Accounting for nearly a quarter of the Gauteng economy, which, in turn, contributes to a third of the national gross domestic profit, Ekurhuleni contributes about 7% to the country’s spending power and some 7,4% to thenation’s total production.
Although Ekurhuleni, also known as ‘Africa’s workshop’, shows similar traits to the rest of Gauteng regarding unemployment, poverty and average wage levels, it has a substantial structuraldifference, in that it contains most of the plants for production of goods and commodities.
In Ekurhuleni alone, manufacturing accounts for 28% of total production; however, a challenge facing the manufacturing sector is that globalisation has a definitive impact on the structure of production and on thedemand for labour.
Even though Ekurhuleni does notbenefit from direct capital investments as a result of the automotive sector developments in the country, it continues to play the role of the workshop of the economy, with production of structural steel and fabricated metal products serving asinputs into other areas’ economies.
Annual economic growth in Ekurhuleni recorded a pick-up in the period 1998 to 2003, at almost double the rate of the nationalmanufacturing growth rate.
The size of the economically active population is 52%, compared to 28% nationally, and household income and per capita income exceed thenational average by 10% and 33% respectively.
The percentage of people living in poverty nationally is 49%, compared to 29% in Ekurhuleni.
The Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality’s annual budget is in the region of R11-billion,of which some R1-billion is being budgeted annually for capital projects in line with priorities set in the integrated development plan, whilethe bulk of this expenditure is used for theupgrading of facilities and infrastructure backlogs caused during apartheid.
Further, Ekurhuleni can be regarded as the transportation hub of the country with themunicipality being home to Johannesburg International Airport (JIA).
JIA services the entire continent with links to capital cities throughout the world and at least 14-million passengers pass through the airport each year.
JIA also connects smaller domestic airlines to cities throughout South Africa.
Beside JIA’s creating economic opportunities, Ekurhuleni also has the largest railway hub,with links to all major population centres and ports in the Southern Africa region.
The Maputo Corridor development, South Africa’s most advanced development initiative, connects Ekurhuleni with Mozambique’s capital and the largest Indian Ocean port.
Direct rails, road and air links connect Ekurhuleni to Durban, South Africa’s largest and busiest port.
From 1995 up to 2005, the Gauteng government made strategic investments in upgrading some of the ageing road networks linked to the industrial hub to promote the movement of goods and services.
Ekurhuleni’s Blue IQ projects, include the Wadeville-Alrode Industrial Corridor with linkages to the largest logistical hub, the City Deep container terminal, the planned Gautrain rapid-rail link to Johannesburg and Tshwane and the JIA Industrial Development Zone.
Ekurhuleni has a significant and large local economy and is the biggest contributor in themanufacturing sector, with some 27,5% being contributed in terms of gross value-added output.
The metropolitan is concentrated on themetals, chemicals, machinery and equipment as well as plastic products subsectors.
Other sectors include finance, commercial, services, trade and transport.
Owing to its production base being moreconcentrated on goods and services, Ekurhuleni is more exposed to the notions of globalisation than many other urban areas.
Although the manufacturing sector hasdeclined in the last decade relative to the other sectors in Ekurhuleni, the local economy is still relatively concentrated on this sector.
In an attempt to attract business to Ekurhuleni, the metro council convened a major summit early last month, involving a cross section of society, including business, labour, civil organisations and government to discuss ways of attracting and retaining business.
The two-day summit – the first of its kind for the metro – took place at the Emperor’s Palace, in Kempton Park, early last month, where President Thabo Mbeki called on allmunicipalities to draft a growthand development strategy, focusing on investment, job creation, the creation of sustainable communities and the promotion oflevels of growth.
At the summit, the metro’s five-year integrated development plan was presented and new programmes were proposed to address the key challenges facing Ekurhuleni, highlighting poverty alleviation andjob creation by 2014.
Debates included the role of theprivate sector in development, opportunities and challenges ofinvesting in the region and public–private partnerships.
In other developments, Ekurhuleni won silver on its debut at the International Awards for Liveable Communities, held in La Coruna, Spain, last month.
Launched in 1997, the awards,better known as the LivCom Awards, have been endorsed by the United Nations (UN) Environment Programme.
There were presentations from 53 towns and cities from 20 countries at the finals.
The award was presented by the global coordinator of the UN Commission for Sustainable Development, Jan-Gustav Strandenaes.
Ekurhuleni was awarded thehighest points for environment-sensitive practices and average points for all other categories.
It was also commended for tryingto deal with the environmentproblems and degradation inheritedfrom the past and for planningbetter for the future.
Its poverty alleviation programmes were also hailed and are seen as a benchmark for similar-sized municipalities on the specificcriteria.
This year, Ekurhuleni is aiming for gold and will also have entries in the bursary and project categoriesat the LivCom Awards.