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RURAL AREAS AS INCUBATORS OF DEVELOPMENT – Xola Pakati

Xola Pakati

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Xola  counts rural development among his strategic priorities for the region, in a bid to halt the often adverse effects brought on by rapid urban migration in the province – and in fulfilment of the ANC resolution to build sustainable rural communities and new post apartheid rural towns and cities.

The Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) envisages that by 2050, nearly eighty percent of the country’s population will be living in an urban area.

This is in line with global trends where urban populations are growing larger and younger. In South Africa, two thirds of the country’s youth reside in urban areas. With such high concentrations of people, buildings and infrastructure, there is ‘increased risk to natural disasters, climate change and variability.’

The Buffalo City Metro, like many parts of South Africa, continues to experience mass migration to the cities, especially by youth, as people leave rural areas behind in search of opportunity.

“This however has a knock-on effect, as mass migration to the cities has a detrimental effect on rural areas,” says Cde. Pakati. The Buffalo City Metro currently registers a number of achievements in the delivery of services: for instance eighty per cent of residents have access to basic sanitation.

The task at hand, according to Cde. Pakati, is to build on existing achievements by the ANC in the metro in the delivery of services to the metro’s estimated eight hundred thousand residents, many of them rural dwellers.

There is a direct correlation between high levels of unemployment in rural areas, and the phenomenon of mass migration.

“Unless we address the challenge of urban migration we will continue to spend on service delivery programmes in rural areas, only for people to leave them behind and head for the cities,” he says.

“We need to take more of government’s job creation, skills development and enterprise development programmes to our rural communities,” he says, so that people see rural areas areas, and not just the cities, as places of opportunity and promise.

The prioritisation of rural development and reviving rural economies is a central tenet of government’s Vision 2030 and National Development Plan (NDP). Cde. Pakati hopes to unlock the synergies between urban and rural centers, to lead to greater investment, job creation and skills development for the people of the Metro.

It is his vision to have not just the cities, but rural centers as well, become inclusive, resilient and liveable.

As noted by COGTA earlier this year, “urban areas are dynamically linked to rural areas – flows of people, natural and economic resources. Urban and rural areas are becoming increasingly integrated, as a result of better transport, communications and migration.”

He also sees enterprises development as a priority for revitalising rural areas falling within the Buffalo City Metro, adding: “we need to improve infrastructure and beef up township and rural economies by introducing programmes at that are sustainable and have the potential to create jobs.”

Statistically, between 1996 and 2012, metros accounted for 75% of all net jobs created in South Africa, so there is an urgent need for rural areas – which have different dynamics and levels of development – to also be sources of job creation and development.

In this regard, unlocking the investment potential of the Metro is key, and a priority of Cde. Pakati. He is particularly bullish about the Metro’s investment prospects in the maritime sector.

Thanks to Operation Phakisa Oceans Economy launched by President Jacob Zuma in 2014, the province and the country in general continues to attract greater investment in the maritime sector.

“We are a coastal province and more needs to be done to promote this province’s ports as a destination of choice for the maritime industry, says Cde. Pakati.

He regards it as vital that the City clear the backlogs and infrastructure challenges that make maritime companies avoid the province’s ports in favour of others in the country.

“The maritime sector is also a huge source of employment creation and skills development for our people,” he adds. The Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) is government’s vehicle for the provision of work opportunities to unemployed South Africans, with a focus on women, youth and people with disabilities – which he hopes to broaden during his tenure.

Another priority, says Cde Pakati, is to offer manufacturing incentives to the private sector to come to the Buffalo City Metro, and retain existing investors such as Mercedes Benz.

He lists as the one initiative he will advance to improve the business climate in the City prioritising strengthening the municipality’s working relationship with state-owned enterprises such as Transnet; particularly with regards to maritime development.

Fully developing the Buffalo City Metro as an investment destination of choice necessitates a ready, capable and skilled workforce: and Cde. Pakati is encouraged that a number of universities are looking to offering scare skills in the maritime sector to ensure graduates are absorbed once they complete their studies.

Given the potential offered by the maritime sector he cites as a priority offering more education to young people to broaden their horizons and make them aware of the career options available in the maritime sector.

“The success of this Metro depends on us all pulling together to develop our economy: we can end up where the other big Metros are today, if we work together as a collective.”

By Xola Pakati, Xola is the ANC’s Mayoral Candidate for the Buffalo City Metropolitan Municipality

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