WITH PO­TEN­TIAL

It might be the sec­ond-small­est prov­ince in SA, but Mpumalanga is punch­ing way above its weight when it comes to con­tribut­ing to the coun­try’s econ­omy and po­ten­tial eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment. The In­dus­trial De­vel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion’s regional man­ager for the pr

CityPress - - Business -

Ato­bog­gan ride is one of the many tourism op­por­tu­ni­ties Mpumalanga has to of­fer, and one that the In­dus­trial De­vel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion (IDC) has as­sisted with fund­ing.

Over­look­ing the fa­mous Long Tom Pass, the to­bog­gan is a mono­rail that runs 1.7km down­hill from the sum­mit of the kop­pie to the Misty Moun­tain Lodge, which owns and op­er­ates the ride.

The mono­rail track took 22 months to build and has 348 sec­tions that have been welded to­gether. It fea­tures nine box carts made out of plas­tic, each car­ry­ing a sin­gle rider.

Its de­signer and owner, James Sheard, said he was dared by a friend in Europe who had seen a to­bog­gan there and chal­lenged him to recre­ate it at Misty Moun­tain.

“A friend of mine sent me a YouTube clip and said, ‘why don’t you build one of th­ese?’”

Mat­siela said in­vest­ing in the to­bog­gan made per­fect sense in terms of the IDC’s tourism fo­cus.

“We are keen on fi­nanc­ing projects that are innovative in na­ture. It’s a new prod­uct in the lo­cal mar­ket and it ap­peals to both the young and old,” said Mat­siela.

Mpumalanga might not have an ocean, but it has ev­ery­thing else – the Big Five in the Kruger Park, the breath­tak­ing Blyde River Canyon, the Mac-Mac falls and the Long Tom Pass.

“This prov­ince makes you say, wow, wher­ever you go. You don’t just pass here, you come here to be at peace with your­self while also hav­ing fun. We have to tap into this po­ten­tial; our tourism op­por­tu­ni­ties are about more than just big game.”

He reck­ons the prov­ince has not yet scratched the sur­face of the rev­enue streams that tourism can open up.

“I be­lieve Mpumalanga can be­come a big­ger con­trib­u­tor to South Africa’s econ­omy if we tap into this mar­ket aggressively.” O ne of the IDC’s most successful fund­ing part­ner­ships in Mpumalanga has been with Colum­bus Stain­less, which alone is re­spon­si­ble for 3.5% of Mpumalanga’s GDP.

Colum­bus Steel was formed in 1991 when MS&A Stain­less was ac­quired by the Colum­bus Joint Ven­ture, a con­sor­tium con­sist­ing of Sa­man­cor, Vana­dium and the IDC. This made Colum­bus one of the biggest sin­gle-site stain­less steel pro­duc­ers in the world.

Its ex­panded plant in Mid­dle­burg was of­fi­cially opened by then pres­i­dent Nel­son Man­dela in 1996. Spanish stain­less steel pro­ducer Aceri­nox ac­quired a stake in Colum­bus Steel in 2003. The plant has a raw ma­te­rial-han­dling fa­cil­ity, a steel weld­ing sec­tion, a hot weld­ing mill, a cold weld­ing mill, a fin­ish­ing plant as well as a dispatch sec­tion. It provides 70% to 80% of all stain­less steel flat prod­ucts used in South Africa and ex­ports fin­ished stain­less steel to 54 coun­tries around the world. Stain­less steel is used in mo­tor ve­hi­cle parts, me­chan­i­cal en­gi­neer­ing, the con­struc­tion in­dus­try, elec­tri­cal ma­chin­ery and metal prod­ucts. The Colum­bus Steel plant boasts the high­est qual­ity cer­ti­fi­ca­tion in the in­dus­try, (ISO 9001:2008), and com­plies with strict en­vi­ron­men­tal con­trols. The com­pany fits in with the IDC’s strat­egy of in­vest­ing in labour-in­ten­sive man­u­fac­tur­ing op­er­a­tions that provide max­i­mum em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties and contribute to eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment. Colum­bus Steel pri­ori­tises black-owned lo­cal sup­pli­ers and new en­ter­prises. It also re­cruits lo­cally and reg­u­larly trains its staff to im­prove their skills and en­hance their pro­fes­sional de­vel­op­ment. “The staff we re­cruit are given the­o­ret­i­cal train­ing for about six months and then move on to practical train­ing in­side the fac­tory. Some of the re­cruits be­come steel mak­ers, which means they be­come op­er­a­tors that move up to var­i­ous lev­els in our busi­ness,” said CEO Lu­cien Matthews. Con­tribut­ing to the com­mu­nity where it op­er­ates is im­por­tant to Colum­bus Steel as they have in­vested R19 mil­lion in projects that include a com­puter cen­tre for the Mh­luzi Pri­mary School sit­u­ated in the nearby town­ship, a li­brary for Phumelela Sec­ondary School and a tree-planting and green en­vi­ron­ment ini­tia­tive.

Mat­siela says just over 70% of Mpumalanga’s pop­u­la­tion is un­der the age of 35, which makes in­vest­ing in them a pri­or­ity for the IDC in the prov­ince.

“We are quite fo­cussed on young peo­ple. In fact, we are in­vest­ing in our fu­ture en­trepreneurs through li­braries and lab­o­ra­to­ries at schools. We are work­ing from all ends so that we can im­prove their liveli­hoods and cre­ate em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties.”

Hav­ing adopted Makhosana Manzini High in 2008 through the cor­po­ra­tion’s Whole School De­vel­op­ment Pro­gramme, the IDC built a spe­cialised science lab at the school.

Be­sides the lab­o­ra­tory, the IDC also built the school’s ad­min­is­tra­tive block and ren­o­vated ablu­tion fa­cil­i­ties as well as do­ing gen­eral re­pairs to the school’s build­ings.

Ed­u­ca­tion ex­perts have also been sent to the school to as­sist it in draft­ing a strate­gic plan that helps iden­tify weak­nesses and en­sure that the school func­tions at op­ti­mum lev­els.

“We are the youngest prov­ince in the coun­try, there is a lot of en­ergy here and we are open to new ideas.”

Mat­siela said the IDC also helps with pre-in­vest­ment fund­ing – like pay­ing for an ap­proved con­sul­tant to help po­ten­tial clients en­hance their busi­ness plans – so that po­ten­tial clients are not dis­heart­ened.

“The IDC does not have pre­scribed forms, we only provide guide­lines to what sort of in­for­ma­tion we want in a busi­ness plan. We are open to ideas – if it makes busi­ness sense, we can help with the busi­ness plan.”

His of­fice is also happy to sit and talk with po­ten­tial clients about their ideas. “We en­gage, rather than just turn­ing peo­ple away. We have had clients who said they just needed to talk to some­one about their plans, and others who leave here and go and think of new busi­ness ideas.”

The cor­po­ra­tion has in­jected bil­lions into the prov­ince, and Mat­siela proudly points out that the IDC has be­come the fun­der of choice.

“We are a re­sults-driven team and we have es­tab­lished ex­cel­lent re­la­tion­ships with our stake­hold­ers in the prov­ince.

“There is still a lot of work to be done. We are in the process of setting up an­other fully fledged of­fice in Emalahleni be­cause there is so much po­ten­tial there.

“We might be a com­pact prov­ince, but we are ex­plod­ing with po­ten­tial.”

MASHWEU MAT­SIELA

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