Smart city for smart people
R28bn plan for George
BILLIONS of rands will be pumped into a major development in George in the southern Cape over the next 20 years, transforming the Garden Route town into a global business and ecotourism destination.
The R28 billion Destiny Africa Ecosphere project, announced this week, will consist of a world-class conferencing hub, a business park and resort, “a knowledge city” comprising business experts, a hotel, a university aimed at the arts, medical and biosphere tourism, eco-residential and housing developments.
In all, 2.5 million square metres have been approved for a project that will take 15 to 20 years to complete. An estimated 50 000 direct and indirect jobs will be created. The site is on the Garden Route near George.
Wesgro economist Craig Lemboe said this development would allow the local economy to become more diverse – currently a significant proportion of the economy was clustered within tourism and agriculture.
“The increase in diversification will allow the economy to make better use of opportunities and to be better equipped to realise and maintain higher levels of economic growth.
“The Eden district is the third largest economic area in the province and in 2007 contributed 7.2% to the economy of the Western Cape. This development will serve as an important catalyst to broader development, especially regarding the knowledge economy.”
Western Cape Premier Helen Zille said: “This is a completely new generation of project, the scale and audacity of which has not yet been seen in South Africa. We welcome this bold investment in an area that has huge growth potential. The project, fully implemented, could lift the entire region’s economic growth rate. We need more of this kind of investment in the province and South Africa to create jobs and drive development.”
The developers said a “smart city” of this size could be found in highgrowth economies such as Singapore and China. The project was granted a provincial Record of Decision and rezoning earlier this year.
But some George residents have raised fears that there is not enough water for such a development as the region is in the grip of one of its worst droughts in 132 years.
Fred Brown, an executive director of Destiny Africa, said that the development had been designed on “green” principles. It would feature cascading roofs to harvest water, and dams to capture the run off, along with facilities to purify “grey” water. The scale of the development made it possible to develop infrastructure to store water.
He said the development had huge potential. “It would create 200 business opportunities.”
Thys Pretorius, executive director of Destiny Africa Investments Holdings, the driving force behind Destiny Africa, said: “Business tourism underpinned by major international conferences is a global growth industry, yet potential goes largely untapped in South Africa.
“Destiny Africa fills the gap. Simultaneously, it creates a platform to promote the Garden Route as the world’s premier eco-tourism destination. The Garden Route packs the most ecodiversity into the smallest land area on the planet.”
The development was initiated by a local consortium of business people via Khama Investments and Kurialos Design and Management consultants, while land and development rights were obtained in partnership with Rand Merchant Bank. The company Destiny Africa Investment Holdings was set up to drive the project.
Pretorius said: “International experience has proved that jobs growth and the growth of national economies can be triggered by using an ecosphere catalyst at the right location. Successes include California’s Silicon Valley, Cornwall in the UK, Singapore, Shanghai, Hyderabad in India, Cancun in Mexico and Cairns in Australia.
“South Africa currently sheds skilled people. To reverse the trend, we need a smart city designed to attract smart people and smart business. That’s the Destiny Africa proposition and it’s great to see it taking off.”
Alan Winde, Western Cape MEC for finance, economic development and tourism, said: “I am delighted that the Destiny Africa Ecosphere will be located in George, because it will create employment opportunities and drive economic growth in the area.
“The designers have assured us that they will be using innovative ways to save and purify water. Perhaps their methods will become an example to others.”