Ekurhuleni mayor Mondli Gungubele says the ‘Gauteng city’, which is home to OR Tambo International Airport, is aspiring to emerge as an “aerotropolis” and will, thus, place efficient logistics and communications at the very centre of its strategic economic and development planning.
“We have made the decision that, for Ekurhuleni to become a preferred destination for growth and development, we need to adopt a particular strategy which is appropriate for the city. We are, therefore, pursuing the aerotropolis model, which talks to exploring economic opportunities around an airport city,” says Gungubele.
The concept calls for the city’s layout, infrastructure and economy to be centred around a major airport so as to take full advantage of the business spin-offs associated with such proximity – OR Tambo already provides a ground-to-air shipping network and accessibility.
Gungubele explains that a third of international trade is through goods and services and, by 2029, air passengers will double, while air cargo should triple.
“We are host to 1.5-billion kilometres of optic fibre, which has the potential to connect Ekurhuleni and offer a multi- plicity of services that will reduce the cost of business, which will enable entrepreneurs to connect with the city and the world.”
Gungubele adds that, because an aerotropolis relies on efficiency in logistics, the primary infrastructure required is logistics related.
“Having an airport to connect with the world, we thought that, for us, the best dream to follow is that of an aerotropolis economy, which is the growth path chosen by Ekurhuleni.”
To make it a success, the metro is conducting a feasibility study to inform strategy by the end of the year and will be rolling out optic fibre worth R40-million to actualise services.
Gungubele says that the city will be signing a memorandum of understanding with the South African Maritime Safety Authority (Samsa) to turn the metro’s lakes into areas of interest to provide job creation oppor- tunities.
Samsa is mandated to promote South Africa’s maritime interests and development and position the country as an international maritime centre, while ensuring maritime safety, health and environmental protection. This mandate is extended to include inland waterways accessible to the public.
He notes that Ekurhuleni has also opted to follow a programme of township economic development in trying to support established and emerging small and medium-sized enterprises.
“There is a lot of potential in our townships and it must be possible to identify different types of entrepreneurs and support them in terms of developing their skills and marketing their products.”
He confirms that the establishment of an aerotropolis calls for the growth of light manufacturing, and the city is in the process of engaging Airports Company South Africa, the Department of Transport and the provincial government to form partnerships in this regard.
Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise strategy and entrepreneurship director Professor John Kasarda, who is assisting the City of Ekurhuleni in implementing its aerotropolis, says that airport terminals have become sophisticated revenue-generating engines featuring brand boutiques, speciality retail and upscale restaurants, along with entertainment and cultural attractions.
“The new way of doing business is changed by connectivity through aviation, speed and agility, which translate into jobs and opportunities, tax revenues and competitiveness in the new speed-driven economy.”
He warns that cities do not compete but regions do.
Kasarda elaborates that Durban is considering implementing an aerotropolis, which will augur well with the Dube TradePort, and adds that it is pertinent for countries with airports of all sizes and ages to implement the concept.
He urges the City of Ekurhuleni to leverage its unique resource, OR Tambo International Airport, as an engine to connect to the world in a speed-driven economy.