The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and the Coega Development Corporation (CDC), in the Eastern Cape, will together develop an industrial research facility that is dedicated to the production of commercially viable biofibre products and applications.
The CEOs of the organisations on June 4 signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) that paves the way for a public-private partnership that will allow the local industry to make headway in the undersupplied global market of biofibres.
A biofibre facility will be established in the Coega Special Economic Zone (SEZ) – which is a 9 003 ha prime serviced industrial piece of land that focuses on multiple business sectors and is divided into 14 zones.
The SEZ provides a conducive investment environment for both local and foreign investors.
The initial set-up will comprise the relocation of CSIR fibre processing equipment to the Coega SEZ.
The facility will be a full-scale multipurpose manufacturing plant capable of fibre processing, air lathe for making non-woven composites, seed dehulling and cracking bio-oils, including hemp and flax, to produce bio-composites.
“As a preferred investment destination on the African continent, the Coega SEZ creates sustainable value for local and global investors in accordance with the Industrial Policy Action Plan, which identifies SEZs as key contributors to economic development and growth engines towards government’s strategic objectives of industrialisation, regional development, and employment creation”, says CDC CEO Khwezi Tiya.
The partnership aims to strengthen government’s strategic intent to create a future cannabis (hemp) industry, in line with the national draft master plan to commercialise South Africa’s cannabis industry, which includes both dagga and hemp.
The initiative will create 25 000 jobs in the Eastern Cape over the next five years, while simultaneously rekindling industrial growth in South Africa by prioritising investments towards labour absorptive potential and high multiplier effects.
In addition to this, the venture will add potentially 1% to the provincial gross domestic product over the next five years.
The joint venture comes after both parties identified the strategic value of relocating the CSIR-owned fibre textile research unit, currently based at the Nelson Mandela University campus, a predominantly academic setting, to the industry-oriented Coega SEZ, which was done to boost the province’s employment rate and the incipient fibre-based composites industry in South Africa.
The CSIR seeks to support South African industries to develop products and services that will translate into value-added production and the commercialisation of intellectual property.
As part of the agreement, the CSIR and the CDC will also establish an incubation programme, which will support manufacturers by fostering industrial partnerships; availing skills and technology to entrepreneurs from the research and product development facility; and providing business advice, capital and market opportunities.
This facility will allow emerging manufacturers that intend to produce for export to locate at the SEZ and enjoy the existing range of SEZ benefits from where they can also access the range of services offered.