Golf” TV campaigns, or the aerial views of thousands of its staff and another of VW vehicles – sprawled out in the shape of the company logo – in the “People’s Cars” television ads, or of the father proudly handing over the keys to his beloved Beetle to his son?

Not only has it been producing “People’s Cars” for six decades, but VWSA also has a proud history of putting people first – from having trained and qualified the country’s first Black artisans in the 1980’s to providing continuous training to its staff, suppliers and dealers today.

Over the years, the Volkswagen Brand has won six consecutive rally championships, three Dakar rallies, put the first Black rally champion on the podium and won the South African Car of the Year award two years in a row.

“Once only producing for the local automotive market, the Company has since grown to become a significant exporter to Volkswagen markets around the world. VWSA’s uncompromising approach to quality has seen it become integrated into the Volkswagen global supplier network – producing cars to the same exacting standards as the other 60 Volkswagen facilities around the world. To-date we have exported more than half a million vehicles to the rest of the world since our first major order to China in 1992,” said Powels.

The Company is an integral part of the global presence of the Volkswagen Group – a Group which today employs nearly 370 000 people worldwide in 60 production plants and who produce about 28 000 vehicles or are involved in vehicle-related services each day. “VWSA is the largest German investment in South Africa. Over the years we have grown into a strong, proud Company and remain a trusted Brand with a humble heart,” said Powels.

Currently in South Africa, a 5 000-strong workforce produces about 600 Polo Vivo’s and Polo’s – the country’s two top selling passenger vehicles – daily. These two vehicles have helped position VWSA as the market leader for four months of 2011.

“The Volkswagen Group has been in South Africa for 60 years, and has evolved and changed with the times. We now have to maintain our momentum, and look forward to the next 60 years,” said Powels.

Powels says VWSA’s vision for the future “is to become the country’s best-selling and most profitable car company, for the Uitenhage-based manufacturer to produce South Africa’s best quality cars, which in turn will result in the country’s most satisfied customers. For its 5 000 employees, the Company would like to see them continue upskilling themselves and be the most delighted workforce in the country”.

source: iAfrica