There is a new pastime that will soon have all South Africans scanning the sky. No need for concern though, it has nothing to do with unidentified flying objects.
It is the soon to be fad of “crane spotting” - seeking out towering construction cranes which will dot our skyline as Government’s infrastructure investment plan kicks into higher gear with the 2013 budget allocations.
The number of cranes is regarded as an informal barometer of economic activity. A high tally is indicative of increased construction and greater prosperity.
All South Africans are encouraged to participate in the new national pastime; every province will have one or more catalytic infrastructure project. There are currently 237 active construction sites across the country.
The residents of Limpopo province have a head start; the province is home to the southern hemisphere’s largest construction site with the building of the Medupi Power Station in Lephalale. It employs a 16 000 strong workforce.
The Presidential Infrastructure Co-ordinating Commission (PICC), a high level government team of Ministers, Premiers and Metro Mayors, chaired by President Jacob Zuma, has identified 645 construction projects.
The PICC has streamlined infrastructure projects into 18 Strategic Integrated Projects (SIPs) which are divided in geographic, energy, spatial and social infrastructure development projects.
These projects cover more than 150 specific infrastructure interventions in rail, road and ports, dams, irrigation systems, sanitation and electricity.
South Africa’s infrastructure investments are more than just bricks and mortar. It is intended to transform the economic landscape while creating a significant number of new jobs and strengthening the delivery of basic services.
President Jacob Zuma said: “The massive investment in infrastructure must leave more than just power stations, rail-lines, dams and roads. It must industrialise the country, generate skills and boost much needed job creation.”
In assessing the various infrastructure gaps and opportunities, the PICC undertook a process of “spatial mapping” which analysed future population growth, projected economic growth and areas of the country which are not served with water, electricity, roads, sanitation and communication.
The spatial mapping showed an expected increase in urbanisation as people migrate from outlying areas to seek work opportunities in the five main economic centres namely Johannesburg, Durban, Bloemfontein, Nelson Mandela Bay and Cape Town.
The Census 2011 affirmed this; it found that people had moved from outlying areas to the economic centres such as Gauteng in search of economic opportunities. Only 56 per cent of people counted in Gauteng during Census 2011 were born in the province, compared to 94 per cent of people in the Eastern Cape.
The planned SIPs will help address economic imbalances by creating new economic centres in the poorer areas of the country and stimulate their socio-economic development.
For example, the SIP that unlocks the northern mineral belt in the Waterberg in Limpopo will result in the development of rail, a water pipeline, energy generation and transmission infrastructure that supports the mining industry. This multi-billion rand development will give rise to the first post-apartheid city.
Government’s investment in infrastructure is furthermore helping restore private sector confidence in the local economy after the global economic downturn.
New mining projects offer attractive returns to potential investors with 18 billion tons of coal, 6 323 tons of platinum, 5,5 tons of chromite and 3 611 tons of palladium in the Waterberg.
Other geographic projects include the development of a Durban-Free State-Gauteng logistics and industrial corridor – a critical freight logistics artery for our country and our region - to strengthen the movement of goods between the economic hubs in Johannesburg and Durban.
Within this project there are a number of sub-projects such as the expansion of the existing Durban port, the digging out of a port at the old Durban International Airport and integrating the Dube Trade port more effectively into the transport corridor.
Significantly, at the heart of this particular SIP is the improvement in rail freight so that goods can be moved from road back onto rail. This will expand our capacity as a country to transport goods in an efficient, cost effective and climate friendly manner.
The corridor is also planned to be a major stimulus for the Free State, where industrial and agricultural development will make the Free State town of Harrismith a key distribution hub for agro-processing in the province.
These geographic infrastructure investments provide a considerable opportunity for local construction and manufacturing development, increased skills transfer and job creation.
Furthermore, the proposed N2 Wild Coast Highway will connect rural communities, link farms to markets and reduce transport times between the East London and Durban from eight hours to about six hours.
Government’s investment in infrastructure will allow for sustained competitiveness as it reduces the cost of doing business and will further allow the country to take advantage of economies of scale.
A railway line for moving manganese will link a new manganese sinter in the Northern Cape and smelter in the Eastern Cape to help entrench South Africa’s dominance in the manganese export sector.
The country has the largest mineral reserve base of manganese and ranks second after China in the global production and export of manganese ore. The expansion of the industry can contribute to the economy for at least another 100 years.
The North West Province will see increased investment in roads, rail and bulk water and transmission infrastructure. There are also projects on mining, agricultural and tourism opportunities.
Take some time out and participate in our new national pastime. Share your sightings with those around you. It is a game in which we are all winners because South Africa wins.
Phumla Williams is Acting CEO of the Government Communications and Information System (GCIS)