A BUSINESS VISION
FOR THE ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
Local Economic Development is about competitiveness – it is about
companies thriving in competitive markets and locations thriving in a
competitive, globalised world.
Economic development is arguably better understood by the private rather than the public
sector. The reason is clear: the private sector harbours businesses which are the engines for
economic growth. The public sector, while contributing significantly to the economy itself, has
the role of ensuring that the environment is conducive to Business development. Therefore, the
strategic discourse by which the most appropriate plans can be adopted requires both the
public and private sectors to contribute according to their respective roles; the public sector to
set out how it can create a better Business environment, and the private sector to determine
how this environment may be used as the fertile ground for economic growth. A sound strategy
cannot separate one from the other and their interdependence is the very reason that any
strategy needs to reflect strong co-operation and collaboration throughout the process of
The best ambassadors in the promotion of an investment destination are Business people who
are able to testify to the hospitability, or otherwise, of the City. In particular, the costs of
investing are critical, while a concerted investment strategy is also required. This should take
careful account of the fact that investment from within, that is the growth of existing and
established businesses, is no less important than the attraction of foreign investment. The
continuous implementation of Business retention and expansion strategies is considered
essential, while every effort needs to be made to promote clustering, which is recognised as an
effective means of accelerating economic growth. The rapid pace of migration into the City
requires, among other foci, a particular responsiveness within manufacturing where jobs must
be preserved and even created.
It is trite to suggest that the private sector must do more to create jobs in order to give relief in a
sphere where the country is so severely under threat, not least because of the proportionately
high number of younger people who cannot find employment (70,66% of the unemployed
population of South Africa is younger than 35 years old1). The importance of meaningful
occupation, even without significant remuneration, is highlighted, while the City must ensure
that pro-active measures are taken to assist those who are jobless. Sustainable job creation will
result from Business and economic growth, and not simply from the exercise of intent, although
Business people identify many disincentives when it comes to employment.
While these reflect the perceived rigidity inherent in labour legislation and the pre-eminence of
unions within the labour market framework, the shortage of appropriate skills among those
1 Stats SA. 2013. Quarterly Labour Force Survey, Quarter 1, 2013.
seeking employment remains an acute problem. Particular attention given recently to the
advancement of the maritime sector in Durban, presents opportunities for the development of
skills which have real value in the local economic context. In order to ensure the best outcome,
Business and academic institutions, especially the universities, must seek to derive optimal
mutual benefit from ongoing engagement. Experiential learning is the best means for the
acquisition of technical skills and there is a critical part for businesses to play in providing
internships and apprenticeships.
At the same time, entrepreneurial activity, especially among young people, needs stimulation.
Notwithstanding the inadequacy of national policies and strategies as regards the development
of the SMME sector, the City must make this a priority by building on the work done by the
Business Support unit of the Municipality and, ideally, introducing a strategic plan for the
particular growth of small industry.
Among the most daunting challenges facing the City is that of ensuring that infrastructure
becomes the facilitation partner to development, but in such a way that the costs are not
prohibitive, either to the Municipality, or developers. Delays in the implementation of
developments, or the requisite infrastructure, must be reduced significantly to minimise costs
and encourage investment. So-called ‘catalytic projects’, which are those offering the best
economic yields in terms of growth, must be expedited by accelerated procedures. The Dube
Trade Port and the conceived aerotropolis, together with the dig-out port and the Municipality’s
back-of-port local area plan, require particular attention as stimulators of economic growth.
The eThekwini Municipality has earned notable recognition for projects which have aligned the
City with contemporary expectations relating to the protection of the environment in the
interests of sustainability. With the greater co-operation of the private sector and some greater
intensity, the City could achieve iconic status in this regard.
In the sphere of tourism, a similar aspiration is desirable. While there is reason to be
encouraged by the major events which have been staged very successfully in the City, the
number of international visitors for leisure and other purposes is disappointing. The City needs
to revise its image of itself in order to dispel negative impressions of apathy, social divisiveness
and laissez faire. The attractive elements of a ‘laid back’ lifestyle must be complemented by a
dynamic vibrancy which caters equally for movers and shakers and fun-seekers.
Among other corrective actions, special attention must be given to the inner City and the urgent
necessity for rejuvenation. Partnership with property owners through the mechanism of Special
Rating Areas (or Urban Improvement Precincts) requires encouragement, for this is a means
whereby municipal services may be augmented with the objective of enhancing property values.
It is necessary to dispel the perception that development in the northern part of the City has
shifted its heart; it has created a new development node which should not detract from the
appeal of the traditional CBD.
Much of the appeal has been lost, not directly because of development elsewhere, but because of
neglect and increased crime and grime. Increasingly, the City exhibits a character of non-
compliance and poor enforcement.
The Chamber’s vision of the City which it serves, and has done for a century and a half, includes
international recognition by tourists and investors; a citizenry active in its contribution to the
life of a residential and Business location of choice; smart, efficient and green ways of doing
things; a vibrant and developing Business community and, above all, such economic growth that
may be distributed to provide jobs, improve social cohesion and uplift the poor.