A successful aerotropolis has to ensure that the benefits associated with international air connectivity, such as market access and attractiveness for investment, will support economic activity, says consultancy and engineering firm Royal HaskoningDHV’s subsidiary Netherlands Airport Consultants (NACO) project manager Marcel Langeslag.
Research has shown that the direct and indirect economic growth benefits of improved air transport connectivity are significant, he notes. Therefore, if the necessary multimodal transport linkages and other necessary urban developments are implemented properly, an aerotropolis can drive economic growth in Ekurhuleni, Gauteng, and the rest of the country, he adds.
“Business in the area will benefit from regular flights that can transport raw materials and finished products to international markets. Improved connectivity to global expertise centres can attract the best and brightest employees and invite foreign investors.”
Three aerotropolis developments are under way in the country and NACO has been working with airports management company Airports Company South Africa in conducting design, feasibility studies and master plans for Johannesburg, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and East London airports.
NACO has recently also carried out a commercial feasibility study for the new Midfield Cargo Area and an operational airside simulation project at OR Tambo International Airport. It has completed an apron configuration study and the design of the new realigned runway at Cape Town International Airport. The company is also managing the project implementation unit for the aerotropolis at King Shaka International Airport and Dube TradePort, in KwaZulu-Natal.
Langeslag advises Ekurhuleni, Cape Town and Durban to find an effective development vehicle that can drive the aerotropolis agenda forward and align stakeholders. “A real aerotropolis requires a scale that only these cities can provide; however, there are plenty of opportunities for the development of infrastructure and facilities around smaller airports, known as Airport City or Airport Precinct developments.”
He says the development of an Airport City starts with identifying synergies between the airport and the local economy, and this can involve a particular type of manufacturing or tourism activity that takes place in the area.
“Collaboration between the airport, local government and local business is essential in ensuring that the synergies are realised and all parties benefit.”
Langeslag believes South Africa has a pool of skills and expertise to develop the aerotropolis projects. However, he indicates that the main challenges are achieving buy-in and cooperation from a large number of stakeholders across different sectors of the economy in the private and public sectors.
“An aerotropolis provides a framework for the development of business, facilities and infrastructure at and around an airport. This includes many different projects ranging from the zoning of land for developments, construction of roads, office parks and logistics facilities. These types of projects are not new to South Africa. It is the alignment of objectives and coordination of efforts that makes an aerotropolis project unique.”
He concludes that, for South Africa to remain relevant and be a strong player in aviation on the continent, it will require a creative and proactive approach by airports, airlines and government working together in creating positive solutions to ensure that Johannesburg and South Africa remain attractive to air travel.