With its huge investment opportunities, local and foreign investors will be routing to Matlosana, the largest fast growing city in the North West Province of South Africa, writes Peter Uzoho

The city of Matlosana is a local municipality in the Dr. Kenneth Kaunda District Municipality, North West Province of South Africa. It has population estimate of over 500, 000 people covering about 3, 561 Km square, inhabited by 81.0 per cent Black Africans, 3.5 per cent Coloured, 0.8 per cent Indians/Asians, and 14.5 per cent Whites. Matlosana has four major languages including Tswana, Sotho, Africaans and Xhosa, and governed by the African National Congress (ANC), a dominant political party in South Africa with seat of government in Klerksdorp.

The city forms the economic nerve centre of the North West Province and one of the largest producers of gold in South Africa. It is endowed with gold mines of about five kilometres below the earth and projected to be a large uranium producer in the future. This has, till date, made mining the mainstay of its economy. However, 65 per cent of its population is rural based, making agriculture the second source of the people’s livelihood with its yet-to-be tapped potentials. It has a competitive advantage in the production of different agro products including strawberry, sorghum, groundnut and sunflower.

Otherwise known as city of the people on the move, Matlosana and indeed, Klerksdorp is a city worth exploring as it is replete with tourist sites resulting to inflow of tourists from different countries into the city. Among such tourist attractions are the popular Sun City, a luxury resort and casino known for hosting several word events and performers.

There is the Goudkoppie Heritage Hill, a national heritage site where visitors are taken back to the late Stone Age artefacts. Found 13 kilometres north of Klerksdorp is the Faan Meintjes Nature Reserve which houses various species of wild game and, visited by game lovers, picnickers and caravaners. The city is made more popular by being the birthplace of the famous Anglican Archbishop, theologian and anti-apartheid crusader, Desmond Mpilo Tutu, which has aided in bringing religious tourism to the locality.

As obtains in other parts of the Republic, the city enjoys uninterrupted power and water supply, good road network and clement weather. But what is missing in the area is the presence of investors especially in the agricultural, tourism and manufacturing sectors of the economy. This has led to youth unemployment and attendant restiveness and social malaise. With its good record of ease of doing business, hospitality to investors and willingness to support private businesses that are ready to invest in these sectors through favourable policies and incentives, Matlosana and North West Province of South Africa has become the next destination for investors ready to make quick returns on investment.

However, in order to attract more investors in the critical sectors, diversify the economy of the city away from mining and create more jobs for its teeming population, particularly the youth, the leadership of the municipality in conjunction with various partners, hosted the 2017 Matlosana Trade and Infrastructure Investment Conference. The conference held from October 11 to 13 at the Rio Hotel Casino and Convention Resort in Klerksdorp, brought together indigenous and foreign investors from different sectors to discuss sector-specific topics, and over 300 business owners, industry experts and the public sector participated.
Discussion at the sessions exposed huge potentials lying in the city untapped.

In her welcome address, Executive Mayor, City of Matlosana, Ms Maetu Kgaile, who bemoaned the state of poverty, inequality and under-development in the city in spite of its enormous potentials, disclosed the plan of her administration to change the situation.

“We have looked at our competitive advantages to put together a plan for development, job creation and investment. Our competitive offerings to domestic and international investors include our easy access to Gauteng, as well as regional markets of Botswana and Namibia,” Kgaile said.

“As a province, we also contribute 5.7 per cent of the national outputs to key economic sectors including mining, agriculture and manufacturing. We in the city of Matlosana, the largest city in the province have assembled a team to put together bankable projects which can attract domestic and international investments. Through this, we are confident that we will be able to elevate the levels of development in the province while creating jobs which will directly impact on the socio-economic conditions of our people.”
“In looking to trivialise our socio-economic levels and, as we collectively grapple with the yet-to be-known impact of the fourth industrial revolution which will mean more mechanisation, we must begin to look at economic development through a much broader lens.”

Kgaile said the municipal and provincial administrations were looking to position the province differently in the areas of manufacturing, mining, infrastructure, green economy, agriculture and agro-processing, tourism and transport infrastructure development opportunities. She disclosed that lands had been made available to develop industrial park that would be a hub offering affordable industrial space for small and medium-sized enterprises.

“In addition to traditional areas of economic activity, including mining and manufacturing, we would like to see the park host companies who are able to contribute to metal beneficiation (ferrous and non-ferrous metals), agro-processing and solar geyser manufacturing, manufacturing of mining tools and apparel, and machinery in support of the mining companies in the city.”

