Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber launches think tank to drive job creation in ‘bay of opportunity’

10th June 2024 By: Marleny Arnoldi - Deputy Editor Online

Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber launches think tank to drive job creation in ‘bay of opportunity’

Jendamark CEO Quinton Uren
Photo by: Creamer Media's Marleny Arnoldi

One of the country’s most active business organisations the Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber (NMBBC) has launched a Local Economy Reinvention Think Tank, marking another step in its vision of unlocking the potential of the metro as a “bay of opportunity”.

The launch included the signing of a pledge by business leaders, committing to collectively adopting a united vision of unlocking the potential opportunities which Nelson Mandela Bay, in Gqeberha, in the Eastern Cape, has to become a diverse manufacturing base in Africa.

The think tank will involve the intellectual and other resources of members, partners and other key role-players in the workstreams of the NMBBC, with automation specialist Jendamark CEO Quinton Uren having been appointed co-lead of the think tank.

NMBBC CEO Denise van Huyssteen explained during the launch that the think tank would identify opportunities to retain and create investment and jobs in the metro and would include partnerships with entities such as the Eastern Cape Development Corporation, the Presidential Climate Commission, the National Association of Automotive and Allied Manufacturers, naamsa | The Automotive Business Council, the Automotive Industry Development Centre and the Consumer Goods Council South Africa.

She said the chamber was pursuing diversification in the local economy, particularly to reduce the over-reliance on the automotive industry to sustain the bay.

The NMBBC last week hosted its AGM and a manufacturing showcase, highlighting the investments that have been made by major manufacturers in recent years, but it is working to secure more investment and have more manufacturing operations established in the area.

The NMBBC has helped to facilitate numerous investments in what it deems to be the “best kept secret” that is the manufacturing powerhouse of Gqeberha and will see the establishment of automaker Stellentis’ inaugural R3-billion manufacturing plant in South Africa, in the Coega Industrial Development Zone, by end-2025, as well as Hive Hydrogen’s R105-billion green ammonia plant.

Pharmaceutical manufacturer Aspen, which is also involved in some of the chamber’s work streams on electricity and sanitation, also continues to invest in manufacturing expansion at its site in Gqeberha.

Nelson Mandela Bay already hosts automotive manufacturers Isuzu Motors South Africa, Volkswagen South Africa and Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa, in addition to various automotive component manufacturers.

Van Huyssteen said the NMBBC has, since 2021, been focused on achieving impactful outcomes through action-oriented initiatives across 11 clusters in the city. She added that the think tank would complement the workstreams of the chamber’s Entrepreneur Desk, for example, which is providing practical value-adding support to 250 small- to medium-sized enterprises in Gqeberha.

Stellantis MD Mike Whitfield listed the benefits of being located in the bay as being access to two ports, including Africa’s only deepwater port, an existing component supplier network, functioning infrastructure, renewable-energy resources and the availability of highly skilled young people.

He added that the vehicle manufacturer’s plant would be much more than a building producing vehicles. Rather, he said, it was testament to the enabling environment that government and agencies such as the Coega Development Corporation, the Industrial Development Corporation, the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition and the NMBBC had created.

The Stellantis plant targets initial production of 50 000 units a year, with the potential to scale up to 90 000 units a year. The plant will produce the Peugeot Landtrek one-ton bakkie for the local and international markets.

Whitfield stated that investment in the automotive industry was a long-term process and that there could be no investment without a legislative environment that ensured the playing field was levelled and the interests of investors protected.

Uren emphasised that the think tank would prioritise opportunities in the green technology space, particularly with Hive Hydrogen’s incoming plant, which would need suppliers and create spin-off technological innovation potential, including in the electrolyser and fuel cell industries.

The work of the think tank and its participants will include brainstorming ideas, scoping what has to happen through feasibility studies and ultimately realising ideas practically. The think tank will align with the NMBBC’s vision of having the metro decrease its carbon emissions and developing more skills.

Uren added that the think tank would also prioritise opportunities in the battery pack manufacturing and aftermarket parts space for electric vehicles, to position Nelswon Mandela Bay as a strategic player in the country’s just energy transition journey and further strengthen its manufacturing base.

He concluded that the think tank and pledges by stakeholders would help to accelerate the required momentum for Nelson Mandela Bay to become a sustainable economy.

Marleny Arnoldi was a guest of NMBBC and Volkswagen Group Africa during the Manufacturing Showcase on June 6 and 7, in Gqeberha