Smart city for smart peo­ple

R28bn plan for Ge­orge

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - ME­LANIE PETERS

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.”

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