The Mayor added: “We have also identified the opportunity to develop the N12 Treasure Route, which will connect communities to the economic hub of Matlosana. Among other benefits, better road infrastructure will make it easier for citizens to access employment opportunities and services in Matlosana.

“Housing is also crucial in the well-being of our people and the Isago Development aims to address the current housing backlog while providing a wide range of business opportunities in the area. To enhance our connectivity to the country, we have also identified the upgrading of the airport infrastructure. This will also support the transportation of cargo produced at the industrial park and elsewherein the province.”

Kgaile stated that with a view to leveraging existing opportunities for the future, the leadership of the municipality had put together a project producing biodiesel from sunflowers, saying 79 per cent of which comes from the North West province and the Free State. She pointed out that sunflowers had been identified as ideal for the South African climate and that biodiesel is a cost-effective alternative to fossil fuel.
On tourism, she said they had identified projects aimed at building on the tourist appeal which the country was known for. According to Kgaile, some of the projects included the development of the Goudkoppie Theme Park at the site where gold was first discovered.

“Another existing project will include the reconstruction of the house where Bishop Desmond Tutu was born, as well the building of a shelter and home for the destitutes. Through this, we can also contribute to honouring our living heritage.
“We are confident that our plans, aimed at reinvigorating the economy of the North West province will contribute to our competitive advantages which will add value for investors and our citizens alike. It is time to harness the collective power of our citizens to drive development and, at the same time, listen more to our people. We have heard the people of North West province and we are prepared to act,” Kgaile added.

In his goodwill message, High Commissioner of Namibia to South Africa, Ambassador Veicoh Nghiwete, said Namibia would join forces with all investors from South Africa in order to move the economy of both countries forward. He urged the private sector in the area to look into how to partner to improve the economy, disclosing that Namibia has a seven tier Agricultural Agreement with South Africa, which he said, would benefit both countries when implemented.
Leading the discussion on ‘Trading and Investing across Borders’, Moderator, Mr. Victor Kgomoeswana, noted that it was always impressive seeing municipal councils take charge in the development of the country’s economy.

A panelist and President of South African Business Council in the United Arab Emirate, Ms Safiyya Akoojee, said greater focus needed to be given to the agricultural sector in the North West. According her, the country can improve its export revenue from agricultural products if the needed investment was made into it.
Akoojee pointed out that the role of the council in the UAE was to create a footprint for South African products in the country. “It’s imperative that we seize the opportunity of this highly attended conference to change Matlosana,” she said.

Discussing the topic: ‘Developing Industry Disruptions through Education, Research and Development,’ the panel suggested an improvement of budgets on education. According to them, young ones should be taught to be resourceful and creative to help reduce the dependence on paid job. They listed some other bankable projects where investors are needed as building of an aviation school in the province, investing on human resources and development of an e-commerce platform that would train entrepreneurs.
Speaking to journalists on the sidelines of the conference, Chief Executive Officer of Milvest, one of the partners of the conference, Mr. Miller Matola, said local economic development and rejuvenation of the city informed the conference.

“The essence is to diversify from a city that has been heavily reliant on mining into a city that can move into new industries such as manufacturing, agribusiness, especially the agro-processing, and part of it is because this is largely an agricultural area,” Matola said.

“We see a lot of opportunities in the agriculture space; we see a lot of opportunities in beneficiation both beneficiation in agriculture and beneficiation from the residual access from mining such as the mining dam you see around here. We can beneficiate them and be able to produce paving stones and all sorts of materials that can actually go into infrastructure space,” he noted. According to him, infrastructure is another thing the municipality is trying to attract, adding that, the municipality wants to put in place good infrastructure so that businesses can come and invest.
However, Matola identified lack of funds on the part of the municipality to put
the infrastructure in place, pointing that public private partnership (PPP) arrangement with the private sector was being looked at to put the needed infrastructure in place.

On issue of good business environment for investors, he said: “We are very open to issues regarding creating enabling environment for businesses to flourish so that investors can get their returns on investment. If there are blockages we will like to know what those blockages are so that we can assist from the municipality point of view. The issue of security around your businesses is what the municipality is working very hard on it. If you look at the IDP which is the development plan for the municipality, that’s one of the areas that they have actually prioritised.”

Matola assured Nigerian investors who want to take advantage of the various opportunities in real estate, agribusiness, manufacturing, and other sectors in the area of adequate protection of their investments. He said moving ahead, their next plan was to have business to business meetings in specific countries where they had reached out to. “But we are also talking about two way trade because there are a lot of opportunities around two way trade which we would like them to make a call for,” he added.